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ENGL3015: Assignment One –
Textual Analysis

“I have never allowed a
gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything I do.” (Henry James, Daisy Miller). Examine the representation
of female revolt and/or emancipation in the literature of
the period.

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essay will be examining the many ways in which Henry James and Theodore Dreiser
represent the role of women, female revolt and/or the emancipation in literature
in the nineteenth century. Daisy Miller, is
a novella about a young and pretty American girl named Daisy Miller and her
courtship with a young American named Winterbourne. Written by Henry James in
1878, James explored many themes within his novel such as respect, the role of
women, foreignness, tradition and many more. Sister Carrie, is a novel written by Theodore Dreiser, about a young
suburban girl who moves to the big city with an American Dream. Similarly, to James,
Dreiser explores many themes within his novel, such as: the role of women and
femininity, class, and society, and many more. The readers must bear in mind
that the time period of these novels is crucial when discussing the
representation of women and female revolts, mainly because the expectations of
women in the nineteenth century were to be more domestic and less adventurous and
outspoken. Throughout this essay, the representation of women and the female
revolt will be heavily examined in terms of its context and origin in time.

Daisy Miller, is a story that revolves around the main
character Daisy, who is a rather independent, self-confident, and naïve individual
in her escapades across Europe. With a rather unrefined American nature, her
antics manage to make a reputation for herself within society, leading
Winterbourne to become indecisive about his feelings and position with her.
James, is successful at exploring the representation of female revolt in his
novella as the main character, Daisy, challenges the ideal conventions of a woman
in the nineteenth century period. “I have never allowed a gentleman to dictate
to me, or to interfere with anything I do.”1
From this quote the reader can infer that Daisy is a very independent lady and doesn’t
like to rely upon or trust a gentleman’s opinion. In a time where society was most
likely patriarchal, Daisy is extremely firm when taking a stand against Winterbourne,
after he attempts to discourage her from hanging out with a man she just met,
Giovanelli, she even uses the term “imperious”2
to describe Winterbourne’s domineering assertion. In Richard Hocks study of
short fiction, Hocks explores how Daisy is an individual who “ignores class
structures and customary behaviour…treating all she meets as equal human beings.”3
It is clear that Hock is able to make links between Daisy’s character and the
theme of class and society in James’ novella, he suggests that whilst she goes
against the customary behaviour she treats every individual the same, which can
be seen as a positive quality as she does not treat anyone differently
depending on their status or class. Again, a characteristic that is not
conventional for a woman in the nineteenth century.

perspective the readers can understand about the female revolt and/or role of women
is the way in which the male characters view them. For example, the way in
which Winterbourne admirably describes Daisy’s beauty is by grouping her into a
category with other attractive, American women. “How pretty they are,”4
Winterbourne is categorizing Daisy with other Americans as he uses the term ‘they’,
although he is attracted to her he refuses to identify her as an individual,
but instead as part of a group, a type. The fact that Winterbourne chooses to
place women into categories shows that he either objectifies or makes an
opinion about the women he comes across. Later in the novel, as Winterbourne
realises Daisy is a girl of a flirty nature, the reader can begin to understand
why he groups women together. As Robert Weisbuch mentions in Pollack’s, New Essays on Daisy Miller, and The Turn of
the Screw.  The American Novel Series, he
states that, “Winterbourne will not allow women to be, will not grant them an integrating
wholeness, will instead dissect and categorize.”5
This explains why Winterbourne is a man who has a demeaning attitude and
perspective towards women, as he could dislike them, and even more so when they
emit negative traits. This links in to the representation of the female revolt
as the way women were perceived by the opposite sex in this book is of a mixed
opinion. At one stage they are deemed attractive and vibrant and then considered
a ‘type’ due to their characteristics and qualities.

