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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The action begins in Vevey, Switzerland, at a lake resort in the Alps. The lake is ringed with hotels and tourists, including a large number of Americans. For the most part, the Americans belong to the monied class, the inheritors of American industrial prowess. They strive to imitate what they see as the exclusivity of their European progenitors; at the same time, they distrust individual Europeans.
At the opening of the story, all the characters are staying at the venerable Trois Couronnes, a "classical" hotel that is also quite luxurious--the place to be if you are a rich American. Chapter One takes place here, except for a trip across the lake that Daisy and Winterbourne take to tour the castle, Chateau de Chillon. The second chapter takes place at a variety of hotels, apartments, and tourist attractions in Rome. Most significant of these is the penultimate scene: Daisy, Winterbourne, and Giovanelli at the Colosseum at night. Presumably the time period is the 1870's.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The title character, Daisy Miller, is a flirtatious and spontaneous young American woman visiting Europe with her mother and brother. She and her family are from Schenectady, and her father is evidently wealthy--an industrialist who can afford to send his family, for several months, to "see" Europe. Daisy is strikingly pretty, not especially bright, dresses very well, and is overly "familiar" with male acquaintances. She enjoys society, yet also wants to act as she sees fit. She is indefatigably cheerful and generally oblivious of her strained social position.
A young American gentleman living mostly in Geneva, where he had gone to school. He remains in Geneva due to his interest in a nameless foreign woman, older than himself. He is stiff, very proper, almost European looking, and evidently wealthy. He knows the rules of society, but at times goes against them. The story is told from his perspective.
Daisy's mother. She is a detached parent, seemingly unable to direct the affairs of her son and daughter as they travel through Europe. She is not very active, doesn't seem to enjoy her European travels, and is quite at a loss in most social situations. She is "common" yet delicate, has frizzled hair, and dresses exquisitely. She is in constant nervous disarray, the result of her children's whims. She seems to miss Schenectady, her home.
Winterbourne's aunt and confidante, who is the ultimate American social matron. Her sons are grown, and she is traveling through Europe from one gathering of wealthy Americans to another. She often has headaches and does not participate in the social scene, but she always knows what is going on. She disapproves of the Millers, particularly Daisy. She enjoys the attentions of her nephew, but also disapproves of his interest in the Millers. She remains aloof, though her social power is clear. She has an aristocratic look, white-haired and proper.
Daisy's little brother. He is an active and amusing little boy who will say anything and do anything he pleases. Like Daisy, he will talk to strangers and tell them all about himself and his family. "An urchin of nine or ten," he is small for his age and is pale with sharp features. He is a bit of the wise fool and wants desperately to go back to America.
A European courier to the Miller family. He is tall, handsome, superb, and grave. It is implied that Eugenio runs the show even though he scorns the family's familiar ways. He speaks sharply and sometimes sneeringly to them and their acquaintances. He is seen by the American social set as far too intimate with Daisy.
A very handsome Italian living in Rome. He is an undistinguished lawyer and possibly a friend of Eugenio. Because he is agreeable, charming, and obsequious, Daisy is attracted to him, and it is implied that he is seeking his fortune with the marriageable Daisy. He looks and acts graciously, yet does not seem to know or care that his familiar behavior with Daisy is frowned upon.
An American lady living in Rome. Mrs. Walker lives in small apartments but is very social and socially minded. She knows Winterbourne and Mrs. Costello and tries to befriend the Millers. She becomes entirely vexed by the Miller's behavior and eventually washes her hands of them. At her party, which is significant to the story's plot, she gets extremely angry with Daisy and Giovanelli and snubs Daisy.