Daisy Miller

Etiquette: A Social Ideology

Daisy Miller is a potent social commentary that considers the ideologies of transplanted Americans residing in Europe. During the late nineteenth century, the United States surfaced as a political and economic power. Wealthy Americans, anxious to create their own elite society, embraced the well-established customs of the European aristocracy. In fact, several of the most affluent families relocated to Europe to refine their mimicry and distinguish themselves from their contemporaries. Daisy Miller examines how the European ideology of etiquette is adopted by high-society Americans and subsequently transformed into a rigid reality that persecutes James's ill-mannered title character until her demise.

Literary theorist Louis Althusser suggests, "Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence" (294). Thus, etiquette as an ideology is not, intrinsically, a system that physically rules the actions and thoughts (essentially, the existence) of its adherents. However, an ideology is capable of transcending its traditional confines when an individual opts to assign it any measure of material existence (Althusser 296). Such is the case in Daisy Miller. Winterbourne, Mrs....

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