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“Daisy Miller” and The Age of Innocence Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021

The analysis of the movie The Age of Innocence

In a world of strict adherence to customs and traditions, in an age of innocence, these people dared to break the rules, to love and to be loved, to run counter the society with its gossips and rumors that echo in every corner. The common things between two stories “Daisy Miller” and The Age of Innocence are time of the action; the society full of traditions and prejudices; the love story of two couples.

The action of the movie takes place in the high society of smothered New York during the 1870s, when such things as money, moral values, position, love, beauty and longing meant more than they do now a lawyer of the aristocratic background tries to fight against his growing passion for a beautiful cousin of his fiancée’s, an emigrant countess who has abandoned her marriage. Newland Archer has become engaged to May Welland; he is a very purposeful man, who has a plan, thus he follows his plan until the Countess Ellen Olenska comes as a cousin of Newland’s future wife. Newland and Olenska fell a great deal of affection to each other, they are eager to break all rules.

The analysis of the novel “Daisy Miller”

A grand theme that Henry James explores throughout the novel “Daisy Miller” is of the expatriate American, and the stark contrast between the cultures of the Old World (specifically, Europe) and the New (North America). He characterizes their (perhaps intrusive) influence through their presence in Vevey, and presumably, other places in Europe. From certain descriptions that he uses, such as “American watering-place” (James 3) and “flitting hither and thither of ‘stylish’ young girls… high pitched voices” (James 3), the tone suggests the sharp contrast between the more conservative way of life in the Old World, as opposed to those that the Americans introduce and so flamboyantly adorn. The novel describes the interaction between Winterbourne and Daisy; which sharply characterizes the strong differences between the cultures of their different worlds, as Winterbourne finds himself perplexed by her mannerisms. For example, “He thought it very possible that Master Randolph’s sister was a coquette; he was sure she had a spirit of her own” (James 8) and “He had never heard a young girl express herself in just this fashion… And yet was he to accuse Miss Daisy Miller of actual or potential inconduite, as they said at Geneva?” (James 12). Winterbourne is surprised by her behavior, which he deems “extremely innocent” (James12), despite its ignorance of traditional acceptability. The prominence of tradition and the disdain of the American lifestyle displayed by Daisy ties hand in hand with the overall theme of the differences in cultures, mirrored suggestively as a setting by James in his first paragraph – of the Old World versus the New, and the various characters’ dispositions towards such stark contrasts.

The comparison of the stories

Thus Winterborne and Newland both fall in love with emigrants, girls from another world. Daisy and the Countess Olenska are young women that want to be loved, to act in an unpredictable manner. Though the Countess is a sophisticated and exotic person, who has abandoned her marriage, but she is not a divorcee yet; and Daisy Miller is an American girl, who possesses free morals and manners, who can easily visit different places unescorted. The two stories reveal the desire of the main characters to live as they want; not to turn back to the life they were accustomed to; not to look around and make sure that nobody watches; to forget about gossips, society and prejudices. Newland and Olenska were lovers, but were tied to other people: she was married, he was engaged; and they could do nothing to this situation. Winterbourne and Daisy just felt affection to each other, they were free to do whatever they wanted but within the social traditions.

Works Cited

James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Penguin, 2007.

Scorsese, Martin. The age of Innocence (movie). USA: Columbia Pictures, 1993.

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IvyPanda. (2021, November 25). "Daisy Miller" and The Age of Innocence. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/daisy-miller-and-the-age-of-innocence/

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1. IvyPanda. ""Daisy Miller" and The Age of Innocence." November 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/daisy-miller-and-the-age-of-innocence/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Daisy Miller" and The Age of Innocence." November 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/daisy-miller-and-the-age-of-innocence/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"Daisy Miller" and The Age of Innocence'. 25 November.

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