Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...©
of Work and Year of Publication
Miller is a short novel, or novella, centering on conflicts arising
from interaction between artless American tourists and sophisticated Europeans.
The Cornhill Magazine, a British publication existing between 1860
and 1975, published the story in London in 1878.
action takes place in the 1870s in Vevey, Switzerland, a small resort town
on the northeastern shore of Lake Geneva; at the Château de Chillon,
a medieval castle on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, near Montreux; and
in Rome, Italy. In Rome, the action takes place in hotels and streets;
a residence on Via Gregoriana; a public park on a hill called the Pincio;
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican; the Doria Palace on the Via del Corso;
the Palace of the Caesars on the Palatine Hill; a villa restaurant on the
Caelian Hill; and the Colosseum (originally called the Flavian Amphitheater),
near the Roman Forum. Geneva, Switzerland, is the temporary residence of
one of the main characters, Frederick Winterbourne, but no action in the
novel takes place there.
Twenty-seven-year-old American who received his education in Geneva, Switzerland,
the city where he temporarily resides. After living so long in Switzerland,
he is well versed in European customs and traditions. He becomes fond of
fellow American Daisy Miller when he meets her in Vevey, Switzerland. He
has difficulty understanding her behavior. In particular, he cannot determine
whether she is naive and innocent or calculating and experienced.
Daisy (Annie P.) Miller:
Extremely pretty young American who is on a European tour with her mother
and brother. She is outspoken, high-spirited, and independent and ignores
(or is unaware of) customs and traditions of European high society, particularly
as they apply to interaction with the opposite sex. Because she frequently
sees young men unchaperoned, she creates scandal and gossip. Daisy is the
Daisy's boisterous little brother. Europe generally bores him, and he thinks
America is far the superior place to live. Randolph is something of an
allegory for boorish American tourists.
Miller: Culturally and socially deficient mother of Daisy and Randolph
and wife of Ezra B. Miller, a wealthy businessman in Schenectady, New York.
She is weak-minded, ill at ease at social gatherings, and frequently suffers
bouts of indigestion. Europeans, as well as sophisticated Americans living
abroad, look down on her. She makes no effort to rein in Daisy, mainly
because she sees nothing offensive or untoward in her behavior.
Mrs. Costello: Winterbourne's
American aunt, whom he visits in Vevey, Switzerland, and later in Rome.
She is a wealthy widow who, unlike Mrs. Miller, is culturally and socially
sophisticated. She refuses to meet Daisy Miller.
Mrs. Walker: Another
sophisticated American. She lives in Geneva but spends the winter in Rome.
Mrs. Walker is appalled by Daisy behavior and looks down on Mrs. Miller,
whom she regards as an "imbecile."
Giovanelli (joh vuh
NELL e): Daisy's frequent escort in Rome. Winterbourne and others regard
him as womanizer. Mrs. Miller and Daisy think him a splendid gentleman.
He appears to be the only character in the novel who understands and accepts
Eugenio: Tour guide
(called a courier in the novel) for the Miller family. He helps Mrs. Miller
supervise her children. Gossips spread rumors about him and Daisy.
Tourist at Doria Palace:
Friend of Winterbourne. The tourist informs Winterbourne that he saw Daisy
Miller and Giovanelli together, unchaperoned, in the art galleries at the
for a few first-person intrusions (see, for example, pars. 3 and 4 in Chapter
I), Henry James tells the story in third-person point of view from a limited
perspective—that of Frederick Winterbourne,
a twenty-seven-year old American who has lived in Europe for a considerable
time. Winterbourne is in every scene; all the action is described as he
perceives it, not as any other any other character perceives it. One may
compare Winterbourne to a magnifying glass through which the storyteller
sees the action up close, then describes significant events in detail.
