by Henry James
Daisy Miller Innocence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Part.Paragraph)
In Geneva, as he had been perfectly aware, a young man was not at liberty to speak to a young unmarried lady except under certain rarely occurring conditions; but here at Vevey, what conditions could be better than these?—a pretty American girl coming and standing in front of you in a garden (1.27)
Winterbourne and Daisy first meet in a garden, reminding us of the original innocents: Adam and Eve. Does that make Giovanelli a snake or an apple? We're not prepared to carry it that far, but James is clearly setting up a fall.
Certainly she was very charming, but how deucedly sociable! Was she simply a pretty girl from New York State? Were they all like that, the pretty girls who had a good deal of gentlemen's society? Or was she also a designing, an audacious, an unscrupulous young person? Winterbourne had lost his instinct in this matter, and his reason could not help him. Miss Daisy Miller looked extremely innocent. Some people had told him that, after all, American girls were exceedingly innocent; and others had told him that, after all, they were not. He was inclined to think Miss Daisy Miller was a flirt—a pretty American flirt. He had never, as yet, had any relations with young ladies of this category. (1.67)
On the one hand, Winterbourne thinks Daisy's flirtatiousness is a mark of her innocence; on the other, he's the one who "never had any experience." Who's the innocent here?
"I haven't the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake. You are too innocent."
"My dear aunt, I am not so innocent," said Winterbourne, smiling and curling his mustache.
"You are guilty too, then!" (1.130-32)
Winterbourne gets all Britney Spears on us here. You go, girl! Turns out the whole innocence business is remarkably relative and subjective. Mrs. Costello sees Winterbourne as innocent and youthful, and Winterbourne sees himself as wise in the ways of the world. Especially compared to little Daisy.