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Duality of Nature in Henry James’ Daisy Miller

Within each of us lies the potential for good and evil–virtue and vice. Our daily actions reflect the combination of good and bad in a world that is neither black nor white. In literature, however, characters often depict complete goodness or vice in a world that holds no room for a duality of nature. Winterbourne possesses a notion that Daisy Miller must be restrictively good or bad, but the concept is not as black and white as he perceives it to be. A realistic portrayal of Daisy Miller as an infusion of good and bad—virtue and vice—in a world full of gray increases her moral influence upon us, as we too, have inherent dual natures in an imperfect world.

A quest into the nature of the young American girl, Daisy Miller, is the task Winterbourne seems to struggle with through his acquaintance to her. Winterbourne “felt that he had lived at Geneva so long that he had lost a good deal; he had become dishabituated to the American tone…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?” (13). Conflict battles in the mind of this man as he struggles for an answer to the question, “Is Daisy a good girl?” A clear cut answer to the question alludes Winterbourne as he continually answers “yes” or “no” to the dispute.

Many occasions bring Winterbourne to answer the affirmative—Daisy is a good girl—at least he gives her the benefit of the doubt. Daisy “was only a pretty American flirt. Winterbourne was almost grateful for having found the formula that applied to Miss Daisy Miller” (14). The certainty that flies around Winterbourne as he i…

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…cence, we strive to achieve the goodness that Daisy maintains. Though we often look for a clear answer to the question, “What is right,” the answer is not always as clear-cut as Winterbourne, subconsciously, admits.

The implications of the novel may not fully impact us until later, after we take the time to examine the flaws and strengths we see in Miss Daisy Miller. Like us, this young American girl is completely human—possessing a dual nature of both virtue and sin—and because of her realistic nature, she has a greater moral influence on us. We come to realize that the issue is not black and white as Winterbourne insists, but rather it is complex and double sided in a world that has more gray than black or white.

Works Cited

James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1995.

The Path to Understanding in Herman Hesse’s Demian

The Path to Understanding in Demian

In Hermann Hesse’s, “Demian,” Emil Sinclair develops into a self-cognizant man after experiencing true friendship and the purity of life. Immaturity and innocence surrounds him as a child until a confidant by the name of Max Demian places him on the path to understanding himself. After opening his eyes to the feebleness of life, the boy realizes his true purpose of existence.

Beginning life in the “realm of light,” (7) Sinclair passes through life being criticized and labeled an outcast. Once he tells a small fib in order to gain approval from his peers, an inner destruction begins to take place.

My condition at that time was a kind of madness. Amid the ordered peace of our house I lived shyly, in agony, like a ghost; I took no part in the life of the others, rarely forgot myself for an hour at a time. To my father, who was often irritated and asked me what was the matter, I was completely cold. (25)

Not until Demian, whose “manner and bearing was that of a prince disguised among farm boys,” (27) enters his life do things begin to brighten. This new boy seems to look past the lonely, depressed appearance of Sinclair, irectly into his soul that longs for someone to confide all of his secrets and desires to. Demian sees a “mark of Cain” (32) upon Sinclair’s forehead, which signifies “a little more intellect and boldness in his look than people were used to,” (29).

After much conversing, Sinclair realizes the vastness of Demian’s intelligence and that his magnificent mental strength can overpower anyone and anything, including the priest in their Conformation class. Demian explains to him the power of his will and the ability to control the mind through concentration. Once he unders…

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…ms, and thoughts.

After Demian has a premonition “that the collapse of an old world is indeed imminent,” (160) war breaks out in Russia. Sinclair realizes that he must now separate himself from these beloved people and serve his country on the front line of battle. Sinclair has the most profound experience while in the war. After being injured, a soldier takes him to a shelter where his wounds are dressed and where he meets up with Demian, a lieutenant in the battle. Lying there on that bed, in that room, Sinclair recounts his life with Demian. His final thoughts comprise the realization of his strong affinity with Demian and how true the friendship became. He finally remarks, “Sometimes when I find the key and climb deep into myself I need only bend over that dark mirror to behold my own image, now completely resembling him, my brother, my master” (171).

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