Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller Summary and Analysis of Chapters 2

When the headache of Mrs. Costello, Winterbourne' s aunt, had passed, Winterbourne attended her. After politely inquiring about her health, he asked if she had noticed the Miller family. With disgust she replied that she tried to avoid them. Mrs. Costello was a widow of wealth and distinction with striking white hair tied above her head. She was accustomed to claiming that she would have made quite an impression upon the world if it had not been for her headaches. Her three sons rarely visited her in contrast to the attention shown to her by her nephew Winterbourne who felt it one's duty to respect one's aunt. She thought highly of Winterbourne. Her circles were very exclusive as she thought necessary for a wealthy woman of New York. Her tone intimated to Winterbourne that Daisy Miller was one of lower social status and Mrs. Costello confirmed this consternation by referring to her as common. She described the girl as having the charm and good taste which American pretty girls tend to have but which in no way allow them to escape from commonness. Furthermore, she was abhorred at how the Millers treated their courier like a family friend. She guessed it was because he was a man of higher distinction than they were familiar meeting.

Winterbourne responded that Daisy had been quite pleasant to him and his aunt scolded him for not mentioning first that he was acquainted with Daisy. He said that he had promised to introduce her to his aunt. His aunt was again abhorred but Winterbourne continued by telling her that he was to take Daisy alone to the Château de Chillon after only knowing her for a half hour. Mrs. Costello thought Daisy dreadful and Winterbourne began to doubt a little. His aunt scolded him for being too innocent because he had been out of America for so long to which Winterbourne responded that he was not so innocent. Mrs. Costello thought this no better. Winterbourne inquired if not all American girls acted in this manner. She replied that her granddaughters certainly would not. Remembering how flirtatious they were supposed to be, Winterbourne assumed that Daisy must be even worse. Mrs. Costello declined to meet Daisy.

Impatient to see Daisy, Winterbourne wandered the grounds that evening and soon ran into her. She was alone looking beautiful, carrying a very large fan, and she seemed rather bored. She explained that she had been walking with her mother but that her mother was trying to get Randolph to go to bed. Mrs. Miller would likely have Eugenio try to persuade him but Randolph was very obstinate. To Winterbourne's embarrassment, Daisy soon mentioned how she had looked for his aunt, as she had learned from a chambermaid that Mrs. Costello was the person to whom Winterbourne intended to introduce her, but had not yet seen her. The maid had informed her of Mrs. Costello's tastes and Daisy much wished to know her. Winterbourne tried to use the headaches as an excuse but Daisy soon realized the truth. She laughed shortly and told Winterbourne not be afraid because she was not. He perceived a slight tremor in her voice and was mortified. He began to hope he would have to comfort her but upon seeing her mother, Daisy's tone changed.

Her mother hesitated in front of them. Daisy explained that her mother was uncomfortable with Daisy's gentlemen friends but she refused to allow Winterbourne to leave. Winterbourne told Daisy his full name but it was too long for her and she introduced him as Mr. Winterbourne. Her mother was timid in his presence though Winterbourne tried to make small talk, mentioning that he was familiar with her son. Mrs. Miller noted that she could not get Randolph to bed because he wanted to talk with a waiter. Contrary to her mother's wishes, Daisy commented on how tiresome Randolph was because he would not go to the castle. Daisy however was happy because, as she notified her mother, Winterbourne would take her. Mrs. Miller was a silent for a time and then responded that they had wanted to go for awhile. As they spoke, Daisy skipped ahead finally turning around and telling Winterbourne to take her on a boat ride. It was eleven at night. He was surprised but delighted at the thought and agreed. Eugenio arrived and Mrs. Miller hoped he would talk Daisy out of going but upon learning that Winterbourne was to accompany her, Eugenio smiled and told her to do as she liked. He then mentioned that Randolph had gone to bed. Mrs. Miller declared to Daisy that now they could go, and Daisy lightly told Winterbourne that their trip was off. She and her mother followed Eugenio indoors.

Winterbourne was puzzled but he was able to take Daisy two days later to Chillon. Against his better judgment, they met in the large hall where all of the hotel guests could stare at them. It was Daisy's idea. As Daisy entered, Winterbourne felt as some romantic encounter was beginning. She chattered constantly on the steamer, giving many objective observations. He had feared she would be an embarrassment but his fears were calmed and he was pleased to be with such a pretty companion. She did disappoint him though. He had hoped being alone with him on this venture would make Daisy excited or fluttered, but she showed no signs of blushing. To Daisy, Winterbourne seemed grave though he felt he was smiling largely.

At the castle, Winterbourne arranged for them to be guided very loosely so that he and Daisy were mostly alone. He provided her with detailed histories which interested her little. She instead asked him for details of his life and family and told Winterbourne about her own. The news that he would be returning to Geneva shortly greatly dismayed her and she ridiculed him for returning to some charmer in Geneva, though she knew nothing in reality of such a woman. Finally Daisy made him promise to visit in Rome over the winter which he agreed to as he was supposed to visit his aunt there as well. During their drive home, Daisy was very quiet. When Winterbourne returned to his aunt that evening he told her how he had spent the day at Chillon alone with Daisy. Mrs. Costello shuddered at the thought of such a girl.