main conflict centers on the tension that arises between Daisy Miller and
sophisticated Americans in Europe. They cannot abide her outspokenness
and her flouting of prevailing European customs and traditions. Mrs. Walker
says she is "reckless." Mrs. Costello labels her and her mother "horribly
Michael J. Cummings...©
Winterbourne lounges over an after-breakfast coffee in the garden of the
Trois Couronnes, a hotel in the small resort town of Vevey, Switzerland,
on the northeastern shore of Lake Geneva within view of a snow-capped peak,
the Dent du Midi. The twenty-seven- year-old American arrived the day before
from Geneva to see his aunt, Mrs. Costello. Winterbourne had attended grade
school and college in Geneva. His friends say that he continues to live
in Geneva to pursue further studies, but gossips say he sojourns there
to pursue a certain foreign woman who is older than he. He is free on this
day, for his aunt has a headache and remains in her hotel room.
boisterous American boy in knickers and red stockings comes by and begs
sugar cubes from Winterbourne’s table. They talk briefly before the boy,
age nine, sees his sister—a beautiful young
lady in frilly white muslin—coming toward
them. Winterbourne fixes his attention on her while the boy hops about
with an alpenstock (staff with an iron point used by mountain climbers).
His sister asks him what on earth he is doing, addressing him as Randolph.
He says he is practicing to climb the Alps, then announces, “He’s an American
believing that he has been introduced, says, “This little boy and I have
made acquaintance.” After glancing briefly at the young man, she speaks
with Randolph about a trip to Italy, but he says he wants to go back to
Italy’s a beautiful place,” Winterbourne interjects.
the latter points out several sights of interest within view, she begins
to converse with him, noting that she, her brother, and her mother will
be spending the winter in Italy. Winterbourne asks Randolph his full name,
and the boy tells him Randolph C. Miller and announces that his sister’s
name is Daisy but that her “real name” is Annie P. Miller. Randolph also
offers additional information: His father, Ezra B. Miller, is wealthy,
and the family lives in Schenectady, New York
begins chatting about Randolph’s need for a tutor and playmates, as well
as about many other topics, in such an easy manner that an onlooker might
conclude that she has known Winterbourne all her life. Flitting from one
topic to another, she bemoans the lack of “society” in Europe:
There ain't any
society—or if there is I don't know where
it keeps itself. Do you? I suppose there's some society somewhere, but
I haven't seen anything of it. I'm very fond of society and I've always
had plenty of it. I don't mean only in Schenectady, but in New York. I
used to go to New York every winter. In New York I had lots of society.
Last winter I had seventeen dinners given me, and three of them were by
gentlemen . . . . I've always had . . . a great deal of gentlemen's society........Winterbourne,
amused and charmed by the loquacious lady, wonders whether she is “simply
a pretty girl from New York” or “a designing, an audacious, in short an
expert person.” After continuing to monitor her jabber, he concludes that
she is just a “pretty American flirt,” not a sophisticated coquette in
the European sense.
expresses a wish to see a local tourist attraction—the
Château de Chillon, a medieval castle several miles southeast, noting
that she and her mother had scheduled a trip to it the previous week but
canceled it because her mother suffered a bout of indigestion. Seeing it
with Randolph was out of the question because he prefers to stay at the
hotel. When Winterbourne offers to escort her to the castle with her mother,
who would act as chaperone, Daisy readily accepts the offer but says her
mother “ain't much bent on going.”
leaving the enchanting young lady, Winterbourne tells her he will introduce
her to his aunt at the Trois Couronnes. Later, when he asks his aunt—a
wealthy widow of high station—whether she
has noticed the Millers at the hotel, she replies, "Oh yes, I've noticed
them. Seen them, heard them and kept out of their way. Calling them “horribly
common,” she says they are the kind of Americans to be ignored. Daisy herself
is “of the last crudity,” Mrs. Costello says, and is having “an intimacy
with her mama’s courier.” Mrs. Costello then declares, “I must decline
the honor of her acquaintance.”
the evening, Winterbourne runs into Daisy in the hotel gardens. When she
announces that she will be “ever so glad to meet your aunt,” Winterbourne
makes excuses, saying his aunt is always indisposed because of terrible
headaches. Seeing through his excuses, Daisy says, “She doesn’t want to
know me!” However, she tells Winterbourne not to be concerned. By and by,
her mother appears, and Daisy introduces her to “Mr. Frederick Forsyth
Winterbourne.” Mrs. Miller is dressed elegantly, with diamond earrings.
