Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
In Daisy Miller, Henry James develops the theme that it is difficult to resolve the differences in opposing positions: the old vs. the new, the male role vs. the female role, the American vs. the European, or the innocent vs. the experienced. Through the character of Daisy, the author addresses the problem of tragic innocence in uncultivated Americans, especially in their susceptibility to damage in the presence of their more experienced compatriots.
Daisy is created as the pinnacle of American innocence, which is socially and personally destructive but also refreshingly attractive and charming. It is her charm and spontaneity that attract Winterbourne, who is the only one that correctly judges Daisy as an innocent. But because of false starts, romantic posturing, missed opportunities, and different social backgrounds, Winterbourne and Daisy, who genuinely like one another, are never able to develop a serious relationship, a fact which contributes to the overall tragedy of the story.
The mood of the story is at times playful (as in scenes with Randolph or even Mrs. Costello) and at times somber (at Mrs. Walker's party, the Colosseum scene, the funeral). The general mood of the characters in Daisy Miller is one of interested confusion, largely due to Winterbourne. The omniscient narrator follows Winterbourne closely, and it is his curiosity about Daisy that fuels the plot.