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Daisy Miller

Henry James

Chapter 4, first half

Chapter 3

Chapter 4, second half

Summary

Several nights later, at Mrs. Walker’s party, Winterbourne attempts to make Daisy see reason about her behavior. He explains that flirting is “a purely American custom,” one that Italians neither understand nor accept in young unmarried women. Although she may be flirting, Giovanelli is not. Daisy readily admits that she is “a fearful, frightful flirt.” When Winterbourne suggests that she and Giovanelli might actually be in love with each other, which would be another matter, she blushes and accuses him of saying “disagreeable things.” She spends the rest of the evening in another room with Giovanelli.

When the Millers take their leave of Mrs. Walker at the end of the evening, Mrs. Walker turns her back on Daisy. For the first time, Winterbourne sees Daisy genuinely shocked and hurt. He tells Mrs. Walker her gesture was “very cruel,” but Mrs. Walker is unrepentant: Daisy will never enter her drawing room again.

Winterbourne continues to call on Daisy, whom he finds always with Giovanelli. Much of Roman society speaks unfavorably of her now. Since Mrs. Walker’s party, the American colonists have ceased extending invitations to her.

One day, while strolling through St. Peter’s with his aunt, Winterbourne points out Daisy walking with “the inevitable Giovanelli,” whom he has learned is actually a gentleman lawyer. Mrs. Costello jokes that perhaps the courier introduced Daisy to Giovanelli and will receive a commission when they wed. Winterbourne says he doubts that Daisy thinks of marrying Giovanelli, to which his aunt replies, “You may be sure she thinks of nothing. She goes on from day to day, from hour to hour as they did in the Golden Age.” Mrs. Costello says she can imagine nothing more vulgar.

That day, Winterbourne gets a taste of the indignation that Daisy’s behavior excites. A dozen of the American colonists walking through St. Peter’s come to confer with Mrs. Costello about Daisy going “too far.” Winterbourne pities Daisy and finds it difficult to hear the things being said about her. On another occasion a friend tells him of having come upon Daisy and Giovanelli sequestered in a small room at the Doria Palace, where Velasquez’s famous portrait of Pope Innocent X hangs.

Winterbourne visits Mrs. Miller, hoping to make her see reason about Daisy’s behavior. Mrs. Miller seems to regard Daisy and Giovanelli as engaged, though she says Daisy denies it. Winterbourne gives up on the idea of trying to place Mrs. Miller on her guard. Meanwhile, he continues to obsess about Daisy’s character. He wonders if her defiance comes from the knowledge that she is innocent, or if she actually belongs to the reckless class of women whose reputations don’t need to be worried over. He wonders if her lack of regard for convention is a national or a personal trait. Not understanding Daisy or her motivations makes him angry and uneasy.

Analysis

As Daisy’s friendship with Giovanelli intensifies, particularly after Mrs. Walker’s party, Winterbourne is in the unpleasant position of having to wonder about the exact nature of the relationship between Daisy and Giovanelli. Winterbourne has many theories, but he never confronts the possibility that he himself has feelings for Daisy. He always couches his interest in her relationship with Giovanelli in terms of concern for her reputation. Nevertheless, there seems to be evidence to suggest that Daisy is more interested in Winterbourne than she is in Giovanelli. Besides her praise of Giovanelli’s voice and musicianship, she pays no attention to his performance at Mrs. Walker’s party. Instead, she sits away from the piano, talking to Winterbourne. She is also strangely offended when Winterbourne suggests that Daisy’s flirting with Giovanelli might be acceptable if she and Giovanelli were serious about each other. Even stranger, to Winterbourne, is the swiftness with which she seems to forget her displeasure with him. Daisy’s behavior is always inscrutable, but discounting the possibility that she has feelings for Winterbourne is as impossible as labeling her either purely innocent or a tramp.

Throughout Chapter 4, Winterbourne faces tableaux that imply a closeness between Daisy and Giovanelli from which he is or feels physically excluded. His response to these situations is always preeminently moralistic or avuncular. However, Daisy’s “improprieties” in Rome are not all that different from the impropriety she committed at Vevey with Winterbourne. She did, after all, go with him to the castle at Chillon unchaperoned, much as she goes around Rome with Giovanelli. In Vevey, Winterbourne was more charmed and titillated by her behavior than scandalized, and once her attentions are focused elsewhere, his harsh judgments may be rooted in his own unconscious jealousy and disappointment that he is no longer the object of Daisy’s affections. He may be channeling these uncomfortable feelings into overabundant concern for Daisy’s character and reputation.

The scene in which Winterbourne and his aunt encounter Daisy and Giovanelli at St. Peter’s clearly shows how the scandal-hungry gossips in Rome operate. Elsewhere, we hear about Daisy’s effect on the American community, but here we get to see it in action because Winterbourne does. Winterbourne exhibits one of his finest moments here, as he turns from the circle of gossipmongers around his aunt, watches Daisy get into a carriage, and feels pity for her. He pities her not so much because he thinks she is past the point of no return but “because it was painful to hear so much that was pretty and undefended and natural assigned to a vulgar place among the categories of disorder.” In other words, he hates to hear Daisy wrongly or too harshly accused.

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Discussion question

by Susantizp, January 08, 2014

Daisy and Winterbourne. How do these names symbolically represent these characters? In what ways are the names appropriate? Can you suggest alternate names for both characters that would also be evocative of their nature? Explain.

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12 out of 12 people found this helpful

Daisy Miller-Stereotypes "American girl"

by sparklshine, February 02, 2014

How is Daisy Miller represented of the stereotype of he "American girl"?
And why is she so worried about her purity?

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1 out of 2 people found this helpful

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