Daisy informs her that she will be going to the castle with Winterbourne,
and Mrs. Miller does not object.
the hour is late, Daisy asks Winterbourne to take her for a boat ride on
Lake Geneva, and he enthusiastically assents just as Eugenio comes on the
scene. He and Mrs. Miller frown disapprove of the boating excursion. But
after Daisy complains, Eugenio says, “As Mademoiselle pleases.” Oddly,
this reply disappoints Daisy, who says, “Oh I hoped you'd make a fuss!
I don't care to go now.” She turns to Winterbourne and says, “Good-night—I
hope you're disappointed or disgusted or something!” Winterbourne is bewildered.
days hence, they meet in the large hall of the hotel for the trip to the
castle. At Daisy’s suggestion, they take a steamer rather than a carriage.
On the short trip, Winterbourne becomes somewhat disappointed in her because
“she was clearly not at all in a nervous flutter—as
she should have been to match HIS tension; she avoided neither his eyes
nor those of any one else; she neither coloured from an awkward consciousness
when she looked at him nor when she saw that people were looking at herself.”
the castle, Daisy listens attentively to Winterbourne’s description of
the place as they walk through winding passages, embrasures, and vaulted
rooms, or stop to look down into oubliettes (dungeons whose only entrance
is a trapdoor in the ceiling). But he soon discovers that she is more interested
in his personal history than in the history of the castle. She asks him
about “himself, his family, his previous history, his tastes, his habits,
his designs,” then recites details of her own history.
manages to wedge in more information about the castle—in
particular, about François Bonivard (1493-1570), a hero of Geneva
who fought to preserve the city’s liberties and was imprisoned in Chillon
castle. (Bonivard was the subject of Lord Byron's famous poem, "The Prisoner
of Chillon.") Impressed with Winterbourne's knowledge, Daisy tells him
he ought to accompany her family on its travels so everyone can learn from
you want to come and teach Randolph?”
tells her that he cannot do so because he has engagements in Geneva and
must return there the following day. This news agitates Daisy, and she
spends ten minutes telling him how “horrid” he is. She then taunts him
about "the special charmer in Geneva” that she presumes he is returning
to see. Although he denies the existence of such a lady, she persists in
talking about her. “Doesn’t she give you a vacation in the summer?” Finally,
she agrees to stop teasing him if he will promise to visit her in Rome
in the winter. He does so, noting that his aunt will be taking an apartment
there in January.
the ensuing months, Winterbourne’s aunt moves to Rome and writes letters
to her nephew in Geneva. One of them says that the Millers are in Rome,
too, and that Daisy is “very intimate with various third-rate Italians,
with whom she rackets about in a way that makes much talk.”
Winterbourne arrives in Rome, he goes to Via Gregoriana to visit an old
acquaintance, Mrs. Walker, whom he had met in Geneva when she had two children
enrolled in a school there. Shortly after he arrives, the Miller family
is announced to the hostess, and in walks Daisy with a male companion.
With them are Mrs. Miller and Randolph. Daisy scolds Winterbourne for not
visiting her first, then chats with Mrs. Walker while Winterbourne listens
to Mrs. Miller discuss her ailments. She says she’s disappointed in Rome;
Randolph says he hates it.
