Daisy says "I don't believe they town people are shocked I spend time with Giovanelli. They don't care a straw about what I do". Is she right?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The answer is: Wrong! She is incorrect in this assumption.

This assumption on the part of Daisy in Henry James's novel Daisy Miller, a study in two parts is precisely what consistently puts Daisy in a disagreeable position with the rest of her female peers.

Daisy is a young American woman whose family recently found good fortune in business. As a nouveau riche, or newly rich person, she lacks a lot of the qualities in behavior and refinement that are typical of upper class women raised in a semi-aristocratic setting.

Daisy fails to comply with the myriad of social etiquette rules imposed upon girls in Europe during their years of courtship. Instead, Daisy's mother allows her to wonder around on her own. More shocking still is that Daisy has no chaperon when she meets Winterbourne, Giovanelli, nor anyone she wants to meet. For girls of the upper crust of society this is unpardonable. For elder matrons of girls that are at the courtship stage, Daisy's behavior is quite an embarrassment.

The public is, indeed, watching every step this new American girl takes and they are taking notes on how she acts in public, whether she has any decorum in front of the opposite sex, and whether she is following the expected rules of high distinction that girls in her position should follow. Daisy does none of that.

Instead, she takes the first step in making conversation, she expresses her emotions and feelings, and she basically is herself at every moment. However, the time and place in which she exists does not expect any woman to act like her. In fact, she is seen as a threat. So shocking is Daisy's behavior altogether that the first impression that she leaves on Winterbourne already foreshadows how it all may end.

Poor Winterbourne was amused, perplexed, and decidedly charmed. He had never yet heard a young girl express herself in just this fashion; never, at least, save in cases where to say such things seemed a kind of demonstrative evidence of a certain laxity of deportment. And yet was he to accuse Miss Daisy Miller of actual or potential inconduite, as they said at Geneva?

In the end, Winterbourne does not attempt to propose nor marry Daisy. He receives her letter after she dies and understands how badly she wanted his attentions. None of that changes Winterbourne's heart. He continues life as usual. Perhaps if Daisy had tried to adapt herself to this new world, she would have been able to achieve her goal with Winterbourne and live happily ever after.