Places: Daisy Miller

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1878

Type of work: Novella

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Mid-nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Vevey

*Vevey Daisy Miller (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.

BibliographyGraham, George Kenneth. Henry James: The Drama of Fulfilment. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1975. Concentrates on the tragicomedy of Winterbourne’s attempt to understand Daisy. Examines the interplay between the social and the personal, and the rational and the emotional.Hoffmann, Charles G. The Short Novels of Henry James. New York: Bookman Associates, 1957. Examines how Daisy Miller presents European social codes as constraints on evil–and Daisy’s defiance as foolish American innocence of evil. Looks at the theme of appearance (Daisy’s corruption) versus reality (Daisy’s innocence).Samuels, Charles Thomas. The Ambiguity of Henry James. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1971. Shows how Daisy Miller fits into James’s view of the guilt of innocence. Daisy is culpable, as are her persecutors–especially the fastidious Winterbourne, yearning for American purity in a fallen world.Tintner, Adeline R. The Museum World of Henry James. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1986. Concentrates on James’s use of the portrait of Pope Innocent X as analogy and contrast to Daisy’s innocence in the work. Points out the ironic ending: that Winterbourne will be subject to the gossip he sought to avoid.Wagenknecht, Edward. Eve and Henry James: Portraits of Women and Girls in His Fiction. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978. Looks at the origins of the work, the controversy it aroused, and its literary counterparts. Considers Daisy’s character, her refusal to conform, and her ignorance of corruption.
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