the idea that Winterbourne could be against women who inhibit negative
qualities, he does make Daisy aware that her flirtatious nature is acceptable
and appropriate if he is the recipient of that flirting. This declaration makes
the reader want to question Winterbourne’s motives and character to understand
his morals better. In comparison to the other gentleman that Daisy comes
across, Mr. Giovanelli, there are many comparisons that can be made between the
two male characters. At the end of the novel, Mr. Giovanelli and Winterbourne
discuss Daisy over her grave with Giovanelli describing her as, “the most
beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable…and she was the most
This comment by Mr Giovanelli led Winterbourne to respond in shock over Daisy’s
innocence. Given the social setting that the two characters are in, the reader
can understand that Giovanelli is more mature and socially advanced with knowing
what to say at such a sad occasion, emphasising his gentlemanly character. With
this in mind, Weisbuch makes another observation claiming that, “Giovanelli is
not Winterbourne’s gigolo opposite so much as his double, and finally his
From this the reader can understand that the difference between the two male
characters is that Giovanelli is more advanced and educated in social settings
and considerate of people’s feelings and their situations. This links to the
representation of female revolt and the emancipation in the literature of the
period, as it is a moment in the novel where the two-male character are together
without their link (Daisy) and they discuss her being and her life. In this
section, the reader becomes aware of the conflicting views each gentleman had
of Daisy, emphasising the complex character she was.

Sister Carrie, is a story that revolves around a young
country girl, named Carrie, who moves from her small midwestern town to the big
city, carrying with her the hope of her American Dream. Similarly, to Daisy Miller, Sister Carrie is centralised
around the main female character (Carrie Meeber) and the two male characters
with her interest (Charles H. Drouet and George W. Hurstwood). Dreiser successfully
manages to explore many themes within his novel, as well as the representation
of the female revolt and their role in society. “…She began to get the hand of
those little things which the pretty woman who has vanity invariably adopts. In
short, her knowledge of grace doubled, and with it her appearance changed, She
became a girl of considerable taste.”8
From this quote the reader can understand that Dreiser is illustrating the
momentous scene where Carrie realises she is growing up and maturing, a pivotal
moment in the novel, offering the readers insight into how it happens and the
significance. This can be linked to Simone de Beauvoir’s article, The Second Sex, where she states, “One
is not born, but rather, becomes a woman.”9
Beauvoir is suggesting that one can distinguish sex from gender and that gender
is something that is a part of an individual’s identity that is progressively developed.
Carrie is key example of this idea as she is accepting her womanhood as she
makes small gestures or actions that accentuate her femininity. This links in
with the representation of the female revolt, as whilst Carrie is not as
complex as Daisy, she still manages to accept but flaw the stereotypes of women
in the nineteenth century, she is deemed to be vainer rather than shy and
modest, like most women.  

this novel, the reader can understand that women might be the cause for their
own objectification whilst those objectifying aren’t at fault. “…Mrs. Vance’s
manner had rather stiffened under the gaze of handsome men and elegantly
dressed ladies…To stare seemed the proper and natural thing. Carrie found
herself stared at and ogled….”10
From this the reader can understand that Carrie is in a position where she is
getting used to attention from others, and is almost learning from Mrs. Vance
on how to react. Given the setting of this moment, it can be inferred that women
almost welcome the attention and criticism from others. In James D. Bloom’s, Reading the Male Gaze in Literature and
Culture: Studies in Erotic Epistemology, Claire Eby mentions how Dreiser, ‘”does
not have a single way of depicting women; nor does he concentrate on a particular
type as representative”11
this suggests that Dreiser explores all characteristics and personalities of
his female characters and tries to not single out a specific kind. In
comparison to Daisy Miller, where the
reader can see Winterbourne’s category for women. Again, this links in with the
representation of women through another character’s perception and how they
challenged the conventions at the time.

thing that readers can understand from Sister
Carrie, is that the theme of class and society can play a role in the
representation of females. “It was an important thing to hear one so well-positioned
and powerful speaking in this manner…Here was this greatest mystery, the man of
money and affairs sitting beside her, appealing to her.”12
With the readers knowledge of Carrie’s many desires, more specifically to fulfil
her desire for riches and success, it is clear that she received a fair amount
of warning about materialistic things never amounting to happiness. However,
with this in mind, the reader can see that Carrie still wishes to achieve her
goals, linking to her American Dream, and believes that being in a position of
wealth and power will lead her to a much happier lifestyle. This can be linked
to the representation of female revolt as it explores the idea of materialism, society,
and class, as wealth is often associated with people of a higher-class and
social ranking.

