Daisy Miller

At First, Second, and Third Sight: Observational Refinement in "Daisy Miller"

He said to himself that she was too light and childish, too uncultivated and unreasoning, too provincial, to have reflected upon the ostracism or even to have perceived it. Then at other moments he believed that she carried about in her elegant and irresponsible organism a defiant, passionate, perfectly observant consciousness of the impression she produced. (43)

The socialites in Daisy Miller's world aspire to a perfection, a nobility, and a superlative of character. But character is a misleading word; interiority is important only insofar as it reflects the assumed depths that come with an appearance of refinement, for the relationships in "Daisy Miller: A Study" are formed by observation, not by conversation. Winterbourne's penetrating gaze dissects and complicates Daisy's appearance and, subsequently, personality, beyond what her own projection of an personality warrants. The narrator of Henry James's story furthers this atmosphere, peppering visual and even abstract sentences with modifiers and other syntactical strokes to force a system of visual refinement on the reader. The reader, however, must engage his imagination to form a picture of Daisy, her most evident quality, while he is kept privy...

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