Daisy Miller

Henry James

BACKGROUND

Henry James wrote this book in the late 1800’s. It is about an American girl who goes to Europe. James grew up a rich dude and writes only about rich people. This book was a social phenomenon, and was referred to by many American girls going to Europe. The whole basis of this book is that Daisy Miller is this free spirited brash American living in the uptight European society. It is like a fish out of water story.

MAIN CHARACTERS

Daisy Miller: She’s the main character of the story. She is a pretty girl from NY. In the story she goes with her mom and 9 yr old brother to Europe on vacation. She is not a very innocent girl. While in Europe she acts like a bold American, flirting with the boys and hooking up with them.

Frederick Winterborne: He is the narrator. He’s a handsome 27 yr old guy. He is in Europe visiting his aunt. Even though he is American, Winterborne grew up in Europe so he is a little more refined than Daisy Miller. He really likes Daisy Miller and never believes that she is a bad girl until the end.

Mrs. Costello: She is Winterborne’s aunt. She does not approve of Daisy Miller. She thinks Daisy is a rude disgusting American.

Mrs. Miller: Daisy’s mom. She has some kinda disease. She doesn’t really have alot of power or control over Daisy and her romantic life. She doesn’t see anything wrong with Daisy’s behavior.

Mr. Giovanelli: Daisy’s boyfriend in the second part of the story. He is an Italian lawyer. He doesn’t want to marry her.

Mrs. Walker: She’s a rich American who lives in Europe. She is friends with both Daisy and Winterborne. Towards the end Mrs. Walker doesn’t approve of Daisy’s behavior and thinks she’s a tramp.

 

PLOT

This guy named Winterborne goes to a Swiss resort to visit his aunt (Mrs. Costello). He meets this cute American chick named Daisy. He also meets the rest of her family. She is a free spirit and not a tight-ass like the Europeans. Winterborne is turned on by this. Daisy tells him she wants to go to visit some castle. Winterborne takes her.

Winterborne is shocked that Daisy allowed to go alone with a boy to the castle without a chaperone (He’s a tight-ass guy, and has very strict rules and behavior when it comes to men and women). Then Winterborne meets her mom and her mom lets her go with him alone. Winterborne is REALLY shocked because this is so strange. Nothing really hot and heavy happens on the castle trip. Winterborne wants Daisy to meet his aunt but his aunt refuses because she thinks Daisy the American is a disgusting, rude girl and doesn’t want to meet her. Winterborne then leaves the resort. Daisy is sad because she wants to hang out with him more. They plan to meet that winter in Rome.

Winterborne goes to Rome to meet Daisy. When he gets there, he finds that there has been alot of gossip about Daisy and how much of a whore she is. Winterborne’s aunt tells him she’s a slut and has been hanging around some sleazy Italians. Winterborne and Daisy hang out at Mrs. Walker’s house. Daisy leaves to meet her Italian boyfriend (Mr. Giovanelli). He is led to believe that they are engaged. Winterborne comes with her because he thinks a man and woman alone is improper. Winterborne thinks she is an innocent girl, that is just confused. He wants to save her. In reality though, she’s really a big whore.

Daisy comes to a party at Mrs. Walker’s house. She is very rude and leaves. Mrs. Walker tells Winterborne that Daisy is a rude girl, and that he should forget about her. He still likes her though and won’t give up trying to help her. Then one day he walks by the Colosseum. It is a dark, disgusting place. He catches Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli having sex. Then he finally realizes that she’s a big slut and he was wrong all along. Then Daisy Miller gets "Roman Fever " (malaria) and dies. Before she dies she sends Winterborne a message. the message is that she was never engaged to Mr. Giovanelli. Winterborne doesn’t understand it at first but then figures out the message means she liked him all along and even though she was a slut, she wanted him to treat her nice and give her respect.

