Sep 14 2011

Annotated Paragraph

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Though he was impatient to see her, he hardly knew what he should say to her about his aunt’s refusal to become acquainted with her; but he discovered, promptly enough, that with Miss Daisy Miller there was no great need of walking on tiptoe. He found her that evening in the garden, wandering about in the warm starlight like an indolent sylph, and swinging to and fro the largest fan he had ever beheld. It was ten o’clock. He had dined with his aunt, had been sitting with her since dinner, and had just taken leave of her till the morrow. Miss Daisy Miller seemed very glad to see him; she declared it was the longest evening she had ever passed.


In the story of “Daisy Miller”, this paragraph stands out because it has a very direct and significant style that Henry James prefers to use. Henry James was a realist author, a majority of his work stemmed from the real, realism and reality. In both “Daisy Miller” and his other works including “The Real Thing”, he uses many of those characteristics in a way that presents a very vivid and realistic take on reality. This leads to many varying interpretations of his characters.

The entire paragraph begins with a dilemna from the male lead of the story, Winterbourne. The author Henry James formulates the first sentence of the paragraph with the line “Though he was” which has a direct representation of a problematic situation. He continues on with the word “Impatient” which denotates that he is eager or tired of waiting, towards a female. The syntax is apparent in the latter of the first sentence, the problematic situation has been acknowledged. The author then uses a semicolon to separate an answer to the dilemna that plagued Winterbourne previously. By using the words “discovered” and “promptly enough”, he exemplifies the fact that it was almost immediately after the first half of the line. He then gives further insight on Daisy Miller’s character by insinuating that there was no need to for subtlety when it came to Daisy. This entire first line shows a problem and the solution as well as insight on the protagonist, Daisy, in the story.

In the second sentence, the word “found” brings in a connotation that something that has been misplaced or lost was now “found”. Then the author includes a simile that gives the impression that Winterbourne saw Daisy in a state of peaceful serenity swinging back and forth, but then compares her to an “indolent sylph.” Just from this small piece of the sentence, it complicates the reading. The syntax here is as if the author is trying to represent the male lead as infatuated with this beautiful peaceful figure, but destroys the image with similarly negative connotations. The contrasting oxymoron is exceptionally clever. By using “Indolent”, he has given an image of a sloth and lazy demeanor, but by placing “sylph,” which means graceful girl, next to the prior word is an obvious oxymoron and brings a contrast that speaks to reality.

In the next sentence, the author brings back a very realist point of view. Winterbourne was so captivated by this woman that he had to shake himself out of that circumstance, so he relays the time to change the readers state of mind. This is a very smart way the author uses to intervene and keep the story interesting while reintroducing the reader back into the story; while the reader is redirected, Henry James writes about what Winterbourne was doing before he was captivated by the sight of Miss Daisy Miller. The syntax here is very interesting because it almost seems nonchalant. The interpretation here can be said that he wanted to rush through of telling of dinner, brushing the actual story aside in favor of a more interesting plot.

In the last line, it brings to attention that we are learning more about Daisy. In this line, it seems that Daisy has an interest in Winterbourne. It is an exasperating attempt to figure out why; the way it is written leaves a lot of room to wonder whether her interest is from boredom or love.

Henry James brings a lot of questions on the table but his writing is ingenius. He contradicts his characters but also allows room for the characters to grow. The characters answer their own dilemma’s and is forced to face many realistic decisions as the story progresses.

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One response so far

One Response to “Annotated Paragraph”

  1.   Kevin L. Fergusonon 03 Nov 2011 at 10:29 am

    Most of your “hovers” are just about denotations–I was hoping to see more connotation there as well. LIke “warm starlight”–I was thinking “what a strange image,” but then saw that you only said the same thing. Can you explain this image more?

    I was interested in what you said about James being a realist–how would a New Critic say that we know that? Is that an effect of the words he uses, or the sentence patterns, or what?

    I like how you discuss the first sentence’s “logic”– a problem and a solution all in one sentence. I still wonder, though, about those New Critics, who would ask why James chose “walking on tiptoe” to represent the idea of subtlety (rather than one of the other paradigmatic possibilities. You did, though, do a good job unpacking the phrase “indolent sylph”–and the New Critics would definitely love the oxymoron.

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