He was born in Washington Place, New York. His father was a prominent theologian and philosopher. Also his elder brother, William, was famous as a philosopher. He attended schools in New York, London, Paris, Geneva. Then he entered Law School at Harvard in 1862. two years later he began to contribute reviews and short stories to American journals. Late he settled in Paris where he met Flaubert, Turgenev etc. he moved to London and very popular in society. In 1915, he became naturalised.
He wrote short stories, plays, books of criticism, autobiography and travel books, some 20 novels including: The Europeans, Washington Square, The portrait of the lady, The Bostonians, The tragic muse, The spoils of Poynton, The awkward age, The wings of the dove, The ambassadors, The golden bowl.
Plot and structure:
At a hotel in the resort town of Vevey, Switzerland, a young American named Winterbourne meets a rich, pretty American girl named Daisy Miller, who is traveling around Europe with her mother and her younger brother, Randolph. Winterbourne, who has lived in Geneva most of his life, is both charmed and mystified by Daisy, who is less proper than the European girls he has encountered. She seems wonderfully spontaneous, if a little crass and “uncultivated.” Despite the fact that Mrs. Costello, his aunt, strongly disapproves of the Millers and flatly refuses to be introduced to Daisy, Winterbourne spends time with Daisy at Vevey and even accompanies her, unchaperoned, to Chillon Castle, a famous local tourist attraction.
The following winter, Winterbourne goes to Rome, knowing Daisy will be there, and is distressed to learn from his aunt that she has taken up with a number of well-known fortune hunters and become the talk of the town. She has one suitor in particular; a handsome Italian named Mr. Giovanelli, of uncertain background, whose conduct with Daisy mystifies Winterbourne and scandalizes the American community in Rome. Among those scandalized is Mrs. Walker, who is at the center of Rome’s fashionable society.
Both Mrs. Walker and Winterbourne attempt to warn Daisy about the effect her behavior is having on her reputation, but she refuses to listen. As Daisy spends increasingly more time with Mr. Giovanelli, Winterbourne begins to have doubts about her character and how to interpret her behavior. He also becomes uncertain about the nature of Daisy’s relationship with Mr. Giovanelli. Sometimes Daisy tells him they are engaged, and other times she tells him they are not.
One night, on his way home from a dinner party, Winterbourne passes the Coliseum and decides to look at it by moonlight, braving the bad night air that is known to cause “Roman fever,” which is malaria. He finds Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli there and immediately comes to the conclusion that she is too lacking in self-respect to bother about. Winterbourne is still concerned for Daisy’s health, however, and he reproaches Giovanelli and urges him to get her safely home.
A few days later, Daisy becomes gravely ill, and she dies soon after. Before dying, she gives her mother a message to pass on to Winterbourne that indicates that she cared what he thought about her after all. At the time, he does not understand it, but a year later, still thinking about Daisy, he tells his aunt that he made a great mistake and has lived in Europe too long. Nevertheless, he returns to Geneva and his former life.
protagonist • Daisy and/or Winterbourne
Daisy Miller= Annie P. Miller: a wealthy, young, American girl from upstate New York, traveling around Europe with her mother and younger brother. She is independent, ignorant, and provincial—almost laughably so. She talks with monotony about the tiresome details of her family’s habits and thinks Winterbourne might know an Englishwoman she met on the train because they both live in Europe and wonders if Winterbourne has heard of a little place called New York. Daisy is also a tiresome flirt. She has no conversational gifts, such as charm, wit. She is really interested only in manipulating men and making herself the center of attention. Winterbourne obsesses over the question of whether Daisy is a “nice” girl, and Daisy’s behavior never reveals whether she is or isn’t. Whether what she does is appropriate or not is a matter of social conventions. In the end, the truth we find out about Daisy is only what Winterbourne thinks is true. Her father’s name is Ezra B. Miller.