to Daisy Miller, Sister Carrie
includes two male characters who have the interest of Carrie. Each are very
different to each other, similarly to Winterbourne and Giovanelli, Drouet is
portrayed as a materialist whereas Hurstwood is illustrated as a romanticist. Towards
the end of the novel, it is clear that both men loved Carrie deeply but were
unsuccessful at keeping her happy and satisfied. Given that Drouet is heavily
focused on the finer things in life this allowed him to move on from Carrie easily,
whereas Hurstwood, being more emotionally invested, gradually lost his wealth,
and became a homeless beggar who eventually commit suicide. Whilst both men
went through their trials and tribulations, Carrie finally achieved her
American Dream of stardom, wealth and fame but realises that they do not bring
her happiness. The reader can understand that the three pivotal characters in
the novel have a relation to the representation of female revolt and the emancipation
of literature in the period as they explore the theme of love, class and
society, and femininity.

are many similarities and differences between the two texts examined in this
essay. Both Daisy Miller and Sister Carrie have a similar character
list of two males to one female, involved in the storyline and competing for
the female character’s heart. With Winterbourne and Giovanelli being portrayed as
two gentlemen who have different natures and personalities, each wish to be
with Daisy, however have conflicting opinions of her personality and character.
This was seen towards the end of the novel when both gentlemen were discussing
Daisy over her grave, with Giovanelli admiring her and Winterbourne hurting and
blaming Giovanelli for taking Daisy her out when there was an illness
spreading, leading her to die.  Whereas
in Sister Carrie, Drouet and
Hurstwood are two different types of men, one being more high-maintenance and
the other more emotionally involved and invested, therefore showing the reader
the two different results in what happened next after Carrie exited their
lives. As well as this, both explore the themes of society and class and the
role of women in greater detail. With Daisy on her travels and coming across
many people, but treating everyone the same and not different due to their
social stature or class, and Carrie moving to the city with aspirations of
making it big and becoming a part of the upper-class. Not only this, both prove
to be independent females in their stories, showing they needn’t depend on

this essay has examined the many ways in which Henry James and Theodore Dreiser
have explored the representation of the female revolt and the emancipation of
literature in the period. Each were successful at exploring a range of themes
varying from the role of women to class and wealth. In addition to this, both
were successful at keeping the female character central to the story where each
endured different journey’s but still challenged the conventional stereotypes
of women in the nineteenth century and in a patriarchal society. The readers
can understand that Daisy Miller was successful
at telling the story of a care-free American on her travels where she expressed
her individuality without showing too much concern about what others thought of
her. And with Sister Carrie telling
the story of a rising star on her journey to find stardom and achieve her
personal American Dream.



1 Page 37

2 Page 36

3 Page 33 Hocks,
Richard A.  Henry James:  A Study of the Short Fiction.  Twayne’s Studies in Short Fiction.  Boston: 
Twayne Publishers, 1990.

4 Page 10

5 Pollack
76- Pollak, Vivian R., ed.  New Essays on
Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw. 
The American Novel Series.  New
York:   Cambridge University Press, 1993.

6 Page 56

7 Pollack

8 Page 74’s%20daughter%20do.=false


10 Page 217

11 Page 76-77,+whose+glances+were+not+modified+by+any+rules+of+propriety.+To+stare+seemed+the+proper+and+natural+thing.+Carrie+found+herself+stared+at+and+ogled.+Men+in+flawless+top-coats,+high+hats,+and+silver-headed+walking+sticks+elbowed+near+and+looked+too+often+into+conscious+eyes.=bl=oOJuqtYcVC=mJi9g9OwXrjLYaafHgjujfUNFq4=en=X=0ahUKEwjct_S7w9nYAhVBBMAKHXx_AkQQ6AEIMzAD#v=onepage=noticed%20suddenly%20that%20Mrs.%20Vance’s%20manner%20had%20rather%20stiffened%20under%20the%20gaze%20of%20handsome%20men%20and%20elegantly%20dressed%20ladies%2C%20whose%20glances%20were%20not%20modified%20by%20any%20rules%20of%20propriety.%20To%20stare%20seemed%20the%20proper%20and%20natural%20thing.%20Carrie%20found%20herself%20stared%20at%20and%20ogled.%20Men%20in%20flawless%20top-coats%2C%20high%20hats%2C%20and%20silver-headed%20walking%20sticks%20elbowed%20near%20and%20looked%20too%20often%20into%20conscious%20eyes.&f=false


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