Thursday, March 8, 2007

Prisoner Of Chillon?

Journal No. 14
English 48B
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I Chose: Henry James

From "Daisy Miller: A Study"

I. "I would much rather go to Chillon with you."

II. Winterbourne is telling the new young lady that he has just met, Daisy, that he would be more than happy to be her guide to the castle across the lake from where they are standing.

III. Daisy has just finished telling Winterbourne that she has failed to find a good candidate for a guide to Chateau de Chillon. Winterbourne of course finds this so hard to believe that she hasn't found another suitable fellow to accompany this dear young lady. After inquiring, he admits that she cannot go alone or with her mother, who really does not want to go without Randolph. So, of course, Winterbourne would be the best person to take her to Chillon, right?

I find it interesting that James has perhaps used Chateau de Chillon as a symbol that was almost imperceptable at this point in the story. However, upon doing some research about the castle, I found that it indeed does seem to hold some meaning that would have otherwise remained undetected in my wee little brain. It seems that Lord Byron has written a poem about the exact same castle. The title is "Prisoner of Chillon." Hmmm... interesting, no? Well, I read bits of the (loooooong) poem and found that it was similar in some ways to the situation that Winterbourne later finds himself in. I thought that there might be more than just coincidence here. In "Prisoner of Chillon," the prisoner finds that he has become accustomed to and dependent on the very walls and chains that hold him there:

At last men came to set me free;
I ask’d not why, and reck’d not where;
It was at length the same to me,
Fetter’d or fetterless to be,
I learn’d to love despair.
And thus when they appear’d at last,
And all my bonds aside were cast,
These heavy walls to me had grown
A hermitage—and all my own!
And half I felt as they were come
To tear me from a second home

Winterbourne's fate seemed to be destined to end the same way as the Prisoner of Chillon's was. He had wanted to be free of Daisy's hold on him - so much that he convinced himself that he was disgusted by her behavior. But in the end, she had such a strong hold on him that when he heard of her own true behaviors with Giovanelli, he was devestated to know that even in death, she still had a strong hold on his love for her.

If you are interested in reading more of "The Prisoner of Chillon," please visit the Pennsylvania State University’s Electronic Classics Series.


Scott said...

20 points. WOW, great research Chelsea! That's an amazing and persuasive connection!