(Frederick)Winterbourne: An American who has lived most of his life in Europe, he makes his home in Geneva. He is the novel’s central consciousness, the character through whose eyes we see and experience everything. Winterbourne seems to hold in high regard what Mrs. Costello tells him, about the Millers as much as anything else. The story is Winterbourne’s attempt and inability to define Daisy in clear moral terms. Winterbourne is preoccupied with analyzing Daisy’s character. Her spontaneity charms him, but he is also mystified by her lack of concern for the social niceties and the rules. He befriends Daisy and tries to save her but ultimately decides that she is morally beyond redemption.
Randolph Miller - Daisy’s younger brother. Randolph is a loud, ill-mannered, ungovernable little boy of about nine or ten.
Mrs. Miller - Daisy and Randolph’s weak, ineffectual mother. Mrs. Miller seems obsessed with her health and is utterly incapable of governing her children. When Daisy falls ill, she proves “a most judicious and efficient nurse.”
Mrs. Costello - Winterbourne’s aunt, a shallow, self-important, conservative woman who seems genuinely fond of Winterbourne. Mrs. Costello is the voice of snobbish high society. She was known for her headaches.
Eugenio - The Millers’ guide often referred to as “the courier.” Eugenio has better judgment and a greater sense of propriety than either Daisy or Mrs. Miller
Mrs. Walker - A wealthy, well-connected American widow who lives in Rome, knows Winterbourne from Geneva, and has befriended Daisy. Mrs. Walker shares the values of the rest of the American expatriate community, but she genuinely seems to care what happens to Daisy and tries to save her. Unsuccessfully.
Mr. Giovanelli - An Italian of unknown background and origins. Mr. Giovanelli’s indiscreet friendship with Daisy is misinterpreted by the American community and leads, directly or indirectly, to Daisy’s ostracism and death.
(time) • The 1870s; “three or four years” before the telling of the story
(place) • Vevey/ by the lake Geneva/, Switzerland (Chapters 1 and 2); Rome, Italy (Chapters 3 and 4)
Point of view:
Third-person limited, point of view • Winterbourne’s
Style: Past tense,
“ever so”- it was considered to be a hallmark of uncultivated person. Daisy often used this phrase.
Light, easy-going, at times almost conversational; unsentimental; ironic
Americans abroad: a new class of American businessman, whose stylish families were eager to make “the grand tour” and expose themselves to the art and culture of the Old World. Americans were visiting Europe for the first time in record numbers, and the clash between the two cultures was a novel and widespread phenomenon. James was more sympathetic with the European way of life, with its emphasis on culture, education, and the art of conversation.
The sadness and safety of the unlived life: James´ characters whatever they waited for, has passed them by and that they have wasted their whole life—or, like Winterbourne, they never fully arrive at that realization.
Innocence: Throughout Daisy Miller, Winterbourne is preoccupied with the question of whether Daisy is innocent. The word innocent appears repeatedly, always with a different shade of meaning. Innocent had three meanings in James’s day. First, it could have meant “ignorant” or “uninstructed.” Daisy is “innocent” of the art of conversation, for example. It could also have meant “naïve,” as it does today. Mrs. Costello uses the word in this sense when she calls Winterbourne “too innocent” in Chapter 2. Finally, when Winterbourne protests, twirling his moustache in a sinister fashion, he invokes the third meaning, “not having done harm or wrong.”
Symbolism, allusions, myth:
Daisy and Randolph : Daisy is often seen as representing America: she is young, fresh, clueless, naïve, innocent, well meaning, self-centered, untaught, unaware of social distinctions, utterly lacking in any sense of propriety, and unwilling to adapt to the mores and standards of others. These traits can be regarded as either virtues or faults. However, Randolph is a different matter. He is type of the “ugly American” tourist: boorish, boastful, and stridently nationalistic/ he still talks about greatness of America, he misses America a lot/.
Daisy: a vey common flower that opes up in the presence of the sun and therefore it suggests life-loving qualities.
Miller: this surname reminds us that Daisy’s father has made his fortune by trade, which would make socially unacceptable to some people. On the other hand, miller’s trade is essential to survival of the society.
