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I hardly know whether it was the analogies or the differences that were uppermost in the mind of a young American, who, two or three years ago, sat in the garden of the “Trois Couronnes,” looking about him rather idly at some of the graceful objects I have mentioned. It was a beautiful summer morning, and in whatever fashion the young American looked at things they must have seemed to him charming. He had come from Geneva the day before, by the little steamer, to see his aunt, who was staying at the hotel—Geneva having been for a long time his place of residence. But his aunt had a headache—his aunt had almost always a headache—and she was now shut up in her room smelling camphor, so that he was at liberty to wander about. He was some seven-and-twenty years of age; when his friends spoke of him they usually said that he was at Geneva “studying.” When his enemies spoke of him they said—but after all he had no enemies: he was extremely amiable and generally liked. What I should say is simply that when certain persons spoke of him they conveyed that the reason of his spending so much time at Geneva was that he was extremely devoted to a lady who lived there—a foreign lady, a person older than himself. Very few Americans—truly I think none—had ever seen this lady, about whom there were some singular stories. But Winterbourne had an old attachment for the little capital of Calvinism; he had been put to school there as a boy and had afterwards even gone, on trial—trial of the grey old “Academy” on the steep and stony hillside—to college there; circumstances which had led to his forming a great many youthful friendships. Many of these he had kept, and they were a source of great satisfaction to him.
After knocking at his aunt’s door and learning that she was indisposed he had taken a walk about the town and then he had come in to his breakfast. He had now finished that repast, but was enjoying a small cup of coffee which had been served him on a little table in the garden by one of the waiters who looked like attachés. At last he finished his coffee and lit a cigarette. Presently a small boy came walking along the path—an urchin of nine or ten. The child, who was diminutive for his years, had an aged expression of countenance, a pale complexion and sharp little features. He was dressed in knickerbockers and had red stockings that displayed his poor little spindle-shanks; he also wore a brilliant red cravat. He carried in his hand a long alpenstock, the sharp point of which he thrust into everything he approached—the flower-beds, the garden-benches, the trains of the ladies’ dresses. In front of Winterbourne he paused, looking at him with a pair of bright and penetrating little eyes.
“Will you give me a lump of sugar?” he asked in a small sharp hard voice—a voice immature and yet somehow not young.
Winterbourne glanced at the light table near him, on which his coffee-service rested, and saw that several morsels of sugar remained. “Yes, you may take one,” he answered; “but I don’t think too much sugar good for little boys.”
This little boy stepped forward and carefully selected three of the coveted fragments, two of which he buried in the pocket of his knickerbockers, depositing the other as promptly in another place. He poked his alpenstock, lance-fashion, into Winterbourne’s bench and tried to crack the lump of sugar with his teeth.
“Oh blazes; it’s har-r-d!” he exclaimed, divesting vowel and consonants, pertinently enough, of any taint of softness.
Winterbourne had immediately gathered that he might have the honour of claiming him as a countryman. “Take care you don’t hurt your teeth,” he said paternally.
“I haven’t got any teeth to hurt. They’ve all come out. I’ve only got seven teeth. Mother counted them last night, and one came out right afterwards. She said she’d slap me if any more came out. I can’t help it. It’s this old Europe. It’s the climate that makes them come out. In America they didn’t come out. It’s these hotels.”
Winterbourne was much amused. “If you eat three lumps of sugar your mother will certainly slap you,” he ventured.
“She’s got to give me some candy then,” rejoined his young interlocutor. “I can’t get any candy here—any American candy. American candy’s the best candy.”
“And are American little boys the best little boys?” Winterbourne asked.
“I don’t know. I’m an American boy,” said the child.
“I see you’re one of the best!” the young man laughed.
“Are you an American man?” pursued this vivacious infant. And then on his friend’s affirmative reply, “American men are the best,” he declared with assurance.
His companion thanked him for the compliment, and the child, who had now got astride of his alpenstock, stood looking about him while he attacked another lump of sugar. Winterbourne wondered if he himself had been like this in his infancy, for he had been brought to Europe at about the same age.
“Here comes my sister!” cried his young compatriot. “She’s an American girl, you bet!”
Winterbourne looked along the path and saw a beautiful young lady advancing. “American girls are the best girls,” he thereupon cheerfully remarked to his visitor.
“My sister ain’t the best!” the child promptly returned. “She’s always blowing at me.”
“I imagine that’s your fault, not hers,” said Winterbourne. The young lady meanwhile had drawn near. She was dressed in white muslin, with a hundred frills and flounces and knots of pale-coloured ribbon. Bareheaded, she balanced in her hand a large parasol with a deep border of embroidery; and she was strikingly, admirably pretty. “How pretty they are!” thought our friend, who straightened himself in his seat as if he were ready to rise.
The young lady paused in front of his bench, near the parapet of the garden, which overlooked the lake. The small boy had now converted his alpenstock into a vaulting-pole, by the aid of which he was springing about in the gravel and kicking it up not a little. “Why Randolph,” she freely began, “what are you doing?”
“I’m going up the Alps!” cried Randolph. “This is the way!” And he gave another extravagant jump, scattering the pebbles about Winterbourne’s ears.
“That’s the way they come down,” said Winterbourne.
“He’s an American man!” proclaimed Randolph in his harsh little voice.
The young lady gave no heed to this circumstance, but looked straight at her brother. “Well, I guess you’d better be quiet,” she simply observed.
