“Do you speak English?” Representations of the American Woman Abroad

   Within modernist literature, readers have been fascinated by travel writing literature and the culture created by the modernist expatriate movement. This interest is amplified and is invariably more controversial when the protagonist of these works is female. Modernist literature has since been dissected for its commentary on both the culture it portrays and the lives of the authors who have created these societal representations. The underlying theme of the expatriate has been personal to both the authors who have chosen to leave America and the characters that they portray leaving America. These representations highlight assumptions about traveling women and work to solidify stereotypes within both the male and female characters. 

When examining Henry James’s Daisy Miller: A Study in Two Parts, the actions and attitudes of the American and European women convey clear sentiments about the transgression of gender roles and class boundaries. The ongoing conversations pertaining to Miller offer a variety of critiques of her character. Some critics believe Daisy is an antifeminist coquette who deserved her unfortunate ending. Others claim Daisy to be a feminist heroine for her ability to independently navigate the social circles of European culture. In addition to these views, Henry James’s biography plays an important role in his characterization of the Millers. In order to highlight the experiences described in Miller’s narrative, I parallel her voice with my own experiences traveling abroad. 

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