Daisy Miller Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Daisy Miller: Novel Summary: Part II

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Winterbourne asks his aunt, Mrs. Costello, about the Miller family. The aunt says that she has seen them and heard things about them, and that she has avoided them. Winterbourne mentions a few things about his aunt, such as her apparently strong influence in Washington, and her minute understanding of the complex social hierarchies of New York City. She used this city as her reason, he says, for being so "exclusive." Mrs. Costello seems to think that the Millers occupy a low place in the social scale. She calls them "common." She admits that Daisy dresses very well, but that all such American woman dress well. She also talks about a strange intimacy with their courier, who they treat as a member of the family and a gentleman. Winterbourne tells his aunt about his encounter with Daisy, and he tells her about his offer to introduce Daisy to her to guarantee his respectability. Mrs. Costello surprises Winterbourne by using Daisy's response to Winterbourne's boldness as a reason to refuse to meet her. She warns Winterbourne not to "meddle" with Daisy any longer because he is too innocent.
Winterbourne finds Daisy later that evening in the garden. She mentions her mother's weak constitution and frequent illness. They walk around for a little while, and Daisy says that she heard a great deal about Mrs. Costello from the chambermaid, including that she is very exclusive. Daisy says that she would like to meet her, and Winterbourne tries to make up something to avoid having to tell her what Mrs. Costello said. She quickly guesses that Mrs. Costello won't see her. To Winterbourne's surprise, Daisy seems not to be hurt or offended.
Mrs. Miller appears but doesn't approach. Daisy says that she is staying away because of Winterbourne. She says that her mother is quite timid, but that she always introduces her gentleman friends. Daisy introduces him to her mother, and Winterbourne remarks to himself that though she is common, she can be graceful. Winterbourne notices that the older woman is decorated with large diamonds and is well dressed, but that she otherwise looks unimpressive. Daisy asks her mother why she is wandering around, and they begin a conversation about Randolph's erratic sleeping habits that Winterbourne also shares. The topic of the castle comes up, and Daisy declares that she is going to tour it with Winterbourne. Mrs. Miller doesn't respond, and Winterbourne assumes that she disapproves. Instead, though, she asks how they plan to get there. She makes a feeble attempt to suggest that her daughter wait until Italy to tour any more castles, but it fails. Winterbourne offers Mrs. Miller the opportunity to join them on the trip, but she says that Daisy should go alone. Winterbourne observes that Mrs. Miller is quite different from the "vigilant" mothers that he encountered in Geneva.
Daisy interrupts Winterbourne's thinking to ask him if he would take her out in a boat. He agrees, but Mrs. Miller quickly objects. Then it seems to become a game. Mrs. Miller seems to make a few weak attempts to dissuade them from rowing on Lake Geneva at night, while Winterbourne entreats Daisy to join him in a boat, and Daisy doesn't move. Eventually, Eugenio appears to tell them that he has succeeded in getting Randolph to go to sleep. Mrs. Miller appeals to him to intervene, and he suggests to Daisy that she not go out in the boat. She seems to try to shock Eugenio, but she fails. In the end, she says that she was hoping he would "make a fuss," and leaves him, with her mother and Eugenio, to go to bed. She says that she hopes Winterbourne is "disappointed, or disgusted, or something." Winterbourne says he is puzzled, but he decides that he would still very much like to go off with her somewhere.
After this incident, the story jumps to the trip to the castle. Winterbourne meets Daisy in the large hotel hall, and as he watches her approach he fantasizes that they are going to elope together. They cross to the castle on a steamer, while Daisy prattles. She eventually tells Winterbourne that he looks "grim," which he objects to. He says he is quite happy. They arrive at the castle, and Winterbourne soon observes that Daisy doesn't seem that interested in it. He pays the custodian to allow them extra time alone, and Daisy asks him several questions about himself and his family. She eventually suggests that he become Randolph's teacher and travel with them to Italy. Instead, he admits that he needs to return to Geneva the next day. She assumes that he must hurry back because of a romantic interest, and he denies it. She pretends to be offended, and she spends the rest of the visit attacking the imaginary woman.
Daisy asks Winterbourne to visit them in Rome, and Winterbourne replies that he certainly will. His aunt, he says, has just taken an apartment in Rome and asked him to visit. She replies that she doesn't want him to come to Rome for his aunt, but for her. She is quiet the rest of the trip.
Winterbourne tells his aunt about the trip, and her response is to reiterate her disdain and disapproval of the Miller family.
This is the romantic high point for Winterbourne, and Daisy's protests at the castle about the fact that he will be leaving the next day goes a long way toward making him believe that she has a real, romantic interest in him. Future events will change his attitude toward this visit, but he seems to have sincere hopes at the end of the section.
The characterization of Mrs. Miller, though, is also significant. She is completely ineffective as a brake on Daisy's caprices, and instead she seems to be under Daisy's orders most of the time. In this sense, Daisy becomes "unprotected." The implication is that she will be vulnerable to Winterbourne's approaches, but she will also be unprotected in the much larger (and more dangerous) society in Rome. Eugenio also struggles to control Daisy, and he seems either uninterested or unintentionally effective.
The starlight rowing trip becomes most interesting in light of Winterbourne's response. Instead of becoming frustrated enough with Daisy to avoid her company, Winterbourne spends a day with her.
The subtitle of the story, "A Study," becomes puzzling at this point. It seems unclear whether the author intends to offer Daisy as a study, or Winterbourne.


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