Daisy Miller

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Daisy Miller is a story related by a young, American man named Winterborne, who lives mostly in Europe. Winterborne meets a lovely young lady named Daisy Miller at a Swiss resort in Vevey. He notices her naiveté, having no reservations about talking to strangers. He befriends this young girl very quickly. He would love to introduce her to his aunt, but she thinks that Daisy is common, vulgar, and refuses to meet her. Daisy and her family decide to leave the resort and visit Italy. Several months passe until Daisy speaks to him again. She invited him to Italy. He finds Daisy with an Italian man named Giovanelli. Winterborne notices that Giovanelli is not what he considers a gentleman. After finding Giovanelli and Daisy at the Coliseum late one night, Winterborne thinks of Daisy as “a young lady whom a gentleman need no be at pains to respect';. Daisy, unfortunately dies of Roman fever a week later. In some messages Daisy sent to Winterborne from her deathbed, he realizes that she was still a very innocent girl and desired his respect. Winterborne realizes that he has indeed lived “too long in foreign parts.'; He has been so influenced by conservative European social conventions that he was unable to appreciate Daisy’s free and natural spirit.

The theme of the novel focuses on the harm that is done when an individual is rejected by society for unconventional behavior. Non-conformists are type cast in a negative way and their individuality is devalued. James presents Daisy as the “free, spontaneous, independent, natural'; (Fogel p.3) American girl who is stereotyped as “disreputable'; (Fogel p.9) by the highly conventional Europeanized Americans she meets in Vevey and Rome. At the same time, James shows how Daisy’s “utter disregard for convention prevents her from successfully relating to others'; (Fogel p.9) and leads to her death when she disregards warnings not to go the Coliseum at night.

James conveys the poetic dimension of Daisy Miller by using symbolism in the names of the characters in the novel. Daisy’s name suggests her innocence and freedom. “Etymologically, daisy means ‘the day’s eye’ suggesting Daisy’s radiance, her fresh ‘morning’ quality, and beautifully fitting into the further symbolism that flowerlike Daisy closes up and then dies after Winterborne cuts her.'; (Fogel p.38) Thrice, Winterborne met Daisy in a garden, a place where flowers grow, once in Vevey and the second time in the Pincian Garden in Rome, and the third, and final time he saw her was at her grave, which was “beneath the cypresses and the thick spring flowers.
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