Daisy turns her attention again to Winterbourne, she jabs him about leaving
her in Vevey and returning to Geneva, then turns her attention back to
Mrs. Walker, saying she will be attending the latter’s upcoming party with
a guest, Mr. Giovanelli. “He's a great friend of mine and the handsomest
man in the world—except Mr. Winterbourne!”
the get-together ends late in the afternoon and everyone begins saying
good-bye, Daisy declares that she is going to walk to the Pincio, a public
park on a hill, to meet Mr. Giovanelli. Mrs. Walker warns her that it is
unsafe to walk the streets alone when evening draws on. And her mother
tells her that "You'll catch the fever as sure as you live. Remember what
Dr. Davis told you!" Daisy then asks Winterbourne to accompany her, and
he eagerly offers his hand.
their way, the pretty American attracts stares on the crowded streets as
she gabs on about the wonderful hotel she is staying in and the variety
of its guests—Englishmen, Germans, Italians,
Americans. At the Pincio, Daisy sees Giovanelli leaning against a tree,
watching women in carriages go by. He is a little man with a handsome
face, a cane, and a glass eye. Winterbourne says he intends to remain with
Daisy after she meets the Italian. She replies that he sounds imperious
and that she never lets anyone dictate to her.
Giovannelli comes over and Daisy introduces the two men. The Italian speaks
English “cleverly,” Winterbourne thinks, and the latter surmises that Giovannelli
has had plenty of practice on American heiresses. Daisy takes the arms
of both men, and they walk. After observing Giovannelli, Winterbourne concludes
that he is not a real gentleman but an imitation. He is disappointed that
Daisy cannot see through him. After a quarter-hour, Mrs. Walker pulls up
in a carriage and calls over Winterbourne to tell him Daisy must not be
seen walking with two men or her reputation will suffer. Winterbourne tells
Mrs. Walker that she is making too much of Miss Miller’s behavior, adding,
“She’s very innocent.”
very reckless,” Mrs. Walker says. For good measure, she adds that Daisy’s
mother is an imbecile. When Mrs. Walker motions for Daisy to get into the
carriage, Daisy goes on her way with Giovanelli, then retraces her steps
and introduces her friend to Mrs. Walker. The latter asks Daisy to come
with her, but Daisy refuses. Mrs. Walker points out that it is improper
to be seen walking with two gentlemen and that she’ll be “talked about.”
When she asks Winterbourne what he thinks, he tells her to obey Mrs. Walker.
But Daisy says, “I hope you have a lovely ride,” then walks off with Giovanelli.
Winterbourne gets into the carriage and says, “I suspect she meant no great
harm.” Mrs. Walker then informs him that Daisy has been doing everything
she’s not supposed to do—“Flirting with any
man she can pick up; sitting in corners with mysterious Italians; dancing
all the evening with the same partners; receiving visits at eleven o'clock
at night. Her mother melts away when the visitors come."
Mrs. Walker urges Winterbourne not to see Daisy again, he tells her he
likes her very much, then exits the carriage and walks to his aunt’s hotel.
Mrs. Walker’s party three days later, Mrs. Miller arrives alone, nervous
that she must fend for herself in Italian society. While Winterbourne listens
nearby, she tells Mrs. Walker that Daisy will be considerably late. Believing
Daisy’s tardiness is a ploy to spite her for having reproached the young
lady in the Pincio, Mrs. Walker says she will not speak to Daisy when she
is late, 11 p.m., when Daisy and Giovanelli make an appearance. Daisy explains
to Mrs. Walker that she and Giovanelli got carried away at the piano, noting
that he sings beautifully. Later, Giovanelli sings several songs very well.
Daisy, referring to the incident in the Pincio park, tells Winterbourne
that she should not have to alter her habits to suit others. Winterbourne
says, “I’m afraid your habits are those of a ruthless flirt.” After Daisy
readily acknowledges that she’s a flirt—“Did
you ever hear of a nice girl that wasn’t?—Winterbourne
asks her to flirt with him. Daisy says she will not because he’s
“too stiff.” Irked, Winterbourne tells her not to flirt with Giovanelli
because it’s “pure American silliness” and it’s improper to violate local
customs. Daisy says that at least Giovanelli never offends her. Giovanelli
comes over and asks her to take tea with him in another room, and off they
go for the rest of the evening. At the end of the party, Daisy approaches
Mrs. Walker to say good-bye, but the latter turns her back on her. Mrs.
