“Daisy Miller” is a story that tries to show the dangers of the reckless behavior the newly rich young American girls were showing when they toured Europe. Daisy thinks the world should conform to her viewpoint and is surprised when they don’t.
Winterbourne is the man telling the story. When he meets Daisy, he thinks she is a bit wild but a fresh and fun girl. As long as she was flirting with him and making him the center of her universe, he was fine. But when he meets her again in Rome and discovers she has met a handsome Italian who is interested in marrying her for her wealth, Winterbourne decides she is too wild for him. But, he is still jealous and would like to spend time with her. He is confused by her actions and wonders if it is a symptom of the times, or if it’s just Daisy.
Every time Winterbourne sees Daisy, she seems to be with the Italian, but she still flirts with Winterbourne. This adds to his confusion. As Daisy is turned away from the respectable houses, he tries to stand up for her. But, he is never firm in his defense. He tells people he thinks she might be engaged to the Italian, so that is why she is with him so often.
Finally, he finds the two of them out late at night in a well-known hotbed for disease. He admonishes her and makes the Italian take her home, but she still gets malaria and dies. Afterward he mourns for a few weeks, then decides she must have been in love with him. Instead of going back to America and settling down, as he said he might, Winterbourne goes back to Geneva, meets another woman and resumes his life as it was before he met Daisy Miller.
Daisy Miller opens in a small resort town in Switzerland called Vevey. While visiting his Aunt Costello at the Trois Couronnes, an inn, Winterbourne meets Daisy Miller. But first, he met her little brother, Randolph.
Winterbourne lives in Geneva where he is a student. When he knocks on his aunt’s door, he finds her indisposed with a headache, so he decides to wander around the inn and explore. A precocious little boy comes up to him demanding sugar cubes. When Winterbourne warns him his teeth will be damaged due to the sugar, the boy informs him he only has seven teeth left anyway. Soon his sister arrives. Daisy is pretty. Her eyes were, “honest and fresh.”
As he, an American, speaks with the brother and sister, also Americans. He becomes more sure that Daisy lacks, “finishing.” She is a “coquette.” But, Winterbourne begins to question his conclusions. Its been a long time since he was in America. Maybe young American girls all behave in such a straight forward manner. Especially those from New York. Or is she trying to seduce him so she can force him into marriage? Soon he relieves himself by categorizing her as a harmless flirt. Not some manipulative husband hunter.
Daisy says she would like to visit Chillon Castle. The tourist attraction sits across the Geneva Lake. Winterbourne is surprised to discover he is expected to escort Daisy to visit it. Without a chaperon. Then he is even more surprised when a courier arrives to call her and her brother into lunch, and she addresses him familiarly. She even tells him about their plans to visit the Castle the next day.
Eugenio, the courier, seems to look on Winterbourne with disapproval. He also flashes a look to him that seems to convey that Daisy often talks to strange men. In trying to recover his honor and respectability, and mostly because the courier makes him feel guilty, Winterbourne makes plans to introduce Daisy to his aunt. But his aunt is not thrilled to meet Daisy. She has noticed the family and finds them to be crass.
Winterbourne assures her they are only “uncultivated.” He assures her that Daisy is not a “Comanche savage.” And he reminds his aunt, repeatedly, that Daisy is pretty. He also tells his aunt that he has made plans to take her to the Chateau de Chillon. His aunt tries to warn him against American girls. Some of them are shocking, and he has been away from America too long. He is innocent to the manipulations of the wild girls. And she is too old to be forced to deal with young girls who agree to go with a young man unchaperoned. Winterbourne asks his aunt if this isn’t normal behavior for American girls and she assures him that her granddaughters would never behave so recklessly. But since he knows his cousins are terrible flirts he is sure this is a common way for modern American girls to act. Also, if she is more liberal than his cousins he hopes to get farther with her than he had hoped earlier. He ponders these things as he “twirls his mustache.”
The next day he sees Daisy and when she tells him how excited she is to meet his aunt. She has heard that his aunt speaks to no one and doesn’t dine at the “table d’hote.” He has to tell her his aunt is too ill to receive company. But Daisy knows it is because the woman doesn’t want to meet her. Although she laughs and makes the remark flippantly, Winterbourne thinks he hears her voice quaver and thinks he would like to comfort her. But, before he can she sees her mother in the distance. Mrs. Miller is looking for Randolph so she can put him to bed. Winterbourne asks Daisy if she is sure the far away figure is her mother and is assured that the woman is wearing the shawl Daisy gave her so of course, it is her mother.
