by Henry James
1878/ 104 pages (?)
rating – 10 / classic of classics –
I’ve read Daisy Miller at least a couple times prior to this read but it’s soooo good – Similar to The Turn of the Screw and other shorter works by James. Every word counts – maybe twice – I love it.
Part 1 is mainly a character study of several people taking a holiday at a resort in Switzerland. They are all originally Americans but one has lived in Europe for many years, another for several years and the remaining major characters are only visiting Europe for the first time. The resort is full of Americans at this time circa 1876? (published in 1878). It was very much a status thing at the time.
* 1st person “narrator” – Henry James? – only very briefly seen in the very first pages. The tale is mostly told in 3rd person.
* Winterbourne – a young man visiting his widowed aunt, Mrs Costello. It’s rumored that he has an older woman/lover (?) in Geneva where he usually lives although that relationship might only be rumor. He’s an American but has lived in Europe for probably a couple years.
* Daisy Miller – a beautiful young (age 19?) American girl of the upper class in Schenectady with some ties to New York. She’s spoiled, willful, flirtatious and friendly. Says she loves Europe but it’s because she wants to be a part of the “in” crowd here – the really upper crust ex-pats.
** Schenectedy, New York was NOT the pinnacle of society in those days – or ever. – lol. It’s s a true backwater, about 170 miles from NY and a place where even the rich and well educated folks probably said “ain’t” in those days.
* Randolph Miller- a 9-year old boy who is spoiled and willful – just like his sister. He likes America better. Overly friendly with hotel staff.
* Eugenio – the “courier” for the Millers – disapproves of the Millers for their overly familiar ways. He’s a product of old Europe.
* Mrs Costello – the rich widowed aunt of Winterbourne – very snobbish, a part of the “in” crowd of ex-pats and quite protective of that station. Has headaches.
* Mrs Miller – the mother of Daisy and Randolph – (father is not along) – embarrassed about her children because she knows they don’t “fit.” Doesn’t sleep a lot, she must have other issues – maybe with dad or she’s chasing Randolph.
Mrs Walker – the expat social center of Rome
Mr Giovanni – Daisy’s paramour in Rome – the one she scandalizes everyone with.
So we have the rich but unsophisticated Millers in collision with the ultra-snobbish expats in Europe.
There are many levels to the story – many ideas for interpretation but imo – it’s a culture class although Daisy is presented as being more in the “wrong” than the socialites.
I love this story –