Daisy Miller By Henry James Summary and Analysis Section 2

Summary

Winterborne has promised too much in saying he would introduce Daisy Miller to his aunt. The aunt, Mrs. Costello, is very aloof and aristocratic, and she does not approve of the Millers. She cannot accept them because they are so common. She has heard particularly unfavorable things about the young Miss Miller. Winterborne tries to explain that Daisy is really quite innocent but has not yet learned all of the educated ways of the world. When he tells his aunt that he is going to take Daisy Miller to the castle, Mrs. Costello is "honestly shocked."

When Winterborne next meets Daisy, he is concerned about his aunt's refusal to meet her. Daisy promptly tells him that she has been looking for his aunt. She has heard a great deal about Mrs. Costello from the chambermaids and is quite anxious to become acquainted with her. Winterborne tries to cover for his aunt by saying that she is often confined to her room with headaches. Upon further questioning, Daisy suddenly realizes that the aunt doesn't want to know her. Then Winterborne feels like admitting that his aunt is a "proud, rude woman and . . . that they needn't mind her."

Mrs. Miller appears and Daisy introduces Winterborne. Soon Daisy mentions that she is going to visit the castle with Mr. Winterborne. When Mrs. Miller says nothing, he assumes "that she deeply disapproved of the projected excursion." He has even taken it as a matter of course that she would accompany them. But Mrs. Miller simply says that the two should go alone.

Suddenly, Daisy suggests that they go for a row on the lake. Even Mrs. Miller thinks this would not be good, but Daisy insists. The courier appears and it is obvious that he is shocked when he learns that Miss Miller (or any young lady) would actually go out alone at night with a gentleman. Then just as suddenly, Daisy changes her mind, leaving Winterborne extremely perplexed and puzzled by her actions.

Two days later, he takes Daisy on the boat. She is extremely relaxed and yet animated. Her responses to the castle are refreshing. The day is proving to be exceptional for Winterborne until he mentions that he has to leave the next day. Immediately, Daisy tells him that he is horrid. To his bewilderment, she attributes his departure to the demands of some possessive woman. She then promises to quit "teasing" him if he will promise to come see her in Rome. Winterborne says that it is an easy promise to make because he has already accepted an invitation to visit his aunt when she goes to Rome.

That evening, Winterborne tells his aunt that he went with Daisy Miller to visit the castle. When she finds out that they went alone, she is thankful that she refused to be introduced to Miss Miller.

Analysis

Mrs. Costello is introduced as a contrast to Daisy Miller. The aunt represents the aristocratic and noble lady who emphasizes adherence to proper conduct, decorum, and all the correct forms of behavior. Her reaction to any situation would be reserved and formal, whereas Daisy's would be simple and spontaneous. For Mrs. Costello, Daisy's conduct is that of a vulgar and common person. Through the aunt's views, we are better able to realize that some of Daisy's actions are improper or in bad taste.

Mrs. Costello also serves as the confidante to Winterborne. James uses the confidante to help present certain aspects of the story. As in the case of Mrs. Costello, the confidante is usually separated from the main action of the story. Mrs. Costello never meets Daisy Miller, but she hears enough about her in order to express her views rather forcefully. Furthermore, she is called the confidante because the main character (Winterborne) can come to her and discuss his problems and express his views with confidence. In other words, by discussing his views with Mrs. Costello, Winterborne is better able to define his exact position.

Note that Daisy Miller is not as insensitive as she first appears. She is able to tell immediately that Mrs. Costello has refused to see her and is somewhat disturbed by the slight, but she is too involved with experiencing and enjoying life to allow this refusal to affect her response to life.

Winterborne's reaction to his aunt's refusal is also significant. Essentially, he agrees with his aunt about Daisy's deportment, but in Daisy's presence, he is captured by her charms. Thus, his views combine those of the American and those of the European. He is, furthermore, the formal man who is attracted by Daisy's spontaneity.

When Daisy attempts to introduce Winterborne to her mother, she explains that her mother doesn't like to be introduced to people and is especially shy about meeting Daisy's gentlemen friends. In contrast, a European mother would insist upon being introduced to a daughter's friends. Thus, we have another insight into Daisy's free behavior; she is acting with her mother's accord. Moreover, a European mother would never allow her daughter to go to the castle alone, whereas Mrs. Miller tells Daisy that it would be better if she went alone. Note, however, that even Winterborne thinks Mrs. Miller would deeply disapprove of the excursion. Here, then, we are dealing with Americans who function under a more liberal set of rules and under less formal conditions than do the Europeans.

Daisy's request to Winterborne that they go for a boat ride at night again shows her spontaneous but perplexing nature. Daisy does not allow the restrictions of social forms to inhibit her from doing something she really wants to do. Her desire to take the boat ride is a type of foreshadowing of what will later occur in Rome. Throughout the scene, it is obvious that Winterborne analyzed Daisy correctly when he thought her a flirt. She does openly flirt with Winterborne, but it is still an innocent flirtation. As Winterborne emphasizes, Daisy is not bad; she just doesn't care for all the limitations society has placed on her freedom.

After the trip to the castle, Winterborne is more confused than ever about Daisy's behavior. She is a mixture of innocence and crudity. He finds her reactions to the castle charming and spontaneous, but her "teasing" is not in the best taste. In spite of this, however, he recognizes her astuteness in surmising his reasons for leaving.

Our last view of Daisy in this section comes from Mrs. Costello. When she finds out that Daisy actually did go to the castle, she is horrified and glad that she refused to meet the girl. We have seen that the excursion in itself was an innocent affair and that nothing improper or immoral happened; consequently, we are perhaps partly prepared to criticize the set of values that condemns Daisy's behavior as improper. The question is how far can a young lady disregard the conventions of society and still retain her reputation.

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