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.