When asked why she stopped advancing to Daisy, she tells him that she stopped because of him, so he offers to leave. But Daisy insists on introducing him to her mother. He finds her to be thin but dressed fashionably. She is also shy. As the three walk together they discuss Randolph and how he would rather spend time with the staff than going to bed. Then when her mother learns of their expected outing, Daisy seems to want a reaction from her. She suggests that Winterbourne takes her that night in a boat to the Castle.
He is eager to be alone with her on the water and agrees. Although her mother doesn’t want her to go, she is not stern enough to stop her. So when the courier arrives to tell her Randolph has been found and put to bed, Mrs. Miller asks his opinion on the excursion. When he convinces Daisy not to go, she asks Winterbourne if he is “disappointed, disgusted or something.” He tells her he is puzzled and she likes that. Then she and her mother walk away with the courier, Eugenio. Although her actions puzzle him, he is looking forward to getting some time alone with her even more.
Two days later the two leave on their excursion to the castle. Although Winterbourne worried that she would talk loudly and act crass he was pleased to see she dressed fashionably and turned heads. She did talk incessantly, but it was not loud or rude. She spent the time asking him questions to learn about him and telling him about herself. When they arrived at the castle, he paid the custodian to allow them to explore without his guidance. So they were alone when she turned the conversation to asking him to travel with her family. She asks if he would like to spend time teaching his vast knowledge to her little brother. When he tells her that he must return to Geneva in a couple of days.
She asks if he has a girlfriend that won’t allow him to take a vacation since she knows he doesn’t have business to attend to. He assures her that he doesn’t have anyone keeping him in Geneva over the winter and since he has already told his aunt he will spend that time in Rome, he will see her there. This appeases her, and she stops teasing him. On the drive back to Vevey she is quiet. That evening his aunt asks him about their excursion. When she learns they went without a chaperon, she thinks worse of Daisy and can’t believe he expected his aunt to make her acquaintance.
Winterbourne receives a letter from his aunt. She has settled in Rome and asks that he join her before the twenty-third of January. At his aunts, he learns that Daisy’s family has been in Rome, too and Daisy is becoming scandalous. She has been seen going to parties with known fortune hunters and unknown Italian. She is unchaperoned and is surrounded by men with “wonderful mustaches.” This makes Winterbourne rethink his plan to visit Daisy right away. Instead, he visits Mrs. Walker, an accomplished woman who has her children in school in Geneva. While he is there the servant announces “Madame Mila!” and Randolph walks in. He stares at Winterbourne and says, “I know you!” Daisy follows, and then her mother comes in slower.
Daisy admonishes him for not visiting her right away, and Randolph makes comments on the size of the apartment, which is smaller than theirs. While Daisy is engaged in an animated conversation with Mrs. Walker, Winterbourne esquires on her mother’s health. She tells him she has not been well. After a discourse on her bad health, he asks how she likes Rome. She is disappointed in it. When he assures her it gets better, Randolph rudely announces he hates Rome. He asks her if Daisy likes it and Mrs. Miller tells him that she seems to enjoy it. Especially since she has made so many friends, mostly men.
As Randolph wines to his mother that they should leave since they don’t want to upset Eugenio, Daisy asks Mrs. Walker if she can bring a friend to her party. When Mrs. Walker smiles to Mrs. Miller and says she would be happy to include any friend of hers, she is told it is Daisy’s intimate friend, not hers. Mr. Giovanelli.
After that is settled, Mrs. Miller starts to leave, but Daisy wants to walk down to the Pincio Gardens. Mrs. Walker cautions against going at the late hour, and her mother agrees but because of the sicknesses that can attack in the evening air. Daisy is determined to go and asks Winterbourne to escort her. Mrs. Walker tells her not to meet “beautiful Italian” men at this hour, but Mrs. Miller tells her he speaks English.
As Mrs. Miller’s carriage pulls up with the same courier, Winterbourne met in Vevey, Daisy waves at the courier and then goes with Winterbourne to meet Mr. Giovanelli at the Pincio Gardens. When they spot Mr. Giovanelli, Winterbourne thinks he is a handsome man but not right for her. He learns that the man speaks American quite well because he has spent a lot of time with American heiresses. Winterbourne finds him to be an “imitation of a gentleman.” He again wonders whether Daisy is a nice girl since a nice girl would see through Giovanelli. Although their meeting is in broad daylight, he still wonders at the propriety.