Chapter Two Analysis:

Mrs. Costello's character symbolizes old money and culture, even though she is American, and thus sets up a stark contrast to Daisy Miller, a character devoid of much ritual or formality. Mrs. Costello had lived much of her life in Europe and had kept a society so intentionally exclusive in America that she has separated herself from any of the qualities associated with the innocence and natural spontaneity of an American. Her reaction to Daisy's character then is not a surprise. She responds to Winterbourne's inquiry quickly with disgust and gives reasons which represent the affront felt by most Europeans when in contact with the Millers. Daisy's family is one of commonality and crudeness which Mrs. Costello proves by pointing to their intimacy with Eugenio, their courier. This condemnation strikes the reader significantly because of the manner in which the last chapter ended. We watched Eugenio look at Daisy and Winterbourne in disdain. As Mrs. Costello points to the way in which the Millers allow Eugenio to have such an intimate control over their lives, her insight provides us with another perspective on how to view the previous encounter. Eugenio is not only a contrast to Daisy but a condemnation of her.

Mrs. Costello is a woman who also sets up a contrast to Daisy and gives the reader the rigid formality of her viewpoint because of her relationship to Winterbourne. She does not come into contact with Daisy but knows her type. Since Winterbourne is willing to listen to his aunt and gives some credence to her observations, the reader can explore both the ways that Daisy may be overstepping her behavioral bounds and how Winterbourne is prejudiced against Daisy because of the rules of his society. For example, upon the mention of Mrs. Costello's granddaughters, whom Winterbourne had heard were tremendous flirts, Winterbourne immediately assumes that Daisy must be worse than they are instead of thinking that his cousins may be just as bad. Moreover, once Mrs. Costello tells Winterbourne about Eugenio's intimacy with Daisy, Winterbourne's mind has been influenced. The text reads, "Winterbourne listened with interest to these disclosures; they helped him to make up his mind about Miss Daisy. Evidently she was rather wild." Mrs. Costello also shows her disapproval and quickness to judge with the syntax employed and the language she uses. For instance, her devotion to a code of social behavior is expressed in the repetitiveness of her negative language. A good example of her negativity concerning Daisy, in addition to James's stress on category, is reflected in this statement, "They are the sort of Americans that one does one's duty by not -- not accepting."

James writes of Mrs. Costello's background that she is from New York, paralleling to some extent Daisy' background, to further allow for comparison between the two woman. Whereas Daisy does not believe that she should act differently in Europe than in Schenectady, Mrs. Costello's behavior is always refined and reserved. Still, James hints to the reader that she is not a character to be admired when he explains that her sons never come to visit her and that she "frequently intimated that, if she were not so dreadfully liable to sick-headaches, she probably would have left a deeper impression upon her time." James's tone here is sarcastic; he implies that her headaches are often used as an excuse, foreshadowing the excuse Winterbourne will try to give Daisy for his aunt not wanting to see her. Mrs. Costello's intimation also alerts the reader to her artifice, the pretense of her character which causes her to invent reasons why she is not as important as she believes she should be.

As much as Winterbourne wishes he was dissuaded from wanting to see Daisy, he wants to see her intently after talking with his aunt. He is embarrassed as to his aunt's response to meeting Daisy, but he is drawn to Daisy's side because of her beauty and freshness. His aunt has told him that he has been too long out of America and is thus too innocent. He replies that he is not innocent, which we can interpret meaning that he has been too long out of innocence. His attraction to Daisy is sexual on the surface and an attraction to innocence and spontaneity on the symbolic level. He is the distinguished gentleman attracted to the freely wild and innocent girl. Daisy represents to Winterbourne what he lacks, standing as a metaphor of what all of Europe lacks, as long as Daisy does not go too far with her social freedom. Her danger, which is foreshadowed many times, is that she will take stretch her cloak of innocence so far that it tarnishes all respect for her character and reputation. How much should that matter and how far should she restrict her carefree attitude?

When Winterbourne sees Daisy however all he can really worry about is how much he lusts for her. Though embarrassed, her prettiness makes Daisy a welcomed sight to Winterbourne. As they chatter, Daisy brings up the meeting with Winterbourne's aunt she was expected to have. She is innocently curious about the woman and had asked a chambermaid about her. She is impressed by the tales of Mrs. Costello's exclusivity and her frequent headaches. Her simplicity is shown in the following comment: "I like a lady to be exclusive; I'm dying to be exclusive myself. Well, we are exclusive, mother and I. We don't speak to everyone -- or they don't speak to us. I suppose it's about the same thing." Daisy admires people based on their exclusivity and thinks that she and her mother are being exclusive because many people choose not to speak to them. She cannot understand the formalized customs of the European social clime. However even Daisy picks up that Winterbourne is trying to hide the fact that Mrs. Costello does not want to meet her. She is not stupid, just innocent, and shows this side to Winterbourne when she tells him to not be afraid. She will not allow the cold heart of ritual to shake her free will or easy nature.