 

SECTION BY SECTION

Section 1

  • The story starts off in Vevey, Switzerland. It is a resort town where lots of Americans go on vacation.
  • Winterborne comes to visit his aunt. She is old and he doesn’t spend much time with her because she has headaches all the time.
  • Winterborne has coffee in some cafe. A kid (Randolph Miller) comes up to him and asks him for sugar. Winterborne tells him sugar is bad for his teeth. then the boy says he has no teeth and blames European stuff on his crappy teeth.
  • The boy tells him that everything is better in the USA
  • A hot babe (Daisy Miller) enters the room. It is the little boy’s sister.
  • She yells at her brother. Then Winterborne starts hitting on her. Then he apologizes because according to European manners, guys shouldn’t be talking to young single gals so openly.
  • He really likes her because she is American, and bold and very confident.
  • They talk some more. They introduce themselves. Daisy tells Winterborne about her family, and that she is from Schenectady, NY.
  • Daisy tells Winterborne she wants to visit some castle. She asks him to watch Randolph while she goes but he wants to go with her. So she gets Eugenio (the family servant) to watch her brother while Winterborne and her go.
  • This whole thing about 2 young co-ed people going unchaperoned is a big no-no in Europe.
  • Winterborne is fascinated by Daisy. He isn’t sure whether she’s just some innocent flirt playing games or if she really is a big slut.
  • He wants Daisy to meet his aunt so he has somebody to vouch for what a sweet guy he is.

 

Section 2

  • Winterborne goes to talk to his aunt. He wants her to meet Daisy but she says no. She thinks the miller family is lower class, and that Daisy Miller is a big whore. She is mad at Winterborne for agreeing to take Daisy to the castle.
  • Now Winterborne is in a tough position because he has to go back and tell Daisy that his aunt doesn’t want to meet her.
  • Winterborne tries to lie about it and tells Daisy her aunt is too sick, but Daisy figures out that his aunt (Mrs. Costello) doesn’t want to meet her.
  • Daisy isn’t offended by Winterborne’s aunt.
  • Then Mrs. Miller (Daisy’s mom) enters. Winterborne meets her. Then Daisy tells her that she and Winterborne are going to the castle. Winterborne is scared because he thinks Mrs. Miller will be really mad that the 2 of them are going alone. But she doesn’t give a shit.
  • Daisy then wants to go in a rowboat on the lake. This is a big shocker because it is very unladylike to go out at night with a man alone. Daisy wants to, then after alot of people say it is a bad thing, she suddenly changes her mind.
  • Couple days later the 2 go to the castle. Winterborne finally gets to spend time with Daisy and be close to her.
  • Then Winterborne tells Daisy that he has to go back to Geneva the next day. She gets pissed. She thinks it is because of another woman (it’s not)
  • She makes him promise to visit her in Rome during the winter. He does (he has to go to Rome anyway to visit his aunt)
  • Then Winterborne goes home. He tells his aunt that he was at the castle with Daisy. His aunt is disgusted.

 

Section 3

  • This section starts with Winterborne in Rome that winter. When he gets to Rome he talks to his aunt about Daisy. she tells him that there are alot of rumors going around Rome that she hooks up with ALOT of men.
  • His aunt really hates the Miller family and she thinks they are scumbags.
  • Winterborne is kinda sad because he thought Daisy liked him, and would remain faithful instead of screwing all these guys.
  • Winterborne goes to his friend’s house (Mrs. Walker). When he is at her house, the Miller family shows up. Daisy yells at Winterborne for not visiting her in Rome.
  • Then Daisy asks Mrs. Walker if she can bring some strange dude (Mr. Giovanelli) to Mrs. Walker’s party. Mrs. Walker is hesitant because it is a party for family friends and she doesn’t want to have any outsiders there. She finally agrees though. How rude of Daisy.
  • It is night and the Millers leave. Daisy goes to meet her Italian friend (Mr. Giovanelli). Mrs. Walker says no because it is late and not safe for a woman. So Daisy asks Winterborne to walk with her.
  • Winterborne and Daisy walk together to find Mr. Giovanelli. Winterborne then starts getting a little wacky. He tells Daisy that this Italian guy is not a good guy for her and how he is the "right" guy.
  • Daisy ignores him, and keeps on looking for Giovanelli.
  • Finally she sees Giovanelli. She introduces him to Winterborne. Winterborne hates him and thinks he’s a big fake.
  • All 3 start walking. Then Winterborne sees Mrs. Walker in her carriage. He starts talking to her. she tells him that she is upset that Daisy is ruining her life by being such a tramp.
  • Mrs. Walker tells Daisy that she is taking her home in the carriage, but Daisy says no. Then Mrs. Walker gets mad and tells her what a whore she is. She starts telling Daisy what people say behind her back and stuff
  • Daisy kinda has denial and doesn’t get in. she wants to avoid finding out what people think of her.
  • Daisy then tells them that if she is indecent just for walking with some guys, then she is an indecent person. She has a tantrum and starts walking without the 2 guys.
  • Winterborne gets in the carriage with Mrs. Winters. They argue about Daisy. Mrs. Walker thinks she is still a scummy tramp. Winterborne still thinks she is an innocent girl who happens to be a little confused or uneducated.
  • Winterborne still is in love with Daisy.
  • Winterborne gets out of the carriage and sees Daisy and Giovanelli making out in the distance.

