University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Daisy Miller: A Study of Patriarchal Perception
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Daisy Miller: A Study of Patriarchal Perception

By: Teddy Duncan Jr. | Mentor: Dr. William Fogarty

Abstract

This paper examines patriarchal perception in Henry James' novella Daisy Miller. The novella does not provide objective presentations of the characters; instead, the narrative presents a subjective depiction, mostly of Daisy Miller, according to the inner thoughts of only one character, Frederick Winterbourne. Yet Winterbourne is not technically the narrator; his thoughts are disclosed by an unknown character in the story some time after the story occurs. Winterbourne's subjectivity being relayed through another character-narrator portrays Winterbourne's perceptions without explicitly analyzing his behavior. I argue that this complex narrative structure transparently divulges pre-established patriarchal notions that affect Winterbourne's perceptions of Daisy, thus executing a social critique. For example, Winterbourne's familial, social, and geographical circumstances construct a patriarchal distribution of information. Geneva, where Winterbourne develops his beliefs of male-female relations, has its own standards for women's behaviors that include abiding by propriety and submissiveness. Winterbourne's relatives, such as his aunt, attempt to prohibit interaction with Daisy because her behavior deviates from this template. Winterbourne subjects Daisy to oppressive classifications, and his observations of her reflect his proclivity to establish a "formula that applied to Miss Daisy Miller" (James 12). He holds various notions of Daisy from "American flirt" (James 12) to "young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect" (James 60). All of these notions and formulas result from a pre-established patriarchal metric that Winterbourne adopts and inherits via the patriarchal distribution of information.

KEYWORDS: literature; patriarchy; Henry James; Daisy Miller

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