Daisy Miller | Study Guide

Henry James

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Daisy Miller | Quotes


American candy's the best candy.

Randolph Miller

Randolph insists everything American is better than anything found in Europe. Desperately homesick, he doesn't allow himself to try anything unfamiliar while on his travels. His nationalistic pride is to his detriment, however, and he is miserable throughout much of his trip.


Her name is Daisy Miller! ... But that isn't her real name; that isn't her name on her cards.

Randolph Miller

Randolph tells Winterbourne that Daisy's real name isn't Daisy—it's Annie. The calling cards she uses at home in Schenectady, New York, have her real name, but in Europe she presents herself as Daisy. This name change signals Daisy's desire to distance herself from her middle-class origins. Now that her father is wealthy, she wants to enter the best social circles. "Annie P. Miller" sounds too common, so she chooses the fun and flirtatious-sounding "Daisy." Her name change also shows her independence—her desire to name herself, and thus define herself, to the outside world.


'I have always had,' she said, 'a great deal of gentlemen's society.'

Daisy Miller

Men and women lived in separate spheres during the Victorian era, and it was considered scandalous for an unmarried woman to spend a lot of time with one man she didn't intend to marry, let alone many men. Daisy, however, is proud of herself for attracting the attention of so many men. She tells Winterbourne about her male admirers at home, possibly to intrigue him all the more.


They are the sort of Americans that one does one's duty by not—not accepting.

Mrs. Costello

Mrs. Costello refuses to meet Daisy and her family out of "duty" to her own social status and class. She comes from "old" money and they come from "new," which is why she thinks so highly of herself and so little of them. To the historically wealthy and elite, there is nothing so crude as social climbers.


I'm dying to be exclusive myself.

Daisy Miller

Daisy admires Mrs. Costello for being so exclusive because she, too, wants to be high on the social ladder. This isn't the case, however, as she notes that she and her mother aren't generally the ones who refuse to make social connections. Daisy is not socially exclusive—she's excluded.


I guess she had better go alone.

Mrs. Miller

In the Victorian era, it was considered improper for a young, unmarried woman to go out alone with an unmarried man. Instead, another person would accompany them to ensure propriety. Winterbourne is shocked when Mrs. Miller tells him it's fine for Daisy to go to the castle with him unchaperoned. Mrs. Miller may not be aware that things like this simply aren't done, especially in Europe, or she may have simply given up trying to make her headstrong daughter heed social norms.


No young lady had as yet done him the honor to be so agitated by the announcement of his movements.


One of the reasons Winterbourne is attracted to Daisy is that she seems to be attracted to him. In the Victorian era, it was quite unusual for unmarried middle- and upper-class women to have close friendships with unmarried men. Even if a woman had great interest in a man, she was expected to keep her feelings to herself until she could be certain they were reciprocated. Daisy's outrage at Winterbourne's plans makes Winterbourne think she has much deeper feelings for him than that of a casual acquaintance. Thrilled by her devotion, he becomes devoted to her despite his continual misgivings about her nature.


Of course a man may know every one. Men are welcome to the privilege!

Mrs. Costello

Mrs. Costello is disgusted by Daisy's overly familiar behavior with male acquaintances, but she also realizes the restrictions society puts on women as opposed to men. Her comment to Winterbourne about men being allowed to know whomever they want is a truth even she finds bitter.


I have never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything I do.

Daisy Miller

Daisy is far more independent than any of the other girls Winterbourne has known. Her unwillingness to listen to the advice of others, including that of men, is indicative of her American upbringing and also of her individual headstrong personality. She makes her own decisions, even when they're ill advised.


'Nevertheless,' Winterbourne said to himself, 'a nice girl ought to know!'


Winterbourne has difficulty finding concrete faults in Giovanelli but ultimately determines the Roman is an "imitation" of a gentleman. He thinks Daisy, being a "nice girl," deserves a "real" gentleman, not this imposter. But he also thinks "nice girls" are inherently able to separate the gold diggers (like Giovanelli) from those with honorable intentions (like Winterbourne). The fact that Daisy can't see the difference indicates she isn't a nice girl at all. Smitten as he is, Winterbourne doesn't want to admit to himself that she may be just as much of an imposter as her Roman suitor.


I suspect, Mrs. Walker, that you and I have lived too long at Geneva!


Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker have both spent a great deal of time in Geneva, Switzerland, where social customs are far stricter than those in the United States. He brings this up to Mrs. Walker as an excuse for Daisy's refusal to get into Mrs. Walker's carriage. He implies that the problem isn't Daisy's scandalous behavior but rather the rigid social code her acquaintances apply to her. Winterbourne is politely arguing that it is their own fault for clinging to European customs that are out of place elsewhere in the world.


I ain't used to going round alone.

Mrs. Miller

For all of her beautiful gowns and European vacations, Mrs. Miller is, at heart, a middle-class woman from Schenectady, New York. Unlike Winterbourne, she was not born into wealth, nor did she have the same excellent education. When compared with the rest of Mrs. Walker's guests, Mrs. Miller's folksy manner of speech and self-depreciating nature make her stick out like a sore thumb. She does not belong in European high society.


He had a pleasant sense that he should never be afraid of Daisy Miller.


Winterbourne continues to seek out Daisy after the debacle at Mrs. Walker's party in part because she's so easy to be around. Other women who were interested him in the past were so socially formidable and proper as to make him afraid, but with Daisy he believes he has the upper hand. He enjoys thinking himself the smarter and more sophisticated person in their relationship, in contrast to Daisy, who he believes "would prove a very light young person."


She was a young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect.


Winterbourne is finally able to classify Daisy after spying her at the Colosseum with Giovanelli under the cloak of night. He once thought her an innocent, but no "innocent" (virginal) woman would allow themselves to be seduced into nighttime walks with foreign suitors. Such socially improper behavior is too much for even Winterbourne, who has defended Daisy to everyone he knows. He decides then and there that she is nothing but a low-class trollop willing to take any attention she can get.


She would have appreciated one's esteem.


Winterbourne regrets the way he and the rest of the American contingent treated Daisy while she was in Rome. All she wanted was to be a part of the society she so admired, but she didn't understand the proper protocol for acceptance into that group. Instead of helping her, the other Americans distanced themselves out of so-called respect for the local customs, leaving Daisy no one for companionship except the very people she wasn't supposed to be with. It isn't until after her death that Winterbourne realizes she would have benefited from true friendship, not just flirtatious banter or reprimands.

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