BACKGROUND on Henry James's Daisy Miller During the time of James’ story, The United States was experiencing an era of rapid economic industrialization and growth, which brought new wealth to many people like the Millers of Schenectady. These people formed a kind of American aristocracy. But it was not one based on nobility inherited through numerous generations, as was the case in Europe. It was based entirely on wealth. The newly wealthy individuals could afford many luxuries – including travel in Europe – but their money did not automatically guarantee them culture and refinement. In America, such lack was not especially noticed in the social circles of the wealthy; but in Europe it was quite a different matter, where standards of behavior reflected centuries of aristocratic tradition. Americans who settled in Europe and became Europeanized were especially vigilant that the European standards and customs be observed.
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