Position: Gingko Tree
Presentation: Screen Cast
I analyzed 2 characters, Daisy from Daisy Miller by Henry James and Lizzy from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.
How does reputation play a role in the character’s development? Does it play a large role or is it more of an accent?
Pride and Prejudice
In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy is the only character that doesn’t really care what her reputation is as long as she is true to herself. Her whole family and all of the people she associates with are very concerned with what people think about them. They make sure their actions positively influence their reputation of status, beauty, or personality. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Jane, and Lydia have a strong influence on the family reputation. Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Wickham also have strong personalities and reputations. Lizzy’s reputation is ironically caused by her lack of concern of what other’s think of her. She is witty and smart, but surprisingly fooled by love.
The Bennet’s are not a very wealthy family, however, they are educated and very respected. Mr. Bennet is considered a gentleman. He is kind and well respected. He cares about his family and provides safety and security for them. Mrs. Bennet is nosey and bossy. She, like the society she lives in, cares only to see her daughters well situated in marriage.. Mrs. Bennet wants to ensure the safety, wealth, and status of her daughters after she and Mr. Bennet pass away. Jane and Lydia are practically polar opposites. While Jane is sweet, beautiful, and naive, Lydia is young, flirtatious, and reckless. Each of these reputations and the family as a whole create an interesting plot. The roll of family reputation is definitely a main component of Pride and Prejudice.
Lizzy has an uncanny ability to read people, except when it comes to love. She realizes her mother and sisters are silly. She sees Lady Catherine as a tyrant. Yet, her prejudice towards Darcy and Wickham blinds her normally adept appraisal. Wickham’s personae as charming and handsome fools Lizzy into believing he was wronged by the Darcy family and in particular by Darcy. Likewise, Lizzy’s heart is equally blinded by the arrogant Darcy. Being bred to be proud and even “spoiled,” Darcy’s good qualities do not readily shine through. It is only when Lizzy and her family’s reputation are in peril, that Lizzy is able to see the true character of Darcy. The entire plot is based on the characters’ reputations and Lizzy’s perceptions of them. The novel ends happily when Lizzy finally gains a true understanding of her suiters and their true reputation.
In Daisy Miller, Daisy will do whatever she pleases regardless of the negative affects the actions have on her reputation. She has a family that doesn’t really care what she does or what the affects her actions have on them. The Miller’s are amazingly irresponsible. Mr. Miller works away from the family and allows his wife and children to travel throughout Europe a courier, Eugenio. Mr. Miller provides for the family financially, but that’s where his contribution stops. Mrs. Miller does absolutely nothing for her children. She is said to be fairly sick. They are “Americans.”
The central theme in Daisy Miller is regarding her innocence and naiveté. Winterbourne is obsessed with Daisy’s reputation. Without knowing anything about her past, he believes she is bold, pretty, and experienced, yet still innocent. After talking to his Aunt, he believes her and “the rest of Europe,” rather than looking at what he actually saw. He misses out on a “great” girl because he is blinded by society’s pressure of reputation. Giovanneli, however, sees the rumors as an advantage and takes Daisy out “for a good time.” Daisy comes of as a flirtatious, young, and careless girl. This is a downfall. This makes Daisy look vulnerable to worldly pressures. She is a target for people like Giovanelli. When Daisy is on her deathbed, Winterbourne realizes that he cares about her and should have stayed true to what he thought first. Daisy also realizes that she cares about Winterbourne, but she has a tragic fate and dies.
Reputation is clearly a major theme in the novel, Daisy Miller. Henry James teaches his audience the importance of seeing “more than skin deep.” The reader should learn from Winterbourne’s foolish mistake and get to know someone before they judge. Daisy’s tragic death is an extreme example of what we could lose from being shallow and close-minded. The audience should learn to prioritize love and personality over gossip and rumors.