Unfairness in Social Standards in Daisy Miller, a Book by Henry James

After reading the complete story of Daisy Miller, and after several discussions on the double standards that occur, I found that a quote spoken by Mrs. Costello on page 1575 added emphasis on the unfairness: “If after what happens—at Vevey and everywhere—you desire to keep up the acquaintance, you’re very welcome. Of course you’re not squeamish—a man may know everyone. Men are welcome to the privilege!” During this dialogue between Winterbourne and Mrs. Costello, Winterbourne is expressing his desire to go see Daisy Miller and Mrs.

Costello clearly acknowledges that social standards are in Winterbourne’s favor. Throughout the story we see the majority of the characters, several of them from previous generations and from the upper class, reject Daisy’s decisions and actions because they go against the social standards set by the upper class as well as the city and country they are in.

One of Daisy’s biggest critics is Mrs. Costello because she believes the family did not learn the class that goes with being an upper class person.

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This makes the reader see Mrs. Costello as someone who is a strong believer in etiquette and being a woman with class, but this line makes Mrs. Costello see as if she believes in the very opposite. Mrs. Costello describes Daisy’s actions with disproval but then mentions that men can do they very same thing without judgement. Daisy is breaking the rules of social standards by spending her time with multiple men from multiple class levels and is rejected by women like Mrs.

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Miller (and even Mrs. Costello). However, Mrs. Costello mentions Winterbourne can know everyone and that it’s a privilege. This may suggest that while Mrs. Costello believes single women shouldn’t be spending all of her alone time with men, she may also believe that having the opportunity to talk to whoever she pleases is a privilege, and perhaps even a desire for Mrs. Costello.

While Mrs. Costello is high class and exclusive, she is also American. This quote may very well show her American side and, in a small way, her sympathetic side for Daisy. Daisy is only doing what so many men do befriending, flirting, and having a good time. It could very well be Mrs. Costello’s belief that women should be able to do the same as the men without criticism. Perhaps Mrs. Costello’s own criticism comes from her own wishes to socialize with everyone as she pleases. Perhaps this is where Mrs. Costello’s isolation from society comes from—the inability to socialize with anyone and everyone. Mrs. Costello’s criticism of Daisy could simply be her own desire to have that privilege and to be as courageous as Daisy who tests the limits created by society. Mrs. Costello may not truly be disgusted by Daisy’s actions but jealous instead. This quote is also much more relaxed about Winterbourne’s infatuation with Daisy. She tells him to do as he pleases since he is able to rather than warn him to not be seen with Daisy like she has suggested earlier in the story.

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Unfairness in Social Standards in Daisy Miller, a Book by Henry James. (2022, Feb 06). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/unfairness-in-social-standards-in-daisy-miller-a-book-by-henry-james-essay

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