Miller then bids good night, saying that “we’ve had a beautiful evening.”
It is evident to Winterbourne that the snubbing deeply hurts Daisy. He
tells Mrs. Walker that she was unkind, but she tells him that Daisy “never
enters my drawing-room again.”
the ensuing days, Daisy becomes even more of a pariah among Americans in
Rome because of her untoward behavior. Even Winterbourne avoids her.
Sunday, when Winterbourne and his aunt are visiting St. Peter’s Basilica
in the Vatican, they see Daisy and Giovanelli there strolling. Mrs. Costello
raises the possibility that Daisy will marry Giovanelli, but Winterbourne
thinks neither wants to marry. When his aunt asks about the Italian’s background,
Winterbourne says—based on inquiries—that
he seems respectable but moves only in the lower circles of society because
he has no title, such as count or marchese. Mrs. Costello runs into friends,
and they all have much to say about the brazen American girl. Outside,
when Winterbourne sees Daisy ride off with Giovanelli, he pities her because
he feels she has sunk very low.
day, after Winterbourne chances upon a friend outside the Doria Palace
on the Via del Corso, the friend discusses the magnificence of a Velasquez
(Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez—1599-1660)
portrait of Pope Innocent X he had just seen in the Doria’s gallery. He
says he also saw a portrait of a different kind in the same gallery—“that
little American who's so much more a work of nature than of art and whom
you pointed out to me last week.” He is, of course, referring to Daisy,
whom he saw with Giovanelli in a secluded nook where the Velasquez portrait
girl's a charming beauty,” he says, “but I thought I understood from you
the other day that she's a young lady du meilleur monde [of better
society; of the higher classes; literally, of a better world]."
implication of this remark upsets Winterbourne, and he immediately takes
a carriage to Mrs. Miller’s to enlighten her about her daughter’s scandalous
behavior. But when he tells her what he heard, she says she thinks Giovanelli
is a gentleman and that Daisy may even have decided to marry him.
Daisy ceases to receive invitations to parties; no one wants her around.
Several days later, Winterbourne sees Daisy again at the Palace of the
Caesars on the Palatine Hill. As usual Giovanelli is at her side. When
Daisy remarks that Winterbourne ought to get someone to walk with, he says,
“I’m not so fortunate as your gallant companion.” Daisy replies that Winterbourne’s
remark indicates that he thinks she sees too much of Giovanelli.
thinks so,” Winterbourne says. Daisy says that “they’re only pretending
to be shocked.” Then she tells Winterbourne that she is engaged to the
Italian and asks him whether he believes her. He assures her he does. She
does not believe him, then adds, "But IF you possibly do [believe me],
well, I ain't!"
week later, after dining at a villa on the Caelian Hill, Winterbourne is
walking in the vicinity of the Colosseum on his way back to his hotel when,
at about 11 p.m., he decides to enter the great amphitheater, once the
scene of gladiatorial contests and other brutal entertainments, to bathe
himself in a little of its aura. In the distance, he notices two people
seated on steps at the base of the arena.
he looks at us as one of the old lions or tigers may have looked at the
Christian martyrs!” Daisy Miller says loudly enough for him to hear. At
that moment, Winterbourne reaches a conclusion about Daisy: “She was a
young lady about . . . whose perversity a foolish puzzled gentleman need
no longer trouble his head or his heart.” He walks toward them, thinking
of the risk Daisy is taking “lounging away such hours in a nest of malaria.”
He warns her that “this is the way people catch” the Roman fever and scolds
Giovanelli for bringing her to the Colosseum. Giovanelli says he warned
her “it was a grave indiscretion, but when was Mademoiselle ever prudent?”