Mrs. Miller provides an even greater contrast to Mrs. Costello as they symbolize the maternal in terms of social custom in America and Europe. Daisy tells Winterbourne how her mother is timid and does not like to meet her gentleman friends. This is peculiar because most mothers, of propriety, would require their daughters to introduce them to any friends with whom they wished to keep company. If they were not properly introduced to any potential friends, their daughters would be kept away. Thus we observe how Mrs. Miller seems to condone her daughter's flighty behavior by not making any move to change it. When Winterbourne and Daisy do approach Mrs. Miller she is not surprised to see her daughter in the company of a strange man. She nonchalantly talks with Daisy about Randolph's refusal to go to bed. Her acquiescence to allow Randolph to refuse bed because he likes to talk with waiters is weak. She lacks the control over her child that a European mother would likely insist on having. Her treatment of Randolph parallels her behavior toward Daisy.

When Daisy alerts her mother to the fact that Winterbourne had offered to take Daisy to Chillon, Winterbourne expects that Mrs. Miller will harshly disapprove. The text states, "Winterbourne took for granted that she deeply disapproved of the projected excursion...[and] he was quite prepared to find that, as a matter of course, she meant to accompany her daughter." Yet, Mrs. Miller assumes nothing of the sort, mentioning that Daisy was always undertaking some large enterprise or another. Winterbourne asks her outright if she will accompany them and she rejects the idea. Furthermore in her speaking with Winterbourne, her language further exposes the uncultivated and crude aspects of the mother and daughter. Mrs. Miller tells Winterbourne, "We've been thinking ever so much about going." The phrase "ever so much" was regarded at the time as vulgar and unrefined. Daisy herself uses it liberally and one could say that they simply did not know any better. Thus we experience how Mrs. Miller is a symbol of the lighter moral restrictions embodied in American social maternity.

Winterbourne is puzzled by Daisy as she swivels on her spontaneity and confuses with her flightiness. We see her freedom of thought synecdochally when she tells Winterbourne to take her for a boat ride. The romantic idea of a star lit cruise with a pretty girl overwhelms his propriety and he agrees. Their language has a sexual undertone as their dialogue becomes quick and passionate, passing from one to another in an increasing fervor. James employs simple, action verbs, repetition, and exclamation points to mirror this passion. The dialogue follows: "'Do, then, let me give you a row,' he said to the young girl. 'It's quite lovely, the way you say that!' cried Daisy. 'It will be still more lovely to do it.' 'Yes, it would be lovely!'" Even Daisy's mother finds this suspect and by asking for Eugenio's help, further highlights Eugenio's powerful role in the Miller family. Yet Daisy does not understand her desires as wrong or right and sees no problem with telling Winterbourne to take her and then quickly changing her mind and leaving. This action is symbolic of Daisy's tendency to give little thought to consequences and it foreshadows her bad decision making later in the book which will bring about her demise. She can sometimes be too free with her actions.

The trip Winterbourne and Daisy do take to Chillon is relatively uneventful. Although Eugenio's little smile when Winterbourne is around Daisy implies that he does not trust Winterbourne's or Daisy's motives and even though Mrs. Costello finds Daisy to be a dreadful girl for going alone to Chillon with any man, nothing impure or improper occurs on their expedition. Winterbourne is swept away by the girl, feeling that he is going to elope and that a smile has overtaken his face. His lust for Daisy is again apparent in how the third person narrator describes Daisy's appearance through the eyes of Winterbourne, the "central intelligence." Daisy is illustrated as "squeezing her folding parasol against her pretty figure..." The use of the verb to squeeze and the preposition against describe a physical and visceral attraction. Yet the rest of the voyage is innocent. Winterbourne tries to give Daisy a history of the castle whereas Daisy is more concerned about personal histories. Her attention to Winterbourne is not unexpected when she is on a date with a potential suitor.

Winterbourne is surprised by the untasteful way in which Daisy responds to the news of his leaving but, as James is a realist, her reaction is quite true to character. She expects Winterbourne to wish to see her and she enjoys spending time with him. Winterbourne does not give a thought to the chance that he is insensitive to her feelings. He has been pursuing her by taking walks with Daisy and a trip to the castle but does not let her know that he is leaving very soon. Daisy is quite astute at guessing why Winterbourne is likely leaving Vevey, assuming that it is a mystery charmer which has been alluded to the reader as well. We are thus shown again that she may be simple and innocent but she is not dense. Mrs. Costello gets the last word of the chapter. After we have seen Daisy react to a series of events, Mrs. Costello throws in the typical European opinion of Daisy's flaunting about Europe. Mrs. Costello's "sniff" at the smelling bottle is symbolic of her feelings of superiority over Daisy but also of their everlasting differences. Daisy is a fresh, sun-loving flower whereas Mrs. Costello must reach to the stuffy contents of a bottle.