 

Section 4

  • Winterborne tries to to get in touch with Daisy Miller and her family for 2 days but they aren’t home.
  • Mrs. Walker has a party. Winterborne goes because he wants to see Daisy.
  • Mrs. Miller goes to the party. She tells Mrs. Walker how Daisy and Giovanelli are alone somewhere. Mrs. Walker is pissed that Daisy snubbed her party so she swears that when Daisy shows up she will ignore her.
  • Daisy shows up to the party late. She brings Giovanelli. She acts like a hyper child and goes around the room talking to people.
  • Daisy and Winterborne talk. Daisy talks about how stupid Mrs. Walker is for wanting her to get in the carriage the other night. Daisy talks about how rude it would be to leave her friend Giovanelli.
  • Then Winterborne talks about how it is indecent for a man and woman to walk alone at night. Daisy tells him that European manners suck.
  • Then they get personal. Winterborne tells her she is a big flirt. She agrees, but says it is ok to flirt.
  • Winterborne warns her that everyone in town is talking about her and everyone thinks she is a tramp.
  • Daisy leaves the party. She says goodbye to Mrs. Walker, but Mrs. Walker snubs her and ignores her. Winterborne gets pissed at Mrs. Walker because she was such a jerk. Mrs. Walker doesn’t care
  • Some time passes and Winterborne continues to visit the Millers. Every time he goes there, Daisy is with her Italian dude. Winterborne thinks he got rejected and lost Daisy to Giovanelli. Winterborne also finds out that Giovanelli is a dirty lawyer
  • Winterborne feels like a reject. He talks with his aunt about how Daisy is a weird chick. Winterborne is still concerned about Daisy though. He talks to Mrs. Miller about how much of a tramp her daughter is. She doesn’t care.
  • Winterborne sees Daisy and Giovanelli out at the Palace of the Ceasars. She thinks he’s mad because she’s with Giovanelli so much. Winterborne tells her that he doesn’t care, but other people think she’s a tramp.
  • She gets mad at Winterborne because he doesn’t stick up for her when people make fun of her. then he tells her he does. He tells people that her mom thinks she’s engaged to Giovanelli. Then Daisy says she is engaged then says she is not. What a weirdo.
  • Some time passes. Winterborne walks by the Colosseum one night and sees Daisy and Giovanelli. He sees them doing something naughty. Then he finally realizes that Daisy actually IS a tramp, not a confused naive girl.
  • He tells her about the Roman fever (malaria). Then Winterborne asks Giovanelli why he took her there. the seedy Italian says that Daisy wanted to do it.
  • Winterborne then tells them to leave. Daisy asks him if he still thinks she’s engaged or cares. Winterborne doesn’t care anymore. He’s fed up with her.
  • Some time passes. Winterborne finds out that Daisy is sick. She gets a message to him though. She wants him to know that she was not engaged. He is confused by the message.
  • Then Daisy dies. Winterborne and Giovanelli go to the funeral.
  • Then Winterborne visits his aunt the next year. He talks with her about Daisy. He finally understand why she wanted him to know that she wasn’t engaged. She did that because she liked him and really wanted to be with a guy who treated her with respect, not like a tramp.

 

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • One of the main points in this book is behavior and social etiquette. Daisy is an American and is a free spirit. Winterborne is American too, but he was raised on European manners. The people in Europe at that time were alot more anal about stuff than Americans. In this book they got offended if Daisy walked alone with a man.
  • Social manners and point of view is another point. Is Daisy a tramp? Or just a free spirited American? Walking alone with a guy, making out in secret places...this is American behavior. Or bad behavior if you are European.
  • We love bad people. Winterborne is attracted to Daisy mainly because she’s such a bad ass rebel.
  • There’s alot of gossip in this book. See how people in towns talk? Without knowing it, you could be the most hated person in town.