Daisy Miller, Henry James

I read this for book club- and it was rather an interesting experience. For one, I had a bit of difficulty finding a plot. It seems to revolve entirely around the stalking of a girl named Daisy Miller, by an American fop in Europe, Mr. Winterbourne.

He’s indentured himself for social reasons to an Aunt of his, who he follows around Europe being useful to. All very respectable. And then in Switzerland he meets a very pretty, bland little girl named Daisy Miller. I admit to not being particularly impressed by Ms. Miller, especially since what Winterbourne is particularly enraptured by is her toneless prattle.

*pause for headdesking*


But despite being prone to prattling and vagueness, Daisy is also very used to getting her own way. She makes Winterbourne promise to take her on a trip to the castle across the lake, and it’s all very charming and romantic. However, warning signs are seen on the horizon in the fact that W-‘s Aunt refuses to be introduced to her, as she’s not proper society. *gasp*

Yes, despite the reputation of Americans abroad, or probably because of it, all the USians in this book and hypersensitive of propriety. This becomes very obvious when the setting moves to Rome. There’s a whole enclave of ex-pat Americans there, and they are shunning Daisy because of her insistence on going around with an Italian man unchaperoned. *double gasp*

The shunning continues, with Winterbourne weakly trying to tell Daisy that noooo, you’re only hurting yourself! Pay attention to society!

And then she gets the fever and dies.

*puts ribbon on obvious happy ending*

Oh wait. No, that isn’t a happy ending, is it? No, not really. Hmmm. What is it, then? It’s not particularly tragic, cause everything was leading up to that from the very beginning and we meet doctors and mentions of night fevers. And there’s the fact that Daisy is so bland a character as to resemble a bit of pretty fog in a dress. Her definite characteristics are prattling tonelessly, and doing whatever she isn’t supposed to. But not in an interesting way, just in a stupid one. So what is this, if it’s not a tragedy, or a happy story? Oh, I’ve got it! It’s a morality play! Pay attention to your elders and don’t hang around boys, or you will die of fever. Right-o.

From my description there, you might think I didn’t like the book. That wouldn’t be exactly accurate. See, I have a bit of a bloodthirsty streak, and as previously mentioned, I did NOT love Daisy. Maybe I thought she was too stupid to live? I’m sure I wouldn’t tell you here…

And despite my dis-love of the actual content, I really liked Mr. James’ style. I loved his dialogue, which actually sounded like people (delicious,) and I very much liked the his voice. I gave it three stars out of five.

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4 thoughts on “Daisy Miller, Henry James


    I like Daisy, I don't think she's stupid per se, just really clueless, and sort of just like, “Why does it matter? You guys are just being craaaazy!” in an innocent way because she doesn't realize what a big deal it all is.

    I don't think it's a morality play at all either. I think James is criticizing Winterbourne and his ilk, and being like “You guys are idiots, mmmkay?” or at least mildly criticizing “society” and societal expectations of the time. James also likes to show how society destroys people, particularly young women. It's a theme. 😉
    I could go on for a while but I'll stop there. 😀

  2. Heh. I don't know, I didn't think Daisy was that innocent? She was either being very willful, or just stupid. She really, AUGH, maybe I'm just not willing to believe that people are innocent. 😛

    And you LIKE James for destroying young women, don't you? 😛

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