The character of "central observing consciousness" through whom we learn most of the events of the story and a colored perspective of the other characters in the novella, namely Daisy Miller. He is a young American man who had lived and schooled in Geneva most of his life, thus taking on European airs. It is rumored he remains in Geneva because of a clever foreign woman. He visits his aunt because it is proper. He is often persuaded by her opinions though cannot take the harsh view of Daisy that she holds because he finds Daisy extremely beautiful and innocently sweet, a product of her homeland. Still, he is swayed toward believing Daisy is improper because of her indiscretions with Mr. Giovanelli. He finally tells her that he does not care what she does with her life. After her death, he realizes that his final judgment of Daisy was incorrect. His first impression of her innocence and love for life was more on target. He admits this to his aunt but continues to live outside of America in Geneva.
The title character of the novella, James's work moves toward exploring Daisy's character as a vehicle for the clash of American innocence and spontaneity with European propriety and custom. She is a young lady from Schenectady, New York where her father is a wealthy businessman. She has traveled to Europe with her mother and brother and takes great advantage of the social scene abroad. She has enjoyed the company of many gentlemen in New York about which she easily brags but she has no intention of being more than a flirt. Daisy acts on first instinct, naturally following her reflexes and acting on her feelings. She is a symbol of America's natural innocence and looser modes of custom. She is a type, representing the American flirt. She refuses to obey the rules of European society (including that of the Americans abroad in Europe) and is thus a regular topic of gossip. She becomes good friends with Winterbourne in Vevey as they are mutually attracted to one another and he shows her favor. In Rome, she becomes very close to the Italian Mr. Giovanelli prompting further repudiation by her compatriots. When hurt by Winterbourne's rebuff, she goes too far and declares that she does not care whether she gets the Roman fever or not. Subsequently, she dies, likely as much from Winterbourne's rejection as the fever.
Daisy's mother, she is a model of America's loosely controlling mother figure. She is the opposite of a higher class European mother because she allows her daughter to know men she has not met and permits Daisy to do as she chooses. Mrs. Miller is timid meeting Winterbourne and openly admits that she is not able to persuade her son into going to bed but hopes her courier will do it. She agrees easily to Daisy's venture to Chillon with Winterbourne, although they would be alone. She allows Daisy to frolic with Roman society, inviting a snubbing from the Americans abroad. She often leaves Daisy alone with Giovanelli in their hotel room. However, when Daisy is ill, she proves herself to be efficient and composed and Winterbourne realizes that he did not give her enough credit.
Daisy's brother, Randolph is a young boy who introduces Daisy to Winterbourne. He had approached the man without hesitation, symbolic of the American lack of custom. He usually complains of missing America and American candy. His control over his family, stopping their trip to Chillon and refusing to go to bed, illustrates the family dynamic.
Winterbourne's aunt, Mrs. Costello is the typical older European woman of prestige. She is American but with European airs, not much liked by her sons but respected by her nephew, Winterbourne. Her circles in America were exclusive and she claimed that she would have made a great impression upon the world if it were not for her frequent headaches. She immediately looks down upon the Miller family because of their new money, unsophisticated conduct, and intimacy with their courier. She is unable to see beyond these issues, instantly judging Daisy based on the stereotype she sees her fulfilling as the young American flirt. She constantly gossips to her compatriots. She warns Winterbourne to avoid the family. She never comes into contact with Daisy however, establishing her as an outside influence upon Winterbourne.
An American woman Winterbourne was acquainted with in Geneva, she also exemplifies the values of the formal European American similar to Mrs. Costello. She however is at first friends with Daisy Miller in Vevey. Once she moves to Rome though, where the morals system is much more rigid and cold, she can no longer condone the frivolity of Daisy's actions. She finds Mrs. Miller to be ignorant and idiotic. She rushes after Daisy on the Pincio because Daisy is making a scene by walking with two men. After Daisy refuses to give into the rules of Roman society, she casts the girl away, first ignoring Daisy at her party and then pledging to never allow Daisy in her house again. Even Winterbourne, who slowly moves toward a disapproval of Daisy, criticizes Mrs. Walker for her harsh overreaction toward Daisy.
The Miller's courier, he is a European servant employed to aid and lead the family through Europe, making reservations and so forth. His apparent intimacy however with the family brings criticism from the American circle abroad as it is a mark of vulgarity. Mrs. Miller depends on Eugenio to get Randolph to bed and hopes he can dissuade Daisy from taking an evening boat ride with Winterbourne. Thus, Eugenio holds a great deal of power in the family. The disdain he shows toward Winterbourne and Daisy's other beaus highlights his urbanity in comparison to the lack of knowledge held by the Millers.
With a name meaning young man in Italian, Giovanelli fulfills this type in order to establish an expressive contrast with the innocent and natural Daisy. Giovanelli is urbane and artificial. An exquisitely appareled young Italian man, he dazzles Daisy. Winterbourne however notices that Giovanelli is an imitation of a gentleman, capable of covering over his emotions. This artificial quality is symbolized in his crude wearing of flowers in his buttonhole.Winterbourne uncovers that Giovanelli is a lawyer of a lesser class. Giovanelli foolishly allows Daisy to be in a area where she is likely to get sick at night because he is not worried for himself. He is not gentleman enough to place her safety above his desire to please her. At Daisy's funeral, Giovanelli admits to Winterbourne that Daisy was the most innocent and that she never intended to marry him. This information finally illuminates Daisy's true character to Winterbourne.
The friend tells Winterbourne how he saw Daisy in the Dorio Palace Gallery. His notice of her companion, Giovanelli, causes him to question Winterbourne's claim that Daisy is a lady. This news brings Winterbourne to try, unsuccessfully, to warn Mrs. Miller about the dangers of allowing Daisy to break the rules of decorum.
Daisy Miller Questions and Answers
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Daisy was judged harshly because she was different. Her American upbringing was far different than that of the European girls she came into contact with. She was independent, fun loving, flirtacious, and what the Europeans considered to be morally...