Theme of Status in Daisy Miller

| September 13, 2020

In the short story, “Daisy Miller”, by Edith Wharton, a common obsession is found with the status and respectability of the characters presented in the story. Edith develops this obsession as a theme that is supported by European and American ideals, character’s viewpoints, and character’s actions in the story “Daisy Miller”. The theme of status and respectability is largely developed by the ideals of the society found within Daisy Miller. The story originates in Switzerland and then later goes on to take place in Rome.
In each of these cities, the story implies that status is highly regarded and that the society looks down upon certain unrespectable behaviors. The European societies of Daisy Miller watch and titter over the apparent reckless behavior of this young girl, as this behavior is not acceptable to the upper class. Daisy Miller, as viewed by the European society, a reckless, flirtatious, and imprudent girl, who does not heed societal standards. Her most dishonorable actions are that she tends to spend time with various men in the community.
The upper classes find that Daisy’s promenading with various men in public is of upmost disgrace. Throughout the story their views on this sort of behavior are often voiced. In a conversation between Winterbourne, a man who becomes slightly involved with Daisy, and Mrs. Walker, an overseer of Daisy, the criticism of Daisy Miller’s actions is voiced. “ That girl must not do this sort of thing. She must not walk here with you two men. Fifty people have noticed her. ” Winterbourne raised his eyebrows. I think it’s a pity to make too much fuss about it. ” “I think it’s a pity to let the girl ruin herself! ” The story Daisy Miller tends to revolve around this idea that Daisy is “ruining herself” due to her irresponsible actions. The society of Europe is very absorbed with Daisy’s respectability; an example of how to the respectability of an individual greatly affects their status in society. Because Daisy and her family are of low class, Daisy’s irresponsible actions easily bring them to an even lower status.

The main character Mr. Winterbourne supports the theme of respect and status by acting as a narrator for the follies of Daisy Miller as well as a connection between her and the upper-class ideals of status and respectability. When he is not with Daisy, Mr. Winterbourne is often listening to what is being said about her. “They ceased to invite her, they intimated that they desired to express to observant Europeans the great truth that, though Miss Daisy Miller was a young American lady, her behavior was not representative. Mr. Winterbourne is highly aware of Daisy’s dishonorable reputation that she gains in the European, especially Roman society, and continuously notes how she falls on the societal scale. Mr. Winterbourne’s obsession with how Daisy Miller is perceived in their society is an important part of what carries the theme of respect and status throughout the short story. Mr. Winterbourne not only perceives Daisy Miller’s affect on society but also debates with himself the reasons behind her dishonorable actions. He asked himself whether Daisy’s defiance came from the consciousness of innocence, or from her being, essentially, a young person of reckless class. ” In instances such as this, Mr. Winterbourne continuously seeks to rationalize why Daisy dishonors herself through such reckless actions. The theme of status and respectability is also supported by the actions of Daisy Miller herself. Daisy Miller begins by chasing after status in the European society. She often talks of the “society” in her European community as a class which she strives to be apart.
Daisy Miller realizes that she is found to be disrespectable however, tries to believe that this is not the truth. When Winterbourne implies how Daisy Miller perceived in Rome, she acts as though she does not believe him. “ “Of course I care to know! ” Daisy exclaimed seriously. “But I don’t believe it. They are only pretending to be shocked. ” She illustrates the importance of respect and status in both European and American societies. She is very concerned with the respect and status that she has in her society, however is naive of how she fails to gain either of those things.
Daisy’s innocence is what saves her from the realization that she is in fact, bringing herself down to a lower space in the social ladder. “Miss Daisy Miller looked extremely innocent. Some people had told him that, after all, the American girls were exceedingly innocent.. ” Daisy Miller is also important to the theme of respect and status in that she provides an outlet for the societal views of what is respectful and what is not. Obviously, “going around” with men is not a respectable course of action for Daisy Miller, and for this she is ostracized from her society.
In the short story, “Daisy Miller” a societal criticism of respect and status is provided as a major theme. Daisy Miller’s actions are the central to the stories plot, and the criticism that she receives by the “society” is a constant aspect of the stories plot. Various characters express this criticism, however, the most important of these characters are Mr. Winterbourne, and Daisy herself. Mr. Winterbourne and Daisy each express opposite views towards the societies criticism; however, their separate views, as well as those demonstrated by the society of Europe dramatically support the theme of respect and status in the short story.

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