Daisy Miller Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1111 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Daisy Miller

Men who suffer from the Madonna-Whore complex believe that only good women deserve their love, while bad women are only good for sex. These men nevertheless seek out the bad women to fulfill their sexual needs because they feel uncomfortable at the thought of having sex with good women. In fact, such men experience shock when a good woman expresses her sexuality. So much so, that the woman is thereafter seen not as a Madonna, but as a whore. In Daisy Miller, Henry James explores this theme through his portrayal of Winterbourne's reactions to Daisy's character. Indeed, Winterbourne's ambivalence on Daisy's moral character makes it evident that the man suffers from a Madonna-Whore complex.

Winterbourne's attitude towards women is, in fact, hinted at in the narrator's very introduction. for, the narrator takes the trouble to inform the reader that Winterbourne was rumored to have a relationship with an older woman in Geneva (p. 4). The possible inference that can be drawn from this information is that Winterbourne may just suffer from a mother fixation or an Oedipus complex. Since the Oedipus complex is considered to be an important factor in creating the Madonna-Whore complex, the narrator's introduction of Winterbourne can be considered as indicative of the events still to unfold.

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The initial suspicion that Winterbourne may possess a complex attitude towards women slowly turns into certainty as his relationship with Daisy develops. for, he is never quite certain as to whether she is just refreshingly candid in her innocence or really a coquette (p.15). As a result, Winterbourne is often unable to ascertain the desirability of developing a real relationship with her. Instead, he continuously vacillates between treating Daisy like a proper lady and the temptation of just "carrying her off." This, in spite of his aunt making her disapproval of his associating with such common people amply known.

Term Paper on Daisy Miller Assignment

As Winterbourne's association with Daisy progresses, it also becomes growingly evident that he judges women solely on the basis of their sexuality. for, not only does he seem to be entirely, even unhealthily, preoccupied with the question of Daisy's sexual nature, it is obvious that he either sees her only as an innocent (a Madonna), or as a whore. Indeed, this aspect of his personality is made quite obvious when the narrator describes the conflict he faces: "Winterbourne was impatient to see her again, and it vexed, it even a little humiliated him, that he shouldn't by instinct appreciate her justly." (p. 23)

Why should Winterbourne be vexed by his ambivalence towards Daisy? One possible answer to this question could be that he clearly had a Madonna-Whore complex, which prevented him from appreciating the fact that Daisy's open nature, even if seemingly coquettish at times, was simply a result of her being so totally a "child of nature." (p. 40) in other words, Winterbourne's attitude towards female sexuality stops him from accepting the fact that Daisy was essentially just a good natured, innocent who believed in living life to the fullest extent possible.

To give Winterbourne credit, he does constantly acknowledge to himself that Daisy's behavior appeared to be that of a total innocent. Ironically, however, it is this precise recognition that causes him to be frequently disturbed and shocked by her. for, in Winterbourne's view, good women simply did not delight in or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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