Can we closely analyze the following excerpt from Henry James’s Daisy Miller?:  "'She sent me a message before her death which I didn’t understand at the time.  But I have understood it since.  She would have appreciated one’s esteem.' 'Is that a modest way,' asked Mrs. Costello, 'of saying that she would have reciprocated one’s affection?' Winterbourne offered no answer to this question; but he presently said, 'You were right in that remark that you made last summer.  I was booked to make a mistake. I have lived too long in foreign parts.' Nevertheless, he went back to live at Geneva, whence there continue to come the most contradictory accounts of his motives of sojourn: a report that he is 'studying' hard—an  intimation that he is much interested in a very clever foreign lady."

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This passage occurs at the very end of the novella. Winterbourne has been thinking of Daisy often since she died. When he sees his aunt, Mrs. Costello, the next summer, he mentions the message that Daisy left for him before she died. Daisy wanted him to know she was not engaged to Mr. Giovanelli. As her mother says at the time Daisy is very ill:

She gave me a message she told me to tell you. She told me to tell you that she never was engaged to that handsome Italian.

Winterbourne says he now understands the message: Daisy wanted him to "esteem" or respect her. At the time she was alive, however, he thought her behavior signaled that she was not a person he needed to "respect."

Of course, saying she "would have appreciated one's esteem" is a cryptic statement, which compels Mrs. Costello to ask if Daisy was signaling she would have returned Mr. Winterbourne's affection had he expressed it. What Mrs. Costello means is: "Are you saying, Winterbourne, that Daisy was telling you she would have...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 657 words.)

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