Written by two male authors, Daisy Miller and Where Angels Fear to Tread emphasize the lives of women and men who are sexualized differently due to European stereotypes. Daisy Miller, the main character in the novel Daisy Miller, is a woman seen as an “American flirt” who shows the morality and sexual challenges faced by foreign women abroad in Europe. Gino Cerella is the male protagonist in Where Angels Fear to Tread who shows the image of the stereotypical Italian man. While evaluating the themes of sexuality and stereotypes between Europeans (Italians in particularly) and foreigners of Europe, one can realize how crucial this is in the vision of Italy and how this negatively impacted the name of Italian culture. The interactions between characters in the novels feature a wide range of issues between sexuality and nationalism.
Daisy Miller is an American woman who travels abroad to Europe symbolizing the New Woman. Not only does Daisy face cultural challenges along her journey, but the gender differences between America and Europe were so obvious that there was always a distinct difference between her and Italian woman. Daisy meets two men during her stay in Italy, Winterbourne and Eugenio. Winterbourne tries to warp Daisy to be a more respectable woman who will fit into Italian society, while Eugenio respects her to be the women she wants to be. Her traveling to and around Italy alone makes her less desirable. For example, Winterbourne’s aunt says “She went with you alone?…. and this is the young person you wanted me to know?” (James 28). Winterbourne continues to chase her while his aunt tries to pull him back to the European reality. Winterbourne’s sexual desire to be with Daisy Miller shows that sex impacts his motives and actions. Gender norms are reversed as Daisy Miller manipulates him into yearning for her. Her uniqueness and Americanized attitude make her more desirable to him than an Italian woman who constrains themselves to act a certain way. Although woman’s independence is widely accepted in American and European society now, in the 1900’s it was not. Therefore, most women were never seen traveling alone. This is why Daisy traveling in this way was scrutinized by Winterbourne and his family. It shows Daisy to have this masculine trait, immortalizing her place in society. “In all countries, then, the ideal woman changes, chameleon-like, to suit the taste of men; and the great doctrine that her happiness does somewhat depend on his liking is part of the very foundation of her existence” (Linton 67). Daisy’s promiscuous and wild American image was socially unacceptable in Italy. “Some people had told him that all, 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” (James ***) Breaking the gender and sexual values of Europe resulted in discrepancies between the norms that identified true individuality of Daisy and Winterbourne.
In Where Angels Seem to Tread, Lilia Herrinton is an opposite character of Daisy Miller, in the starting chapters of the novel. After her voyage to Italy, she marries an Italian man and becomes controlled by him. This stereotypical Italian character, Gino, is aggressive, has dirty fingers, and greasy hands is a terrible husband and cheats on Lilia multiple times. This novel shows how women in Italy are demoralized and become a woman of their husband, individuality is not seen to be too common. Although Gino is shown to be a mean, horrible husband, one would still picture this man to be handsome by the way he is described, “…very good looking. All his features are good, and he is well built- though I dare say English standards would find him too short” (Forster ***). To win him back and fix their marriage, Lilia realizes the only thing she could give him that he wants is a child, so she goes through with it and conceives a baby with him. This is sexualized action by Lilia. She has sex with him to hopefully regain love and kinship with her husband. He clearly has sexual desires for Lilia and gives into the thought of a child fixing their marriage. The theme of sexuality is apparent here by Gino’s looks and his will to have sex with Lilia to make a baby. **IDK**
All in all, Daisy Miller and Where Angels Fear to Tread symbolize the cultural stereotypes and theme of sexuality to convey the difference between America and Italy, and Italy and England. The emphasis on the way different people from different countries are sexualized shows the sexual challenges encountered by foreign women abroad. Gino Cerella and Daisy Miller are the two main characters in the two novels who show the extreme stereotypic actions by those from their countries. The biggest issue when analyzing these characters is how differently the world is now and how the characters who are out of place would not have these problems coming to a new country now. American women are still seen to be more sexualized and “flirty” than those in Europe, but it is more accepted now. Additionally, Italian men and English woman could marry without it being a huge issue due to the fact of the lighter line that one could pass through social classes. The characters in these novels portray the large themes of sexuality and use common stereotypes to show the large divide between social cultures in different countries.
- Forster, E. M. Where Angels Fear to Tread. Arnold, 1971.
- James, Henry. Daisy Miller. Macmillan Heinemann ELT, 2007.
- Linton, E. Lynn. GIRL OF THE PERIOD: and Other Social Essays (Classic Reprint). FORGOTTEN Books, 2015.