Daisy Miller is a wealthy, young, American girl from upstate New York, traveling around Europe with her mother and younger brother. Daisy is a curious mixture of traits. She is spirited, independent, and well meaning, but she is also shallow, ignorant, and provincial—almost laughably so. She offers the opinion that Europe is “perfectly sweet,” talks with shameless monotony about the tiresome details of her family’s habits and idiosyncrasies, 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 social graces or conversational gifts, such as charm, wit, and a talent for repartee, and she is really interested only in manipulating men and making herself the center of attention.
Throughout Daisy Miller, Winterbourne obsesses over the question of whether Daisy is a “nice” girl, and Daisy’s behavior never reveals whether she is or isn’t. Winterbourne accepts that Daisy is vulgar but wonders whether she is innocent, and we never really find out the truth. Daisy does often seem less than innocent—Winterbourne does, after all, catch her with Mr. Giovanelli late at night at the Coliseum. However, whether such actions are or are not appropriate is more a matter of social convention than any firm moral expectation. In the end, the truth we find out about Daisy is only what Winterbourne thinks is true.