Henry James' Daisy Miller and Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence

Decent Essays
Both Daisy Miller by Henry James and The Age of Innocence, based on the novel by Edith Wharton are either social commentaries or love stories set in corrupt society. The male leads, Newland Archer and Winterbourne, help to show, assuming the goal is commentary, the dishonest and frivolous nature of society. Newland and Winterbourne’s stories and characters run on corresponding motives, as they are the offspring of that society.

Each character has an affair. Winterbourne’s is subtle, presented more as his single interest, but it is told that his presence in Geneva (at both the beginning and end of the novel) is for the purpose of “’studying,’” but “when certain persons spoke of him they affirmed that the reason of his
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The finest gallantry, here, was simply to tell her the truth; and the truth, for Winterbourne, as the few indications I have been able to give have made him known to the reader, was that Daisy Miller should take Mrs. Walker's advice. He looked at her exquisite prettiness, and then he said, very gently, ‘I think you should get into the carriage.’”

Winterbourne is compelled, by both his strange sense of compassion for Daisy and his “gallantry” to make sure that he gives Daisy the best possible advice. Newland, too, takes great pains to maintain his wife’s honor, as Ellen says:
“’Didn't you talk to me, here in this room, about sacrifice and sparing scandal because my family was going to be your family? And I did what you asked me. For May's sake. And for yours…I had nothing to fear from that letter. Absolutely nothing. You were just afraid of scandal for yourself, and for May.’”

But he also takes pains to preserve the honor of the Countess. In that same scene, she expresses her gratitude, and gives a glimpse of how she sees Archer:

“All that you've done for me, Newland, that I never knew. Going to the van der Luydens because people refused to meet me. Announcing your engagement at the ball so there would be two families standing behind me instead of one…New York seemed so kind and glad to see me. But there was no one as kind as you…You hated happiness brought by
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