Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
At Mrs. Walker’s party, Mrs. Miller comes alone, telling Winterbourne that Daisy is with Giovanelli, playing songs at the piano, and that they will possibly come later. Mrs. Walker is outraged at Daisy’s inconsideration, vowing that she will not speak to her at all when she finally comes. When Daisy finally arrives she states that Giovanelli and she were practicing some songs that Daisy wanted Giovanelli to sing for the party. When Giovanelli does so, Daisy talks through his entire performance.
Winterbourne warns Daisy again that she should not be seen walking the streets (insinuating that she will be viewed as equal to a “street walker,” or prostitute) with Giovanelli. Daisy chooses to misinterpret his remark and asks where else they should walk. Winterbourne tells her outright that she has the habits of a flirt, which is not acceptable in Europe, whatever it might be in America. Daisy resents Winterbourne’s “preaching,” to which Winterbourne replies that if they are in love, that is an entirely different affair. Daisy is genuinely shocked that he would insinuate that she was having an affair with Giovanelli. On top of this, Mrs. Walker turns her back on her when she approaches, signaling that she has been “cut” from society. Daisy is then fully aware of the opinion she has generated among the expatriates, but she does not seem to care beyond being incredibly hurt.
Winterbourne sees Daisy several more times, always in the company of Giovanelli. Daisy does not seem to be bothered by Winterbourne’s presence with Giovanelli, and Winterbourne concludes that Daisy would never be jealous, proving to him that she is a very “light” person. In speaking about Daisy to his aunt, Mrs. Costello, Winterbourne tries again to defend her, mainly because of her innocence coupled with her ignorance. He feels sorry for her because she has made herself such an object of derision simply because she does not know any better, despite repeated warnings. Daisy believes that people do not really care what she does and are only pretending to be shocked. Finally Winterbourne concludes that Daisy Miller is a “young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect.” At this point, Winterbourne ceases to care about Daisy except in terms of her safety. When he finds the two of them in the Coliseum in the middle of the night, he warns them about catching malaria, to which Giovanelli responds that he is not worried about himself and that Daisy insisted on walking.
In a few days, Winterbourne learns that Daisy indeed did catch malaria and is desperately ill. Mrs. Miller tells Winterbourne that Daisy was not engaged to Giovanelli, and she wanted Winterbourne to know that. When Daisy dies, he attends her funeral and talks briefly with Giovanelli. The Italian did not believe that she would ever marry him and regrets the loss of such a beautiful girl. Winterbourne leaves Rome. The next summer, he and Mrs. Costello talk about Daisy. Winterbourne feels that somehow he did not appreciate her. He says that he has lived too long in foreign parts, but he returns to Geneva, where he is again rumored to be either studying or interested in a “very clever foreign lady.”
Daisy Miller’s fall from grace (such as she ever had) is complete, precipitated by her own stubbornness. She cannot be said to be a victim of her own ignorance since she was warned repeatedly about the dangers of her behavior. It was only the ignorance in knowing when to listen to advice that can be said to be an element in her inevitable demise. Death by malaria is probably a severe mercy, because (as James seems to be insinuating) she would most likely find herself in a situation in which she will have lost all honor at the hands of Giovanelli or some other Latin lover. In James’s eyes, Daisy Miller was too ignorant to live. Her recklessness with her reputation eventually led to recklessness with her safety.
(The entire section is 1,030 words.)