Daisy Miller and Sexual Power

648 Words3 Pages
The interaction between Daisy Miller and Mr. Winterbourne in Vevey serves not only to define a difference between American culture and its European parent, but overlays a sexual tension which drives the whole course of action. Daisy is an American girl with no qualms about how others perceive her in a vastly different cultural environment. She feels herself free to flirt with whomever she likes and, because of this, she becomes the object of gossip among the American circles in Geneva and Rome which pride themselves on conforming to European standards of behavior. Daisy’s willingness to openly display her sexuality calls into question for these circles just how “innocent,” as is the operative word throughout the text, she really is. She feels no lack of power in a society geared towards denying an active sexuality for women, and for this her character is continuously on trial. We learn that, in Geneva, “a young man was not at liberty to speak to a young unmarried lady,” due to Europe’s stricter cultural climate, which Daisy perceives as stifling, though she continues to associate with various young men at the cost of her reputation. Her willingness to defy social conventions are not portrayed as any kind of proto-feminism, for it seems that even the character who cares for her most in the beginning, Winterbourne, sees her as not much more than an unsophisticated flirt, and by excusing her actions on that basis he denies that she is actively aware of what she is doing. Winterbourne even goes so far as to attribute this behavior to a “formula that applie[s] to Miss Daisy Miller,” implying that, soon after having just met her, he has already figured her out, and nothing in her actions could be more complex than her sex. Though Winterbourne claims to respect Daisy, it is only on his own terms that he does so and consistently finds himself having to excuse her actions
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