Daisy Miller

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This article is about the novella. For the 1974 film adaptation, see Daisy Miller (1974 film).
Daisy Miller
DaisyMiller.jpg
First edition
Author Henry James
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Harper & Brothers
Publication date
1879
Media type Print
Pages

43

Daisy Miller was pirated by two American magazines, Littell's Living Age and Home Journal, in July–August 1878

Daisy Miller is a novella by Henry James that first appeared in Cornhill Magazine in June–July 1878, and in book form the following year.[1] It portrays the courtship of the beautiful American girl Daisy Miller by Winterbourne, a sophisticated compatriot of hers. His pursuit of her is hampered by her own flirtatiousness, which is frowned upon by the other expatriates when they meet in Switzerland and Italy.

Plot summary[edit]

Annie "Daisy" Miller and Frederick Winterbourne first meet in Vevey, Switzerland, in a garden of the grand hotel[2] where Winterbourne is allegedly vacationing from his studies (an attachment to an older lady is rumoured). They are introduced by Randolph Miller, Daisy's 9-year-old brother. Randolph considers their hometown of Schenectady, New York, to be absolutely superior to all of Europe. Daisy, however, is absolutely delighted with the continent, especially the high society she wishes to enter.

Winterbourne is at first confused by her attitude, and though greatly impressed by her beauty, he soon determines that she is nothing more than a young flirt. He continues his pursuit of Daisy in spite of the disapproval of his aunt Mrs. Costello, who spurns any family with so close a relationship to their courier as the Millers have with their Eugenio. She also thinks Daisy is a shameless girl for agreeing to visit the Château de Chillon with Winterbourne after they have known each other for only half an hour. Winterbourne then informs Daisy that he must go to Geneva the next day. Daisy feels disappointment and chaffs him, eventually asking him to visit her in Rome later that year.

In Rome, Winterbourne and Daisy meet unexpectedly in the parlor of Mrs. Walker, an American expatriate. Her moral values have adapted to those of Italian society. Rumors about Daisy meeting with young Italian gentlemen make her socially exceptionable under these criteria. Winterbourne learns of Daisy's increasing intimacy with a young Italian of questionable society, Giovanelli, as well as the growing scandal caused by the pair's behavior. Daisy is undeterred by the open disapproval of the other Americans in Rome, and her mother seems quite unaware of the underlying tensions. Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker attempt to persuade Daisy to separate from Giovanelli, but she refuses any help that is offered.

One night, Winterbourne takes a walk through the Colosseum and sees a young couple sitting at its center. He realizes that they are Giovanelli and Daisy. Winterbourne, infuriated with Giovanelli, asks him how he could dare to take Daisy to a place where she runs the risk of catching "Roman Fever". Daisy says she does not care and Winterbourne leaves them. Daisy falls ill and dies a few days later.

Key themes[edit]

This novella serves as both a psychological description of the mind of a young woman, and an analysis of the traditional views of a society where she is a clear outsider. Henry James uses Daisy's story to discuss what he thinks Europeans and Americans believe about each other, and more generally the prejudices common in any culture. In a letter James said that Daisy is the victim of a "social rumpus" that goes on either over her head or beneath her notice.[citation needed]

The names of the characters are also symbolic. Daisy is a flower in full bloom, without inhibitions and in the springtime of her life. Daisy contrasts sharply with Winterbourne. Flowers die in winter and this is precisely what happens to Daisy after catching the Roman Fever. As an objective analogue to this psychological reality, Daisy catches the very real Roman fever, the malaria that was endemic to many Roman neighborhoods in the 19th century.

The issue on which the novella turns is the "innocence" of Daisy .

Critical evaluation[edit]

Daisy Miller was an immediate and widespread popular success for James, despite some criticism that the story was "an outrage on American girlhood". The story continues to be one of James' most popular works, along with The Turn of the Screw and The Portrait of a Lady. Critics have generally praised the freshness and vigor of the storytelling.[citation needed]

In 1909 James revised Daisy Miller extensively for the New York Edition. He altered the tone of the story but some[who?] feel he robbed the original version of its color and immediacy.

Derivative works[edit]

James converted his story into a play that failed to be produced. He published the play in The Atlantic Monthly in 1883, and it shows many changes from the original story. In particular, a happy ending was inserted to please what James believed to be the preferences of theater-goers.[3]

A 1974 film adaptation, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Cybill Shepherd as Daisy.

A rap adaptation of Daisy Miller appears on Heavy Jamal's album Shining Sky Lobster[4]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Daisy Miller, A Study. at Abebooks.co.uk.
  2. ^ Henry, James(2008). "Daisy Miller", p.5. Stilwell, KS. ISBN 1-4209-3139-3.
  3. ^ "Masterpiece Theatre: The American". PBS. Retrieved 2007-06-06. "Professional events 1882: James adapts "Daisy Miller" for the stage. Eager for theatrical success, James adapts "Daisy Miller". Despite his new happy ending, New York producers call it "too literary". They "behaved like asses and sharpers combined", said James. "This episode... would make a brilliant chapter in a realistic novel."" 
  4. ^ Jamal, Heavy. "Shining Sky Lobster". Retrieved 7 May 2013. 

References[edit]

  • Tales of Henry James: The Texts of the Tales, the Author on His Craft, Criticism edited by Christof Wegelin and Henry Wonham (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003) ISBN 0-393-97710-2
  • The Complete Plays of Henry James edited by Leon Edel (New York: Oxford University Press 1990) ISBN 0-19-504379-0
  • The Tales of Henry James by Edward Wagenknecht (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1984) ISBN 0-8044-2957-X

External links[edit]