You Had Better Not Meddle With Little American Girls – My Thoughts on James’ Daisy Miller

Inspired by Azar Nafisi’s memoir ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ I got Henry James’ ‘Daisy Miller’ from my local library. To get to the point quite quickly, my final judgement would be this: I liked it, found it a stimulating read, but don’t believe it has left a lasting impact on me.

Easy as that. What I liked about it was the conciseness: Unlike many other classics, James cut the chase and did not linger too long on a plot that is only able to cover the number of pages it does cover. The resulting shortness of the book also allowed me to read the novel in one sitting, which gently fostered my reader’s pride.

Then, Daisy Miller satisfied what is most important to me in a book: I want it to make me think about things, not only in the context of that fictional scenario, but also in relation to my life and life in general. Pretty much every character in that book left me conflicted. As a generally conflicted little feminist, I was outraged about the narrator’s stance towards Daisy, but also about Daisy herself. Part of me has always held a grudge against incredibly pretty characters, whether in books or films or real life, I don’t know whether this is caused by jealousy or a feeling of inferiority, but it is definitely there. This was only enhanced by the fact that that there was a male narrator constantly appraised her candor, which, again, as a little feminist led to some conflicting feelings about my own feelings.

I mean, do I dislike Daisy because I think she is an easy girl? Because she challenges the conventions? Because she is so unwittingly dependent on male recognition and company? And what kind of person does that make me? Am I really as liberal and progressive as I like to think myself to be?

So many questions – point to James. Still, even though it has only been a day since I read the novel, I have not found myself thinking back to these questions or Daisy Miller.

So, overall, three stars out of five to Miss Daisy Miller.

B x


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