The Coliseum: it is a symbol of sacrificed innocence. When Daisy first sees Winterbourne in the moonlight, he overhears her telling Giovanelli that “he looks at us as one of the old lions or tigers may have looked at the Christian martyrs!” In fact, the Coliseum is, in a sense, where Winterbourne throws Daisy to the lions and where he decides she has indeed sacrificed her innocence. It is where he decides to wash his hands of her because she is not worth saving or even worrying about.
Rome: Rome is a city of ruins, which suggest death and decay. Rome is also a city of sophistication. Rome represents the antithesis of everything Daisy stands for—freshness, youth, innocence, and naïveté.
Geneva: Geneva was the birthplace of Calvinism, the fanatical protestant sect that influenced so much of American culture, New England in particular. Geneva is referred to as “the dark old city at the other end of the lake.” It is also Winterbourne’s chosen place of residence.
Novella, Comedy/tragedy of manners
My own interpretation:
It’s a portrait of American female- her purita depends on nothing she says or does.
major conflict • Daisy’s refusal to conform to the strict European laws of propriety that govern behavior, particularly relations between young unmarried people of the opposite sex, raises eyebrows among Rome’s high society.
rising action • Winterbourne meets Daisy and is charmed and intrigued but also mystified by her.
climax • Winterbourne finds Daisy alone with Giovanelli in the Coliseum and decides she is too unprincipled to continue troubling himself about.
falling action • Daisy realizes that she has lost Winterbourne’s respect, falls ill, sends a message to him through her mother, and dies.
foreshadowing • Mrs. Costello’s attempt to warn Winterbourne against making “a great mistake” about Daisy (Chapter 2) looks forward to his too-late understanding of her at the end of the novel. The scene in which Winterbourne sees Daisy walking above the burial mounds at the Palace of the Caesars (Chapter 4), like the numerous references to “the Roman fever” (Chapters 3 and 4), prefigures her death.
Premonitions of the final tragedy:
“You look as if you were taking me to the funeral.”
“Your friend won’t keep you from getting the fewer.”
Folklore: Romans believed that you can catch “Roman fever”=malaria if you walk round Rome at night.
1.I hardly know whether it was the analogies or the differences that were uppermost in the mind of a young American, who, two or three years ago, sat in the garden of the ‘Trois Couronnes,’ looking about him, rather idly, at some of the graceful objects I have mentioned.
One of the most notable aspects of Daisy Miller is the narrative voice. It is a hybrid voice, neither omniscient nor personally involved. The conventional narrative options open to James were first person, third-person omniscient, and third-person limited perspective, which is in fact the voice in which the vast majority of Daisy Miller is told. The voice is third person, and the limited perspective is that of Winterbourne. Before settling into this voice, however, James introduces the third-person narrator by having him speak in the first person—as in this quotation from early in Chapter 1. It is a transitional sentence that takes us from the initial panning shot of the town of Vevey to a close-up of the central character.
In this quote, the voice of the narrator is conversational, and like the statement that the scene we are zooming in on occurred “two or three years ago,” it has the effect of seeming to place the entire novel within the framework of a particularly delicious piece of gossip.
2.I haven’t the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake.
Mrs. Costello says these words to Winterbourne when they discuss Daisy in Chapter 2. The passage is an instance of foreshadowing, as it looks forward to the novel’s closing paragraphs, in which Winterbourne acknowledges to his aunt that he misjudged Daisy and tells her she was right about him having been “booked to make a mistake.” This mistake may be only Winterbourne’s error of judgment, the mistake of having misread Daisy. The context, however, implies that the mistake is more than this—some sort of error of omission, something he might actually have done in the context of his relationship with Daisy to change the course of events. After all, Mrs. Costello had warned him against making “a great mistake,” and he tells her that is what happened. Particularly ironic and poignant is the fact that Winterbourne went back to Geneva, where he is the subject of the same rumors that there have always been about him. The implication is that whatever it was he learned has had no effect on him. His easy return to his former life suggests that the episode with Daisy may as well have never taken place.