Role of the Narrator in Henry James' Daisy Miller Essay

916 Words 4 Pages
The narrator of Henry James’ Daisy Miller contributes to the novella’s realism, as defined by James himself in his essay “The Art of Fiction,” by creating a narrator who acts as an observer to the events described in the story rather than an omniscient narrator who informs the reader of the thoughts of the characters. Rather than focusing on the internal workings of the character’s minds, James focuses on the external details which offers the reader a realistic perspective of the characters and leaves moral judgment to the readers.

James states in “The Art of Fiction” that “the only reason for the existence of the novel is that it does attempt to represent life” (322). The novella begins, after a short description of setting, with “I”
…show more content…
The reason for James’ focusing on external details is because in life that is all we ourselves are privy to: no one can read or hear the thoughts of another human being, thus it is more realistic to describe characters in the same way everyday people would describe those they encounter.

When Giovanelli’s feelings toward Winterbourne are described, the narrator states that “Giovanelli, from the first, had treated Winterbourne with distinguished politeness; he listened with a deferential air to his remarks; he laughed, punctiliously, at his pleasantries” (315). What is lacking, and a major difference between James’ realism and the Romanticism, is any delving into the mind of Giovanelli. The description is based not on Giovanelli’s personal thoughts or an authoritative insight; rather, the description is based in the way in which Giovanelli talks and behaves; anyone, even a casual observer, could have had the same impression as the narrator conveys to the reader. Basing “politeness” on punctilious laughter does not dispel the possibility of insincerity. The narrator lacks the authority and privilege to describe Giovanelli’s true intentions in behaving politely to Winterbourne. Also, when the narrator describes Daisy’s appearance, he states that “it seemed to [Winterbourne] … that Daisy had never looked so pretty” (315). The diction is important for the word “seemed” conveys a sense of weakness in the narrator’s observation. Though a minor detail, the
Open Document