It seemed to Winterbourne that he had been in a manner presented. He got up and stepped slowly toward the charming creature, throwing away his cigarette. “This little boy and I have made acquaintance,” he said with great civility. In Geneva, as he had been perfectly aware, a young man wasn’t at liberty to speak to a young unmarried lady save under certain rarely-occurring conditions; but here at Vevey what conditions could be better than these?—a pretty American girl coming to stand in front of you in a garden with all the confidence in life. This pretty American girl, whatever that might prove, on hearing Winterbourne’s observation simply glanced at him; she then turned her head and looked over the parapet, at the lake and the opposite mountains. He wondered whether he had gone too far, but decided that he must gallantly advance rather than retreat. While he was thinking of something else to say the young lady turned again to the little boy, whom she addressed quite as if they were alone together. “I should like to know where you got that pole.”
“I bought it!” Randolph shouted.
“You don’t mean to say you’re going to take it to Italy!”
“Yes, I’m going to take it t’ Italy!” the child rang out.
She glanced over the front of her dress and smoothed out a knot or two of ribbon. Then she gave her sweet eyes to the prospect again. “Well, I guess you’d better leave it somewhere,” she dropped after a moment.
“Are you going to Italy?” Winterbourne now decided very respectfully to enquire.
She glanced at him with lovely remoteness. “Yes, sir,” she then replied. And she said nothing more.
“And are you—a—thinking of the Simplon?” he pursued with a slight drop of assurance.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I suppose it’s some mountain. Randolph, what mountain are we thinking of?”
1. Henry James is as much an international writer as an American. Shortly before his death he became a British citizen in protest of America?s unwillingness to come to the defense of Britain and France in the early years of World War I. He spent much of his adult life abroad, observing Europeans, Americans in Europe, and what he called ?Europeanized Americans,? those who had lived for so long in Europe that they had taken on many?although not all?European traits and values. Many of Henry James?s novels and stories depict these three types of characters in interplay. How does James explore the American-
versus-European theme in Daisy Miller? What are some of the ways that the Millers differ from Winterbourne, his aunt, and Mrs. Walker?
2. Henry James was always interested in children and young adults, and Daisy Miller is one of his most successful creations. She is more vibrant than sophisticated, ?a child,? as James describes her, ?of nature and of freedom.? Some have argued that her plain name (the unpretentious flower, the common profession) symbolizes her simplicity. Do you agree with this? Why does Daisy Miller make a full-blooded protagonist? Is Daisy Miller an innocent, unaffected young woman? Are there hints of her self-awareness? Does she demonstrate a desire to manipulate others?
3. In discussing the origins of the novella in his Preface to the New York Edition, Henry James tells of hearing the story of an innocent but eager American girl who has recently visited Italy and ?picked up? a Roman of vague identity. What in this secondhand anecdote do you think appealed to James, inspiring him to, as he put it, ?dramatise, dramatise!? Does James do more than dramatize? Does he moralize?
4. James describes Winterbourne, an American who resides in Geneva, as having ?an old attachment for the little capital of Calvinism.? When James introduces him, Winterbourne is in a hotel lobby in Vevey while he waits for his aunt, who is upstairs. Essentially, however, he is waiting for something else. How would you describe Winterbourne and why do you think he is susceptible to Daisy?s charms? Is he an honest man? How does his surname fit into James?s scheme of identifying characters?
5. Does James present Giovanelli as a complicated, fully imagined character, or is Giovanelli merely the proverbial mysterious stranger? Does James explore Giovanelli?s subtleties with as much insight as he applies to Daisy and Winterbourne? What attracts Daisy to Giovanelli? Is this attraction plausible? Why at the end of the novel does he say, ?If she had lived I should have got nothing. She never would have married me??
6. What do you make of Daisy?s fate? Why do you think James set the novel?s tragic event in the Colosseum?
Posted September 17, 2009
Daisy Miller is the contemporary of two different worlds. Daisy acts as the symbol of the United States. She is young, fresh and vividly beautiful. Her innocence comes forth her within the specter of her flamboyant flirty conversation. As compared to the Old world virtues, who mock her because of the "extravagance" of her actions. She is seen as uncultured and utterly poised in an unorthodox manner which is to some respect true. Daisy, though, is quick to express the solidarity of her independence and she refuses to conform to the thoughts that others perceive of her. Along comes Winterbourne, probably the tale's protagonist as the image of Daisy is of his opinion and the story is told through his perspective. Winterbourne seems organized and dignified as shown by his everlasting attempt to classify Miss Daisy Miller. He ultimately fails. At first he is captivated and exceptionally attracted to Daisy only to reject her ideals and then soon having to regret it. Daisy, is indeed unique, her unique blend of a personality throws Winterbourne of course which later causes him to deeply worry of her health. Mr. Giovanelli snatches Daisy's attention. A man of a questionable reputation we know nothing of him other than he is an Italian. As Winterbourne ponders on what kind of a person Daisy is, despite their misunderstandings, she ultimately falls ill. Upon her death we learn that she did understand Winterbourne's intentions after it seems like she hasn't. He then speaks to his aunt Mrs. Costello who had flatly rejected her nephew's request to meet with the Millers very early within the story. Although, Winterbourne is unsure of what to do he eventually decides to return to Geneva. The book is entailed with a scene in which different aspects of culture are to meet. A scenario of a very beautiful American girl and an American boy who has adopted European standards.
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Posted July 25, 2000
Posted December 23, 1999
daisy is honest,fresh and open and her heart is pure.the reason Daisy,has nothing in common with her fellow American is because they subscribe to European way of looking at life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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Posted February 26, 2009
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