Literary Realism in Henry James’ Novel Daisy Miller

August 31, 2021 by Essay Writer

Realism is the representation of a person, thing, or situation that is true to life and as explained by Norris, “..Is the kind of fiction that confines itself to the type of normal life” (Norris 811).

As Frank Norris describes, it is used as a term of reproach and is not to be offensive or cruel, but simply respectful and truth telling. A realist writes only what he can see or hear himself, such as an outward appearance that no conclusions can be drawn from. Realism describes what happens throughout the day to day lives of common people and how they react to the different situations. In Henry James’ “Daisy Miller”, it exemplifies the use of realism through the use of imagery and the depths of societal perceptions.

The story of “Daisy Miller” is real and is depicting the everyday life of Daisy who is a young American girl visiting Europe that focuses on the choices she makes under moral pressure.

Thesis Statement: Frank Norris’ “A Plea for Romantic Fiction” and Henry James’ “Daisy Miller” both exemplify literary realism through their fictional stories that include realist conflicts that individuals experience in their daily lives.

Daisy Miller, the main character, is a young American girl who is described to be free spirited and naïve to the world around her. While many characters throughout the story try to warn her daily of the societal dangers going on around her, she chooses to ignore them anyway. She wants to believe in equality in the community around her. Rumors are being told of her around the community causing her to not be accepted by her peers because of the lifestyle she is choosing to live.

In the Roman culture, there are strict societal norms that are expected to be followed by the women in the society. Daisy is unlike most women in the society and breaks the rules by being friendly to everyone she encounters. She shows realism here because growing up in America, she is unaware of the lifestyle in Europe and did not know she was doing anything wrong.

Since Daisy is a free spirited girl, she does not follow normal roman woman customs at this time in her life.

Daisy is seen throughout the day in public with Winterbourne and that is one of the societal norms the society frowns upon. In the Roman culture as James states “… a young man wasn’t at liberty to speak to a young unmarried lady…” (James 459). Meaning as it states, women are not to be found hanging around men that they are not married to. In the culture she lives within, she is expected to speak and act a certain way, but alternatively acts how she wants to instead of doing what is expected of her.

Societal norms were kept very strict during this time and if they were broken, society shunned those who disobeyed them.

Daisy was warned by many people in the society to be aware of the dangers of being out with a man, but she still ignored every one of those concerns. While being out all the time, she ended up catching roman fever which is ironic because she was warned, but her naïve personality chose to ignore it. After she died, Winterbourne was left angry and sad that he did not express how he felt about her.


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