A chief social issue in Henry James’ novella Daisy Miller is the social interaction between young men and women. Daisy violates European social convention by speaking to men who have not been introduced properly. In fact, Daisy is judged for forming friendships with young men who have not had a formal introduction via her mother or her other established social acquaintances.
Winterbourne also questions this about Daisy. Although Winterbourne appears to be European in many ways, he is an American. Like the author himself, Winterbourne was born in America but taken to Europe to be educated there as a young boy. He is stiffer than Daisy, whose breezy friendliness many of the European characters disapprove of. Daisy is warm and friendly.
Viewing Daisy through a modern lens, her tendency to be friendly and to disregard class distinctions that come into play so vividly in European society might seem progressive, but characters like Winterbourne who believe in adhering to social convention finds some of Daisy’s behavior too brash. Just as in many of James’ other books, the European characters are snobs. They look down on the Americans for their openness and lack of social inhibitions, which the Europeans view as unrefined and brash.
Some of the social issues in Daisy Miller are ones that are present in many other of the authors works, including the tension between how Americans behave compared to the European characters. American manners are less formal and therefore are often looked down upon by the Europeans in James’ books. Daisy speaks in a friendly manner to people who are not at her social station, including the servants. This also points to the issue of social mobility that Americans can enjoy but Europeans generally do not. The Americans' greater sense of optimism versus the more jaded Europeans is seen in the book and in the character of Daisy herself and in her comportment.