Daisy Miller Analysis
by Henry James

Daisy Miller book cover
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Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Vevey

*Vevey (vuh-VAY). Small resort city on the northeastern shore of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva, a large lake in the Swiss Alps. Daisy Miller, a seventeen-year-old American girl from Schenectady, New York, is traveling with her mother and younger brother. The Millers are vacationing in Europe to acquire some culture and because that is what they think rich people do. They are staying at an elegant resort hotel. Also staying at the hotel is American Frederick Winterbourne. Winterbourne went to school at Geneva and spends most of his time with other wealthy Americans in Europe. It is Winterbourne’s consciousness that readers follow through the story. Miss Miller and Mr. Winterbourne meet casually on the grounds of the hotel because of Miss Miller’s young brother Randolph. Ordinarily it would be improper in high society for a young lady to make the acquaintance of a gentleman without being formally introduced by a mutual acquaintance. At a resort, however, people are more relaxed about social formalities. When Miss Miller suggests that she is eager to see the nearby Castle of Chillon, Winterbourne offers to accompany her. Afterward, Winterbourne leaves Vevey for another social engagement. All of the action in part 1 takes place at Vevey. Winterbourne and Miller agree to see each other in Rome, where many wealthy Americans will spend the winter.

*Castle of Chillon

*Castle of Chillon. Ancient castle in Vaud on the shore of Lake Geneva. Miller expresses a desire to see the castle because it is a major tourist attraction and many people have told her of its beauty. The two take a steamer to the castle. His aunt, Mrs. Costello, does not think this proper, but Daisy and her mother do not seem to know that. Their guide, Eugenio, does not approve of the outing, but Miller goes anyway. In her immaturity she does not appreciate the history of the castle, but Winterbourne finds her charming nonetheless.

*Rome

*Rome. Capital city of Italy. Most of the action of part 2 takes place at the Miller’s hotel, Mrs. Walker’s home, the Pincio (a large public garden), the ruins of the Colosseum, and a Protestant cemetery. The Americans living abroad are harsher in their judgment of the provincial Americans than the Europeans are. The ruins of the Colosseum are particularly important. Though they are a beautiful and significant historical ruin, it is a dangerous place to go after dark. First, for a young lady to be alone there with a gentleman would damage her reputation. Second, being out in Rome at night leaves one vulnerable to what is called “Roman fever,” probably malaria.

*Schenectady

*Schenectady (skeh-NEHK-ta-dee). City in the northern part of New York State. No action takes place here, but this is the Millers’ home. Their provincialism and lack of education are emphasized throughout the story. The society in which the Millers wish to move regards Schenectady as something of a backwater.

*Geneva

*Geneva. Large French-speaking Swiss city on Lake Geneva. It is implied that Winterbourne, the character through whose eyes readers see the story, is having an affair with a married woman even though the social mores are conservative. He returns here at the end of the story, having realized that Daisy Miller admired him and that, because of his reserve, he has lost a chance for love.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Daisy Miller is a novella, a fictional form which combines the single focus of a short story with the more leisurely development of various themes typical of a novel. James, who preferred the French term nouvelle, liked the form because its "main merit and sign is the effort to do the complicated thing with a strong brevity and lucidity — to arrive on behalf of the multiplicity at a certain science of control." To achieve the double effect of intensity and expansion that is its defining characteristic, a novella usually has a small cast of characters, a rather circumscribed physical and temporal setting and a limited set of associated themes and motifs which are...

(The entire section is 2,286 words.)