Daisy Miller By Henry James Summary and Analysis Section 3

Summary

That winter in Rome, Winterborne speculates to his aunt about the propriety of calling on the Millers. After what happened in Switzerland, Mrs. Costello can't understand why he would want to keep up the acquaintance. Furthermore, Daisy Miller has been compromising herself by "picking up half a dozen . . . regular fortunehunters." Daisy's mother apparently isn't concerned. In general, Mrs. Costello thinks that the Millers are "very dreadful people." Winterborne adds that they are ignorant but also very innocent. "Depend upon it they are not bad." Mrs. Costello still maintains they are hopelessly vulgar and should be avoided.

Winterborne is a little amazed that Daisy Miller has picked up so many acquaintances because he had hoped that he had made an impression on her. The next day he calls on an old friend and during his visit the Millers arrive. Daisy immediately reprimands him for not coming to see her. She then turns to talk with the hostess, Mrs. Walker, and tells her how mean Winterborne was for leaving her in Switzerland. She then asks Mrs. Walker if she can bring a friend (a Mr. Giovanelli) to her party. In answer, Mrs. Walker tells Mrs. Miller that she would be glad to see a family friend, but Mrs. Miller explains that she doesn't know the man. Daisy apparently picked him up somewhere. Mrs. Walker doesn't know what to do and says feebly that Daisy can bring the gentleman.

As the Millers are leaving, Daisy reveals that she is going for a walk in order to meet Mr. Giovanelli. Mrs. Walker is shocked and tells Daisy it is not safe. Daisy thinks it is, and then Mrs. Walker has to explain that it is not proper. Daisy doesn't want to do something improper and therefore asks Winterborne if he will accompany her. She then leaves with him.

While they walk, Daisy begins to tease Winterborne for not having come immediately to visit her. She tells him how much she is enjoying the society in Rome. As they approach the Pincian Gardens, Winterborne tells her that he is not going to help her find Mr. Giovanelli and that he plans to remain with her. Daisy ignores this and when Winterborne asks if she really means to speak to that man in public, Daisy doesn't understand him. He asserts his feeling that it is necessary to remain with her. Daisy again doesn't understand his meaning and tells him she never allows a gentleman to interfere with her. Winterborne advises her to listen to the right gentlemen and as they approach Mr. Giovanelli, he tells her that her new acquaintance is not the right one.

Daisy introduces the two gentlemen with perfect ease. Winterborne notices that Mr. Giovanelli is not a gentleman. He is a clever imitation but anyone with discrimination could see that he is, however, an imitation. As they walk, Daisy continues to perplex Winterborne. She is not the type one could simply dismiss as a "lawless woman"; on the other hand she certainly does not conduct herself as a young lady should.

After a few minutes, Winterborne notices Mrs. Walker in a nearby carriage motioning to him. When he goes to her, she tells him it is a pity to let Daisy Miller ruin herself. She plans to take Daisy into the carriage with her and then deposit her at home with Mrs. Miller. She calls to Daisy, who comes readily. Mrs. Walker asks her to get in, but Daisy refuses. Mrs. Walker reminds her that she is too young to ruin her reputation and that she is being talked about. Daisy is surprised and wants to know what Mrs. Walker means. She tells Daisy to get into the carriage and she will explain. Suddenly, Daisy says that she thinks she would prefer not to know what Mrs. Walker means. She wonders if Winterborne thinks she should get into the carriage in order to save her reputation, and Winterborne tells her directly that he thinks she should get in. Daisy then tells them that if it is improper for her to walk, then she is completely improper and they must give her up entirely. She bids them goodbye and leaves.

At Mrs. Walker's request, Winterborne enters her carriage and rides with her. She tells him that Miss Miller has gone too far. Winterborne still maintains that she meant no harm and her only fault is that "she is very uncultivated." Mrs. Walker then begs Winterborne not to flirt with Daisy anymore, but he tells her that he still likes Miss Miller extremely and assures Mrs. Walker that his attentions will not evoke any scandal.

When Mrs. Walker lets Winterborne out, he notices Daisy and her companion seated some distance away in a very intimate manner. He observes her a few minutes and then walks toward his aunt's residence.

Analysis

This section opens with Winterborne hearing from Mrs. Costello that Daisy Miller is still compromising herself. Thus, we get from the aunt the distant view of Daisy before we meet her again. Winterborne still maintains that she is ignorant or innocent, but that she is not really bad.

When Daisy meets Winterborne again, she acts as though they are very old and intimate friends. In other words, she does flirt with him. Of more importance is her desire and request to bring Mr. Giovanelli to Mrs. Walker's party. If Daisy thought she was doing anything improper, she would not have made the request. But the point is that Daisy is indeed innocent. She has met someone and has responded to that person. Now she wishes to bring that person to a party. It seems a natural reaction and if it is improper, then Daisy thinks the restrictions of society are unnatural.

Furthermore, when Daisy wants to go for a walk, she sees nothing wrong about this. When Mrs. Walker objects, Daisy says she doesn't want to do anything improper, but then she proceeds to do just that. She asks Winterborne to go with her because she is more interested in living than she is in the proper forms of behavior.

While Daisy is the spontaneous person, her friend Mr. Giovanelli is aware of all the proper forms of behavior and decorum. He is extremely urbane and is able to cover his disappointment and seem even more charming in proportion to how much he is disappointed. This demeanor is just the opposite from that of Daisy Miller, who allows people to know her feelings immediately. Furthermore, Mr. Giovanelli represents the imitation of a gentleman. This again reflects on Daisy, who cannot tell the real thing from the imitation.

During the walk with Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli, Winterborne is still unable to tell what type of person Daisy actually is. She was an "inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence." She showed no awareness of shame or improper conduct and responded gaily to any event.

Mrs. Walker's intervention indicates that Daisy is certainly more concerned with life than she is in the proper forms. She knows that what she is doing is innocent and she sees no reason why she should deny herself pleasure simply to satisfy the whims of an established convention. Perhaps no sentence characterizes Daisy as well as does her comment that she does not want to know what Mrs. Walker would tell her. In other words, Daisy would rather not hear something that is unpleasant. She builds her life on enjoyment and appreciation rather than adherence to staid and set rules. She is, furthermore, quite direct and honest in saying that if she is improper for walking in public with a man, then she is completely improper and should be given up. In other words, Daisy would like people to respond to her and quit judging her. She is not immoral, but prefers to live life rather than abide by rules that seem designed to deny life.

Finally, even Winterborne questions the rules that condemn Daisy's actions. He has been with her while she was committing something improper and found her charming and innocent. Consequently, why should an innocent girl be censured for her actions? As Winterborne says to Mrs. Walker: "I suspect . . . that you and I have lived too long at Geneva." He means, of course, that they are too much influenced by Europeans' emphasis on proper decorum and have forgotten the spontaneity with which Americans approach life.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How does Daisy die?




Quiz