Daisy Miller: Metaphor Analysis
The Castle (Chateau de Chillon)
Daisy and Winterbourne's romp through the castle could be read as a metaphor for the way that Daisy treats the established structures of polite behavior. The strict morality that governs polite society might be ancient and crumbling, but it is large and imposing, and certainly a fact. But Daisy is not very interested in the castle, being much more interested in looking pretty and having fun with her new friend. She uses the castle as an excuse to be socially daring and to have fun. Although Winterbourne is an expert on the castle and its history, he uses it in much the same way as Daisy.
Another name for malaria, and with historical importance in the Roman empire, this actual disease becomes a metaphor for the social dangers of impolite behavior. Mrs. Walker warns Daisy of the threat of malaria when she mentions her plans to take a walk in a park with Giovanelli. Mrs. Walker knows that the real threat of malaria in such a situation is relatively small, but she is using the disease as a way to frighten Daisy into behaving better. This disease becomes connected with social pressures; Daisy's death from Roman fever therefore suggests also a death from social causes. The reasoning goes as follows: nice girls don't travel about in the middle of the night, which is the time when people thought that the risk of the fever was greatest. Therefore, nice girls don't catch this disease, and nice girls don't die from it.
This ancient ruin from Roman times becomes the scene of the climax of the novel, and here Winterbourne makes a decision about Daisy. He decides that she is not a nice girl because nice girls don't go the Colosseum at night. He finds Daisy and Giovanelli in the middle of the arena floor on the "great cross," and Daisy says that Winterbourne looks at them like one of the lions that were used to kill the Christian prisoners in the arena in Roman times. This setting makes Daisy's indiscretion a more public spectacle, conveying the feeling that they are on a public stage surrounded by empty seats. Moreover, Daisy's suggestion that Winterbourne resembles a lion approaching to kill and eat them connects Winterbourne with her destruction, and adds significance to the judgment he passes on Daisy, and that he quickly communicates to her-that it doesn't matter if she is engaged or not if she behaves like this. The Colosseum is a symbol of the public performance of Daisy's downfall, and its age and its long history suggest that people like her have been eaten by lions for thousands of years.