Moments later, Daisy and
Giovanelli get into their carriage. As the driver cracks his whip, Daisy
says, “I don’t care whether I have Roman fever or not.”
days later, news of Daisy’s Colosseum adventure is the stuff of gossip
among Americans in Rome, although Winterbourne himself had never told anyone
he saw Daisy there late at night. A day or two later, another story about
her makes the rounds: She is very ill and doctors are attending her. When
Winterbourne arrives at the Millers' hotel to check on Daisy’s condition,
Mrs. Miller says Daisy has spoken of him.
wanted you to know she never was engaged to that handsome Italian who was
always round. I'm sure I'm very glad; Mr. Giovanelli hasn't been near us
since she was taken ill.” She says Daisy reminded her three times to be
sure to deliver that message to Winterbourne.
week later Daisy dies and is buried in the Protestant cemetery near the
old wall of Rome. Giovanelli is there. He tells Winterbourne, “She was
the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable." To which
he added in a moment: "Also—naturally!—the
“The most innocent?” Winterbourne says.
“The most innocent,” says Giovanelli. "If she had lived I should have got
nothing. She never would have married me."
leaves Rome. The following summer, he visits his aunt again at Vevey and
tells her that he thinks he did an injustice to Daisy. He also says, "She
sent me a message before her death which I didn't understand at the time.
But I've understood it since. She would have appreciated one's esteem."
he returns to Geneva, where “there continue to come the most contradictory
accounts of his motives of a sojourn: a report that he’s ‘studying’ hard—an
intimation that he’s much interested in a very clever foreign lady.
James drives the story with accomplished writing centering on character
development rather than plot twists and turns. In portraying his characters,
he chooses words carefully, as a gifted painter chooses colors, in order
to shade or highlight a passage with just the right connotation, implication,
or undertone. Note the judicious word choice (warm starlight and
indolent sylph), as well as the alliteratively soothing phrases,
in the following sentence from Chapter 2. (Alliterations are in colored
found her [Daisy] that evening in the garden, wandering
about in the warm starlight
after the manner of an indolent sylph
and swinging to and fro
the largest fan
ever beheld.Here are four more passages
demonstrating James’s skill as a wordsmith
Her mother [Mrs.
Miller] was a small spare light person, with a wandering eye, a scarce
perceptible nose, and, as to make up for it, an unmistakeable forehead,
decorated—but too far back, as Winterbourne
mentally described it—with thin much-frizzled
hair. Like her daughter Mrs. Miller was dressed with extreme elegance;
she had enormous diamonds in her ears. So far as the young man could observe,
she gave him no greeting—she certainly wasn't
looking at him. Daisy was near her, pulling her shawl straight—Chapter
She [Daisy] came tripping
downstairs, buttoning her long gloves, squeezing her folded parasol against
her pretty figure, dressed exactly in the way that consorted best, to his
fancy, with their adventure. He was a man of imagination and, as our ancestors
used to say, of sensibility; as he took in her charming air and caught
from the great staircase her impatient confiding step the note of some
small sweet strain of romance, not intense but clear and sweet, seemed
to sound for their start.—Chapter 2.
Mrs. Walker was one of those
pilgrims from the younger world who, while in contact with the elder, make
a point, in their own phrase, of studying European society; and she had
on this occasion collected several specimens of diversely-born humanity
to serve, as might be, for text-books. When Winterbourne arrived the little
person he desired most to find wasn't there; but in a few moments he saw
Mrs. Miller come in alone, very shyly and ruefully. This lady's hair, above
the dead waste of her temples, was more frizzled than ever.—Chapter
He [Winterbourne] set her
[Daisy] down as hopelessly childish and shallow, as such mere giddiness
and ignorance incarnate as was powerless either to heed or to suffer. Then
at other moments he couldn't doubt that she carried about in her elegant
and irresponsible little organism a defiant, passionate, perfectly observant
consciousness of the impression she produced. He asked himself whether
the defiance would come from the consciousness of innocence or from her
being essentially a young person of the reckless class. Then it had to
be admitted, he felt, that holding fast to a belief in her "innocence"
was more and more but a matter of gallantry too fine-spun for use. As I
have already had occasion to relate, he was reduced without pleasure to
this chopping of logic and vexed at his poor fallibility, his want of instinctive
certitude as to how far her extravagance was generic and national and how
far it was crudely personal.