Soon a carriage arrives with Mrs. Walker inside. She calls Winterbourne over and tells him that fifty people have noticed that Daisy is walking with two men and is in danger of ruining her reputation. Daisy is called over to the carriage but refuses to go with Mrs. Walker. When she is informed that a young unchaperoned woman walking about with two men is not to be done, she declares that it should be.
Finally Mrs, Walker is rebuffed enough that she leaves in tears and insists Winterbourne accompany her. As they are driving away, Mrs. Walker tells him that Daisy is getting quite a reputation at the hotel they are staying at. When a man asks for her, the staff exchange secretive smiles. Her mother leaves the room whenever anyone comes to visit. When Mrs. Walker tries to convince Winterbourne to stop seeing Daisy, he replies that he can’t because he likes her “extremely.”
Mrs. Walker sees it as a lost cause and lets him out of her carriage. Soon he sees Daisy and Giovanelli sitting on a bench. When the man takes her parasol and uses it to block Winterbourne’s view of them so they can have some privacy, he turns toward his aunt’s home and walks away. For the next two days, he tries to see Daisy at her hotel, but she is always out. He is relieved to see, though that the staff of the hotel doesn’t seem to be snickering at a man asking for her, so he thinks Mrs. Walker was mistaken.
Several days pass and Winterbourne is at the party of Mrs. Walker. She has forgiven him his running after Daisy and is cordial to him. When Daisy shows up late, she makes the excuse that she was making Giovanelli practice some songs to entertain everyone with. Winterbourne tries to talk to Daisy about her actions. He tells her that the way they flirt in America is not accepted in Italy. But she argues back that they need to get used to it. Then he asks her if she is in love with Giovanelli. She doesn’t give him a clear answer, just accuses him of saying “disagreeable things.”
After spending the rest of the evening with Giovanelli, mostly alone in a separate room, she tells her mother it is time to leave. Mrs. Walker gives her the cold shoulder as she is leaving. Winterbourne can tell that Daisy is hurt. Afterward he admonishes Mrs. Walker, but she says Daisy will never be welcome in her home again.
Days later while strolling in St. Peter’s with his aunt, they see Daisy and Giovanelli again. His aunt jokes that he was probably introduced to them by the courier and the man will get a commission if they wed. Still jealous, Winterbourne says he doesn’t think she will marry him. But his aunt says she probably doesn’t think about anything.
Another group of tourists comes up to them, and they begin to talk about Daisy’s shocking behavior. Winterbourne often hears gossip about Daisy and Giovanelli. Some of the gossip says the pair are engaged. But Daisy denies it. Meanwhile, Winterbourne becomes obsessed with understanding why she acts the way she does. When he runs into her and Giovanelli, she begins to question Winterbourne about what people are saying and why he doesn’t defend her. He tells her he does. He tells people what her mother told him, that she believes she and Giovanelli are engaged. First, she says they are, then she says they aren’t. Finally, he leaves the pair. Winterbourne is more confused than ever.
Winterbourne is walking home from a dinner party late one night when he sees Daisy and Giovanelli at the Coliseum looking at the moon. He is shocked because the place they are is well known to be infected with malaria. He admonishes Giovanelli for taking her to a place he knows to be dangerous. But, he says that she wanted too so he could not refuse her. While Giovanelli goes for the carriage, Winterbourne tells her to take some pills she tells him about to fight disease when she returns home. She asks him if he believed she wasn’t engaged the other night, but he says he doesn’t care whether she is or not.
Days later Winterbourne learns that Daisy is gravely ill. He goes to visit her and sees her mother who is taking care of her. She tells him that Giovanelli hasn’t visited at all. She also gives him a message Daisy sent to him when she was lucid. She assures him she was never engaged to Giovanelli. Whether Winterbourne is glad of the news or not, her mother is glad to know it.
Daisy never recovers and dies about a week later. At the grave site, Giovanelli comes up to Winterbourne. He says that he didn’t go to see her because he thought everyone would blame him. He also knew she would never marry him and make his fortune. Winterbourne admonishes him again for taking her out that night and trying to damage her reputation, but Giovanelli says that it was all her idea.
Afterward Winterbourne goes back to Geneva. He spends the winter thinking about Daisy and trying to understand her. He also considers going back to America and settling down. When summer comes around Winterbourne goes to Vevey again to see his aunt. They talk about Daisy, and he tells her about the message from her. His aunt thinks Daisy might have been in love with him. He reminds his aunt that she had predicted he would make a great mistake when he first met Daisy.
