Martyrdom in Daisy Miller


In the book of Mark, chapters 14 and 15 of the Bible, Jesus becomes aware of his imminent death and is later crucified. Jesus’s execution is considered an act of martyrdom because he is persecuted and killed because of his religious beliefs. His action is particularly impactful because Jesus gives himself up willingly. In the above painting, Jesus’s death is depicted as followers pray below and angels hover overhead. Henry James’ novella Daisy Miller, Daisy is similarly portrays as a martyr. Daisy is believed to be a flirt by most of the people she meets in Europe. Contrarily, Daisy is actually choosing to make her own choices and ignore the social normals of her day. At the end of the story, Daisy dies from Roman Fever (malaria) after a date with Giovanelli at the Coliseum. Daisy’s final act of controversy is essentially a death sentence. Daisy is a martyr because she dies as a result of her beliefs, even though they are not religious. Henry James foreshadows Daisy’s martyrdom before she dies. When Winterbourne first sees people in the Coliseum, he knows it is Daisy and Giovanelli because he hears Daisy say, “”Well, he looks at us as one of the old lions or tigers may have looked at the Christian martyrs!”” (James). While it is unclear whom Daisy is speaking about, it may be Winterbourne himself. After Daisy has died, Winterbourne, who had been very critical of Daisy’s behavior at times, suddenly sees Daisy as innocent. As is typical of a martyr, Daisy is treated better in death than she was in her misunderstood life.

• Oedipus, Oedipus Rex by Socrates
• Edna, The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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5 Responses to Martyrdom in Daisy Miller

  1. 15lmf says:

    Your post highlights a very interesting aspect of Daisy that goes beyond her superficial purpose as a character. You also expertly support your argument with pieces from both texts. One question to think about is if there is any cultural significance of the martyr being a young girl? It would be interesting to hear your argument for the theme of a martyr in the other listed literature.

  2. 15mdp says:

    This post draws interesting parallels between Daisy Miller and the bible in that the popular society of the time negatively judged the individual. However, this example is also unusual in that Daisy was not fighting for anything in particular where as the story of Jesus’s crucifixion is one in which an individual fought for an ideal. I also enjoyed your quotations which supported your points nicely. The comparison between the martyrdom of Jesus and Daisy.

  3. grayj888 says:

    There are many parallels between Daisy Miller and the Bible that I had not thought of before. The quotes fit perfectly and everything flows beautifully. Perhaps meatier sentences would be more appealing. I wonder if like Daisy being seen as innocent after she dies, Jesus was seen as innocent after he died in the eyes of his executioners. Great post

  4. ablyster says:

    The connections you drew between this biblical motif and Daisy Miller was thoroughly described. I agree, with Gray that it flowed very nicely and the quotation worked perfectly. Is it possible that the way in which Daisy functioned was not really beliefs, rather insecurity? Could that be connected to Jesus? Otherwise this is a great post, maybe describing the other references of the list below would help to further support your argument.

  5. 15cgb says:

    Great post! I really liked how you took your theme from the Bible and followed it through the entire novel. In doing so, you are really highlighting your point. One question I always had about the novel that relates to your post is was Daisy really innocent? If she wasn’t, would you change your post/opinion? Your post was very intriguing!

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