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DAISY MILLER STUDY GUIDE
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
PART II: "ROME"
When Winterbourne arrives in Rome, the stage is set for a showdown between Daisy and the American "colonists." (By calling the American tourists "colonists", James ironically points to the fact that the Americans are "taking over" Rome, imposing their rules.) The action of Part II begins with another discussion between Mrs. Costello and Winterbourne. She again repeats her apprehensions about the Millers' social improprieties and adds new details about Daisy's vulgar behavior. As always Winterbourne defends Daisy and says she is not bad, only innocent. As in Part I, Daisy is discussed at length before she is actually seen in Part II.
Winterbourne encounters Daisy again at Mrs. Walker's home. He is paying his old friend a visit when the Millers arrive. Daisy is shocked to see him there and jealous that he has not called on her first. In a flirtatious manner, she teases him without end. Mrs. Walker notices her flirting and disapproves. She disapproves even more when Daisy asks to bring her Italian friend to the Walkers' party. Daisy is not trying to offend; she simply has no idea that she is doing anything improper. In a similar innocent manner, she sees absolutely nothing wrong with her going unchaperoned for a stroll with Giovanelli.
When she realizes she has broken social limits, she asks Winterbourne to go along; but the outing is a disaster. Mrs. Walker drives by in her carriage and tries to explain what Daisy is doing wrong. Daisy refuses to listen to her warnings. (Remember Daisy has said she prefers weak tea over advice.) She does not want to hear about social codes and unpleasant things; she only wants to have a good time. Daisy knows that she is not immoral, and she truly believes that she should not be judged by an extremely critical society as if she were. She only wants to live her life to the fullest, not ruled by outmoded codes of behavior. Yet in the story, it is only Winterbourne who realizes this about Daisy. He knows that social codes, both American and European, can be too stuffy and destroy spontaneity and zest for life.
Daisy may be an innocent and spontaneous person who can be excused for her naiveté, but Giovanelli certainly is not. He is aware of the proper code of behavior and knows he is breaking it with Daisy; he would never dare to take out an Italian girl alone. Giovanelli, therefore, represents all the allure and danger of Europe to American society abroad. He is handsome, talented, intelligent, tactful, but from a questionable class. It is hinted that he is a fortune hunter, looking for an American heiress to marry; since he is not from any sort of royalty and has no particular standing, he is unable to marry into Italian society. As a result, he focuses on Daisy, and because of her innocence, Giovanelli has hope for an upward marriage.
In this section, Mrs. Miller, Daisy, and Randolph also remain in character, oblivious and stubborn. Now that there is a social circle for the Millers, their flaws become more obvious. Randolph's insistence, carried on unbecomingly by Daisy, that the Miller family has the best and biggest rooms in Rome is uncouth and obnoxious. In addition, Mrs. Miller's lack of motherly guidance becomes a serious and deadly problem. Finally, Daisy's wild claims to Winterbourne's attention show her as outrageous and rapacious for the company of men. All this bad behavior of the Millers is ironically played out in front of Mrs. Walker, the person set up as the Miller's friend, their go-between and chance for social inclusion.
The American innocence of the three Millers is bound to have dire results. James purposefully sets the story in the seat of western civilization: Rome; there the ancient is starkly juxtaposed with the new. From the beginning of the section, Randolph and Mrs. Miller want to go back to America, but Daisy is amused by the sights and the company and wants to stay. But since she refuses to follow the social code, she seems to be speeding towards the inevitable collision between old and new. Ironically, the proper Winterbourne remains attracted to the rash Daisy and constantly defends her as an innocent. But the reader is made to question, throughout this section, whether Daisy's extreme American innocence is refreshing and somewhat understandable or stupidly blind to danger.