The collision between
the cultures of the Old World and the New World. Henry James published
Miller in 1878, a time when many Americans were making fortunes in
the burgeoning industries of the U. S. Some of these newly rich Americans
lacked the culture and sophistication to move in the high social circles
to which they gained entry with their money. When they traveled to Europe,
they often suffered ridicule from the long-established denizens of the
upper niches of society, the aristocrats. Americans in Europe who had adopted
European ways also ridiculed their gauche countrymen. In Daisy Miller,
the Millers are among the parvenus, the newly rich. They have enough money
to buy the best clothes, hire the best help, stay at the best hotels, and
so on but lack the cultural savoir-faire that the European aristocrats
pass on from one generation to the next. Without realizing it, the Millers
violate long-standing social customs and traditions. They give offense
without meaning offense. Daisy Miller sees no reason to alter her behavior,
for she genuinely believes there is nothing wrong with it.
refuses to conform to the customs and conventions of high society and spurns
expectations that she behave as a demure stereotype in male-female relationships.
For example, she gads about unchaperoned with Giovanelli. She ignores Mrs.
Walker’s advice about public behavior. And she tells Winterbourne that
“I’ve never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me or to interfere with anything
Prejudice and Snobbery:
Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker are so strict in their adherence to social
and cultural rules and traditions—and so intolerant
of those who display the slightest hint of gaucherie—that
they become thoroughgoing snobs. As such, they prejudge the Millers, seeing
only the mistakes that they make.
When in Rome, do as the
Romans do. Daisy, of course, does not abide by this ancient precept,
but Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker do observe it—perhaps
to a fault. Winterbourne is not entirely sure what to do. There is enough
of the New World in him to excuse Daisy’s behavior, at least for a while.
But in the end, at the Colosseum, he, too, turns against her and, in so
doing, commits a moral and humanitarian faux pas, as do the other “proper”
aristocrats. Ironically, it is Daisy who does the proper thing at the end,
offering the beau geste of forgiveness.
climax in Daisy Miller occurs when Winterbourne encounters Daisy in the
Colosseum and reaches this conclusion about her: “She was a young
lady about . . . whose perversity a foolish puzzled gentleman need no longer
trouble his head or his heart.”
Daisy Miller: The
protagonist represents the common, unsophisticated Americans who visit
Europe. Her first name is the same as one of the most common plants. One
variety of this plant, the English daisy, grows wildly in the United States.
Her surname is one of the most common in America—in
some cities and towns more common even than Smith—suggesting
that she is one of the hoi polloi. Daisies have white raying petals surrounding
a bright yellow disk. It is interesting that Daisy Miller wears white muslin
in the opening chapter while exhibiting a sunny disposition.
name represents coldness. Winter, of course, is the coldest season of the
year; a bourne is a brook that flows only in the winter. Several times
in the novel, Daisy reproaches Winterbourne for being “stiff,” meaning
cold and inelastic, like an icicle, in his manner. Following is an example
in Chapter of Daisy’s use of the word:
a very nice girl, but I wish you'd flirt with me, and me only.
April Daisies: This phrase
appears in the final chapter at the burial of Daisy Miller in the Protestant
Cemetery in Rome when the narrator says, “Winterbourne stood staring at
the raw protuberance of the April daisies.” Raw protuberance suggests that
raw, new, unsophisticated Daisy Millers will take the place of the deceased
Daisy: Ah thank you, thank
you very much: you're the last man I should think of flirting with. As
I've had the pleasure of informing you, you're too stiff.
