Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
DAISY MILLER STUDY GUIDE
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
PART II: "ROME"
As the chapter unfolds and Daisy is challenged, both by Mrs. Walker and by Winterbourne, the difference between the unreasonable strictness of the social codes versus Daisy's nonchalant pleasure seeking grows stronger. Even though Winterbourne sees both sides (the American and the European; Daisy's code and Mrs. Walker's code), he is shocked that Daisy would take a walk in public, either alone or with Giovanelli. But at the same time, Winterbourne continues to be fascinated by Daisy's independence and knows that her mother is mostly to blame since she is not an active companion or guardian for the girl. Yet Daisy cannot be totally excused; she refuses to consider consequences when the social codes are explained to her. Again, Winterbourne partly understands, for he feels many of those codes are ridiculous; but he knows that complying would be the better choice for one as inexperienced as Daisy. James allows the reader, along with Winterbourne, to question social conventions and judge Daisy accordingly.
Another complication is Winterbourne's shaky status as a suitor. His relationship to Daisy is never clear throughout the story. At the beginning of this section, Daisy openly and obviously flirts with him, as if she would like him to be her suitor; towards the end of the section, she is frustrated with Winterbourne and his many questions and pieces of advice, particularly in reference to her "engagement." Daisy's urgent deathbed message, that she was not engaged, seems to be an appeal for Winterbourne's affections. Winterbourne himself neither confirms nor denies this, but changes the subject to his vague "mistake" as an expatriate American. Winterbourne's interest in Daisy is not stated as love; instead, it is firmly established as a fascination. By the end of the nouvelle, this failed love affair, filled with missed opportunities and lack of truthfulness, adds to the overall tragedy of the story.
James masterfully charts the developing affair between Daisy and Giovanelli with mounting detail. Each meeting between them breaks more of the social code. First they meet in Winterbourne's presence; then they are alone together in public; then they hide behind the parasol; next they are left alone at the piano at the Miller's hotel. Their insults to propriety mount until the last climatic scene in the Colosseum, where it becomes a final matter for Daisy, both socially and physically. The fact that Daisy would go to the Colosseum with Giovanelli alone at midnight is the "last straw" for her socially; all of Rome seems to be talking about her flaunting of the rules of propriety. The scene in the Colosseum also causes her physical demise; as a result of her foolishness, she is infected with malaria, the Roman Fever, and subsequently dies.
Throughout this section of the story, Giovanelli is marvelously silent, deferring always to Daisy's desires, even when he knows he should not. At the funeral he admits to his "disregard" for Daisy. He twice repeats that he was not afraid for himself; yet if he had any fear for Daisy, he ignored it and remained silent. He also admits he had no hope of marrying Daisy. The relationship between Daisy and Giovanelli reflects that European and American social codes have trouble co-existing; Daisy, in her innocence, could not correctly read either code. Giovanelli, on the other hand, chose to ignore both codes; as a result, Winterbourne practically regards Giovanelli as a murderer at Daisy's graveside.
The end of the nouvelle is foreshadowed throughout Part II of the story. Daisy's social demise is clearly indicated at Mrs. Walker's party when the hostess openly snubs the girl and refuses to bid her good night. Daisy's social standing in Rome can only go downhill after the party debacle. Daisy's "fever" is also foreshadowed twice in this section. Her mother initially mentions it as a deterrent to Daisy's first walk with Giovanelli, and Daisy mentions the dangers of fever on the walk with Winterbourne. Daisy's mention is more ironic, since she makes reference to "staying in Rome" whether she contracts the fever or not. In truth, the fever will cause her to stay in Rome forever, but not as Daisy would have desired. She wanted desperately to be the center of Roman society; instead the is hidden away in a dark corner of a small Roman cemetery.
James' juxtapositions in Daisy Miller are masterful. The subtle reflections of situations stand as both critique and humor. For instance, the author places Daisy at Mrs. Walker's party, where she rudely talks to Giovanelli and ignores the musical performances being presented by other guests; in a juxtaposed situation, Mrs. Costello holds court in St. Peter's with her American compatriots in order to gossip about Daisy in spite of the fact that there is a service being performed. James clearly shows the rudeness of both behaviors. The two men in Daisy's life are also juxtapositions.
Winterbourne, the true and proper gentlemen is never recognized by Daisy in that way; Giovanelli, who is an imitation of a gentleman in every way, is accepted by Daisy as the true gentleman. Winterbourne would never have allowed Daisy to go into the dangerous Colosseum at midnight; Giovanelli took her there, indirectly causing her death. But even Daisy herself possesses characteristics that are intentionally juxtaposed by the author. She is portrayed as being innocent (childlike and pure) and audacious (bold and daring); the wise and worldly Winterbourne recognizes that Daisy is an "inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence".