Daisy Miller

by: Henry James

Important Quotations Explained

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 that James chose to recount the story of Winterbourne and Daisy. It is a curiously 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 breezy and 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. At the end of the novel, after Daisy’s death, this voice resurfaces briefly, just long enough to relay the latest piece of gossip about Winterbourne, which turns out merely to reiterate this first report.