Mrs. Walker: Her
name suggests, ironically, that she does not walk the streets of the common
people (as Daisy does when going to the Pincio park) but instead
rides in the carriage of the uncommon people (the European and American
sophisticates and aristocrats). The symbolism of Mrs. Walker’s name manifests
itself when she rides in a carriage to the Pincio to “rescue” Daisy from
her ambulatory indiscretions.
This boisterous ten-year-old represents boorish American tourists (adults
as well as children) and their sometimes clumsy, crude, or tactless behavior.
Polish Boys: These
children, mentioned in the second paragraph of Chapter 1, represent discipline
and decoroum and, thus, are foils of Randolph Miller.
Eugenio: The name
derives from a Greek word meaning well born. Eugenio, of course, is a mere
servant, a courier. However, the Millers regard and treat him as an equal.
Thus, Eugenio is well born to the Millers. He symbolizes the American principle—stated
in the Declaration of Independence—that “all
men are created equal.”
Roman fever: This
disease, malaria, seems to represent the ill effects of the sophisticated
Europeans and Americans who criticize, chastise, and defame Daisy, her
mother, and her brother.
Painting of Pope Innocent
X: This Velasquez work appears to represent the contrived and artificial
ways of European and American aristocrats and sophisticates vis-a-vis the
natural and unpretentious ways of Daisy Miller. A key passage suggesting
this interpretation of the painting appears in Chapter when Winterbourne
encounters a tourist friends outside the Doria Palace, where the Velasquez
He met one day in
the Corso a friend—a tourist like himself—who
had just come out of the Doria Palace, where he had been (79) walking through
the beautiful gallery. His friend "went on" for some moments about the
great portrait of Innocent X, by Velasquez, suspended in one of the cabinets
of the palace, and then said: "And in the same cabinet, by the way, I enjoyed
sight of an image of a different kind; that little American who's so much
more a work of nature than of art and whom you pointed out to me last week."
In answer to Winterbourne's enquiries his friend narrated that the little
American—prettier now than ever—was
seated with a companion in the secluded nook in which the papal presence
is enshrined.Colosseum: This ancient
amphitheater represents society looking down upon an enemy of the state
in the arena and displaying the thumbs-down death sentence.
Was Roman Fever?
term Roman fever was coined to describe malaria, outbreaks of which
occurred frequently in Rome over the centuries. The city was a hotbed of
the disease because of swampy areas in it that became breeding grounds
for mosquitoes carrying disease-causing parasites.
term malaria itself derives from the Italian words mala aria, meaning
bad air. Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a single-celled parasite
that enters the bloodstream primarily via the bite of the female anopheles
mosquito. The parasite invades the liver and divides. Then the new, smaller
parasitic cells enter the body’s red blood cells and produce so many additional
parasitic cells that the red blood cells rupture and discharge whole armies
of parasites into the bloodstream. The body reacts with chills, high fever,
shaking, and sweating. When the sweating lowers the body’s temperature,
the symptoms subside. However, renewed attacks by the multiplying parasites
cause a reoccurrence of the symptoms, and the cycle repeats itself again
and again. Severe anemia (in which there is a significant reduction in
the number of the body’s red blood cells) eventually develops, leading
to serious complications that can kill the patient. Eventually, drugs were
developed that halt the multiplication of the parasitic cells.
Questions and Essay Topics
1. Which character
in the novel is the most admirable? Which character is the least admirable?
Explain your answers.
2. Write an essay
describing how Europeans today regard typical American tourists. When conducting
your research, consider interviewing travel writers, foreign-exchange students,
flight attendants, tourists, travel agents, and business travelers. If
you have visited Europe, include your own impressions on this topic in
3. Is Mrs. Miller
an unfit mother?
4. Cite dialogue in the
novel that reveals Daisy and her mother as according to European standards.
5. If a modern Daisy
Miller traveled to Europe and behaved like the Daisy in the novel, would
Europeans ridicule her?
6 Is Winterbourne
changed for the better at the end of the novel? Or does he continue to
lead the same life he led before he met Daisy? Explain your answer.