Daisy Miller

by Henry James

o Why does James shift his setting from Switzerland to Italy?
-By taking his characters and the reader to Rome, Italy, we learn that the aunt’s, Mrs. Costello, view and opinion of Daisy’s behavior and actions are continental. Also by moving to Italy, it was easier for James to create a new acquaintance for Daisy, in the form of a typical “Latin lover.” And the Italian society was perfect for Daisy to unfold her natural liveliness.

o What is the purpose of having a narrator who comes from America but has lived so long in Europe?
-The purpose of having a narrator from America, who lived longer in Europe, is to establish a stronger contrast between the European and American cultures. This also gives the reader the opportunity to view a situation from two different points of view. Just like Winterbourne thought Daisy was behaving improper, but he excused her improper behavior by considering that in America it was okay for a young, unmarried girl to flirt with a gentleman. In this sense though, more than anyone else, Winterbourne is being torn apart by both cultures, the American and European, for he cannot decide which ones morals are right and which ones are wrong.

o In addition to functioning as Winterbourne’s confidante, what other purposes does Mrs. Costello serve?
-Mrs. Costello not only serves as Winterbourne’s confidante, but also as a character foil to Daisy. Mrs. Costello is the perfect contrast to Daisy. Unlike Daisy, Mrs. Costello knows very well how to sell herself to the upper class. She is familiar with what society thinks of as improper, but Daisy could care less about what society thinks of her. Also Mrs. Costello serves as a symbol of the European Upper Class. She is the first one to judge Daisy’s behavior and calls her “common” and improper, and even refuses to meet Daisy when Winterbourne asks her to. She represents the opinion of the typical aristocrat.

o If Daisy’s actions in going to the castle with Winterbourne were innocent, why does he assume that her actions with Mr. Giovanelli are improper?
-To Winterbourne, Daisy’s behavior or actions are only improper when she is not with him. When she flirts with Winterbourne it is all right for him, for it seems to him to be innocent. He knows they are not intimate. But if Daisy is with Mr. Giovanelli, it is improper because he does not know if they are intimate or how innocent their relationship really is. In this case, there is also jealousy involved. Winterbourne wants Daisy to be with him, not with Mr. Giovanelli or any other gentlemen. Thus, anything Daisy does with another man will be improper to him.

o What is gained by having Daisy die at the end of the story?
-When Daisy dies at the end of the story, “innocence is brought to ruin” (pg. 1). The ending gives the story a rather dramatic turn. Whether Daisy is innocent or not, is relative, but one can say it was her innocence or naivety that lead her to her death. She did not realize the fatality of staying out at night when being in Rome. But actually the real tragedy of the novella isn’t Daisy’s death but her inability to develop a relationship with Winterbourne, the only one that truly saw her as innocent.

o Does Winterbourne learn anything from his associations with Daisy?
-Winterbourne, from associating with Daisy has learned the contrast between the European and American culture. Over time, he learned that Daisy’s being improper was still innocent, for she did not understand what was appropriate for European society. Winterbourne realized that when two cultures collide it could have a negative affect on people’s view on society. He had lived in Europe for so long, and had not been exposed to Americans, living in America, for a long time, so he had not realized the change that had happened to the American mentality. But still he had mixed feelings at the end about Daisy being improper.

o Why does Mrs. Walker try to save Daisy and then later snub her?
-Mrs. Walker, when first meeting Daisy, also thinks of her as being innocent, thus it seemed natural to her