In Henry James’ novella, Daisy Miller: A Study, Winterbourne misunderstands Daisy’s behavior because he can’t quite figure out who she is. He thinks she may just be an uncultivated American flirt. In addition, Daisy does not conform to the European social style, which makes her appear even more mysterious.
As the story develops, Winterbourne learns some gossip about Daisy from his Aunt and Mrs. Walker, and he wonders if she isn’t as innocent as she first appeared. Mrs. Costello, his Aunt, tells him that Daisy has had an intimate relationship with her family’s courier, Eugenio. Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker also suggest that she has had frequent late nights with other gentlemen.
At the end of the story, Winterbourne begins to suspect that the gossip may be true, especially after seeing her at the Colosseum with Mr. Giovanelli. During this event, he feels she is “reprobate.” However, that night she contracts Malaria and dies shortly thereafter. As Winterbourne later speaks with Mr. Giovanelli, Mr. Giovanelli confirms that Daisy was innocent. He also learns that she never was engaged to him and probably would have never married him. This makes Winterbourne feel as if he had done Daisy an injustice.
James used the imagery of the Colosseum to represent Winterbourne’s last encounter that foreshadowed Daisy’s death. James used a cross, a representation of innocence, sacrifice, and death, to point out the location of Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli. Daisy also said, “Well, he looks at us as one of the old lions or tigers may have looked at the Christian martyrs!” This is ironic because Winterbourne decides in this very moment that Daisy is nothing more than a reprobate who deserves little respect, and he essentially “sacrifices” her innocence in assuming the gossip is true.
Daisy Miller: A Study is realistic because James realistically describes the socially accepted norms of the European culture in comparison to that of the young American girl and her cultural norms. He also goes into detail about the nature of life in the European culture–wealthy socialites throwing parties, as well as the men trying to seduce the rich young women. The nature of human gossip and its potentially devastating consequences is also revealed in a dramatic way.
In contrast, Huck Finn displayed realism in that Twain went into detail with respect to southern dialect, river scenes, hypocrisy, and the morality of slavery from a young boy’s perspective. Twain was able to capture this realism by questioning things in a way a child would question them, not having been brainwashed into “sivilization.”