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Daisy Miller: A Comedy by Henry James

Daisy Miller: A Comedy

by Henry James, Henry James

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Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
The plot is simply told: while touring Europe, an eligible young bachelor, Winterbourne, an American who has spent almost his whole life in Geneva, finds himself attracted to the beautiful, nouveau riche American tourist Daisy Miller. Within a few sentences, the conflict emerges: while he is guarded and conservative, she is brash and even coarse. Does she flout social convention because she’s too innocent to recognize it, or simply because she refuses to be bound by it?

James depicts Daisy as a sort of adult child: beautiful, possessing a sophisticated eye for style, but also impetuous, naïve and plain-spoken in the way children are before they are taught by their elders to dissemble. While modern readers may be put off by her coarseness (treating servants as equals, making plans to travel with gentleman sans chaperone, etc.), I believe James means us to admire her self-confidence and courage. Many of his novels pit “brash” Americans against “conventional” European characters in a way that clearly indicates his preference for the former. Daisy’s fatal flaw isn’t that she scorns the rules of society, he seems to say, but that she isn’t aware of them; and that when she is made aware of them, she refuses to acknowledge the validity of being judged by them. As Daisy herself says in one pivotal scene: “If [I] am all improper, [then] you must give me up.”

This being James, you know not to expect a happy ending, nor does James give us one. Winterbourne, bowing to the prejudices of his snobbish aunt (plus a measure of jealousy, James implies), overmasters his affection and convinces himself to give Daisy up as unworthy of his regard. Whereupon Daisy catches “Roman fever,” sickens, and dies. Significantly, her final words are an avowal of her innocence, an avowal which her "scandalous" male companion Giovanni, endearingly resigned to having been “friend-zoned” by the lovely American girl, confirms when he assures Winterbourne, “She was the most innocent.” James at his most manipulative, offering us a final chance to contrast Daisy’s strength – her determination to remain herself to the end - against Winterbourne’s weakness – his decision to shun her. Ultimately, the lesson seems to be that while Daisy is destroyed by her own innocence, Winterbourne’s chance of happiness is destroyed too, by his inability to accept her on her own terms. As Winterbourne sums up in the final pages: “I was booked to make a mistake. I have lived too long in foreign parts.”

If you’ve been hesitant to take on Henry James, this isn’t a bad place to start. Daisy Miller is short (~100 pages, depending on edition), introduces many of the themes that appear in James’ subsequent works, and – perhaps most importantly, provides the new reader a chance to acclimate themselves to what one might call the “classic Jamesian denoument,” in which no one lives happily ever after and the reader resigns themselves to living with ambiguity. ( )
  Dorritt | Jul 31, 2015 |
The character Daisy Miller presents a bit of a mystery, appearing aloof from society's impressions and entirely uncaring. This perception is more than half the fault of the narrator, as it turns out, who is American by birth but has become European by habit. There's an autobiographical element to this novella since James himself was accused by his brother of having become too European in his outlook. It's probably the easiest read I've encountered so far among James' repertoire, not very indicative of his style in general, but the theme of American versus European society will occur again. ( )
  Cecrow | Jul 7, 2015 |
I enjoy a lot reading this book is very fresh and well written Henry James manage to describe the difference between the american and the italian society in the time, as well as their manners. Is a very good book and very easy to read. ( )
  CaroPi | May 22, 2015 |
Winterbourne is a young American who has made his home in Switzerland. While visiting an aunt in Vevey, he encounters a young American boy who soon introduces Winterbourne to his sister, Daisy Miller. After a brief acquaintance with Daisy Miller in Vevey, Winterbourne encounters her again several months later in Rome. The Millers seem to have more money than class. Mrs. Miller seems to have no control over her children. Among the expatriates in Rome, Daisy has tarnished her reputation by keeping company with an Italian man without a chaperone in attendance. Winterbourne doesn't know what to make of Daisy. Is she immoral or just socially naïve? Just as Winterbourne is making up his mind, tragedy strikes.

Daisy Miller is a study of both character and culture. The American expatriates aren't just shocked by Daisy's unchaperoned excursions. Her worst offense seems to be keeping company with foreign men. (Nevermind that the Americans are the real foreigners in the story.) The Millers have a European escort whom they treat as an equal, a social faux pas. Winterbourne is intrigued by Daisy and is torn between helping her repair her reputation and contributing to its ruin. I recommend reading this novella in a single sitting for best effect. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Feb 16, 2015 |
He remembered that a cynical compatriot has once told him that American women - the pretty ones, and this gave a largeness to the axiom - were at once the most exacting in the world and the least endowed with a sense of indebtedness. Page 32

Daisy Miller is an young woman from Schenectady, New York, on vacation with her family to Vevay Switzerland. From the beginning, her actions, her thoughts, and her words sets her apart from European society and their definition of acceptable social conduct. Her carefree and uninhibited nature sets her at odds with those around her and in the end leads to catastrophic and irreversible consequences.

I appreciated James social commentary on the differences between American and English society and how someone who is unfamiliar with one or the other will inevitably find themselves treading dangerous territory. Daisy as a character is intriguing in that you can definitely see how ahead of the times she is and simultaneously how ahead of the the times, James is as a writer in the mid to late 19 century. Her pushing of boundaries in what society deems as proper and right and her insistence to go her own way oddly reflects the spirit of freedom that we applaud and advocate for women today. Some have complained about the tendency for James to be verbose and longwinded with this writing, but at novella length, I barely noticed that flaw with Daisy Miller. If anything, this little book was just an exercise in warming up the pen for his later works and with that, Daisy Miller has given me the confidence to explore Henry James' other novels. ( )
1 vote jolerie | Feb 15, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
James, Henrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Moore, GeoffreyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vondeling, KlaasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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At the little town of Vevey, in Switzerland, there is a particularly
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This work is the main work for Daisy Miller, by Henry James. It should not be combined with omnibus editions that contain Daisy Miller with other works; work-to-work relationships indicate that information.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140432620, Mass Market Paperback)

"Daisy Miller" is a fascinating portrait of a young woman from Schenectady, New York, who, traveling in Europe, runs afoul of the socially pretentious American expatriate community in Rome. First published in 1878, the novella brought American novelist Henry James(1843-1916), then living in London, his first international success. Like many of James's early works, it portrays a venturesome American girl in the treacherous waters of European society - a theme that would culminate in his 1881 masterpiece, "The Portrait of a Lady."

On the surface, "Daisy Miller" unfolds a simple story of a young American girl's willful yet innocent flirtation with a young Italian, and its unfortunate consequences. But throughout the narrative, James contrasts American customs and values with European manners and morals in a tale rich in psychological and social insight. A vivid portrayal of Americans abroad and a telling encounter between the values of the Old and New Worlds, "Daisy Miller" is an ideal introduction to the work of one of America's greatest writers of fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:11 -0400)

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Classic novella about a captivating young American whose behavior causes conflicting feelings in the mind of would-be suitor, Winterbourne.

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