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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
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Daisy Miller!