Although he tells his aunt he has lived in “foreign parts” too long and seems melancholy; he goes back to Geneva. There he tells people “he is ‘studying’ hard – an intimation that he is much interested in a very clever foreign lady.”
Daisy Miller – a young American girl, traveling with her mother and little brother across Europe in the mid-1800’s. She is pretty and rich. She is also very spoiled. Her mother is indulgent, and her father is absent. Daisy thinks the world should conform to her, not the other way around. She is flighty and flirts with every young man she comes across. In the small vacation town of Vevey, she meets Winterbourne and makes a date with him that is unchaperoned. Then she makes plans to meet him in Rome, but before he arrives, she has already gotten a reputation as an intolerable flirt. Daisy is especially keeping the company of a handsome Italian man who is well known to be looking for a rich heiress to marry.
Daisy’s outrageous behavior makes her shunned by most of the society. But Winterbourne is jealous of the Italian and wants her to only flirt with himself. The wild and reckless behavior culminates when she and the Italian are seen by Winterbourne at a well-known breeding ground for malaria. She says she wanted to see the moonlight from there and she never gets ill. A week later she is dead. Daisy is supposed to be the representative of a carefree but reckless lifestyle of the young American girls touring Europe at the time. She is a cautionary tale.
Winterbourne – he is a snob. Winterbourne considers himself to be the center of the world. He lives in Geneva where he tells everyone he is studying. But during the summer he visits his rich aunt and stays with her. On one of these visits, he is wandering around bored when he meets a little boy and his vivacious sister. When he meets Daisy, Winterbourne thinks she is an easy conquest. Although he knows that going out with her without a chaperon will damage her reputation, he doesn’t care. After spending the day flirting with her, he tells her he will meet her in Rome in the winter, because his aunt goes there, too.
When he gets there months later, he is surprised to find she hasn’t been pining away for him. Instead, she has begun to make the tongues wag. She is being seen with a handsome Italian man. Even though Winterbourne knows she is behaving scandalously, he still wants her. He tells her to only flirt with him and to dump the Italian. But, he’s not looking for a wife. After Daisy dies, he tries to come to grips with the way everyone thought of her, himself included. He finally comforts himself thinking she was probably in love with him. Then he goes back to Geneva and takes up with another woman. He is back to his self-centered ways.
Randolph Miller – a young boy of about nine years old. He is Daisy’s little brother and just as wild as she is. He is spoiled and rude. There mother not only can’t discipline her children but doesn’t seem to want too.
Mrs. Miller – Daisy and Randolph’s mother. She is weak and silly. She cannot take care of her children. They control her completely. Her main concern is her health. She turns over the governing of her children to a courier who works for her, but he is also ineffectual.
Henry James Biography
Henry James was born on April 15th, 1843 in New York City, New York. The son of a lecturer/philosopher and a woman from a wealthy family, Henry had a privileged childhood where he was well-schooled and intentionally exposed to many different scientific and philosophical teachings. His family spent much time traveling Europe while he studied with tutors. In 1861, James received an injury while fighting a fire. That made him unfit for military service in the American Civil War.
In 1862, James enrolled at Harvard Law School but later dropped out to study literature. His first published work was a review of “Miss Maggie Mitchell in Fanchon the Cricket,” a stage performance. This review was published in 1863. A year later his first short story, “A Tragedy of Error” was published. He began writing journalism pieces for The Nation and Atlantic Monthly and later worked in as a correspondent for the New York Tribune.
James moved to London in 1869 and began publishing serial installments of stories that would later be collected in book form. The audience for these installments was largely middle-class women, and James struggled to create serious novels based off of what the publishers deemed appropriate for women at that time.
In 1875, he moved to Paris and spent the rest of his life living in Europe. It was also this year that James published his first full-length novel, “Roderick Hudson.” The novel was not well received at the time but has become a classic in more modern times. In 1881, James created one of his best-known works, “The Portrait of a Lady.” This successful novel was followed by a few less well-received ones and his surprising chart-topper, ‘The Turn of the Screw’ a novella that was praised by critics for it’s different interpretations.
During this time James also wrote many shorter narratives such as “Daisy Miller” (1878) that are still well known to this day.
In the early 1900’s, James published several less well-known novels and visited America to lecture on the French novelist and playwright, Honore de Balzac. He also began working on his autobiographies. During the World War I he worked for the military although he did not go off to the front lines due to his age.
In 1915, he became a British subject and was awarded the Order of Merit the following year.
Henry James died on February 28th, 1916 in Chelsea, London and was interred at Cambridge Cemetery in Massachusetts.