English 254 Class #5 Wed Jan 23
Henry James, Daisy Miller
1. What is this story about—at least so far? What is the primary conflict? Do any of the characters have an internal conflict?
2. What is the atmosphere of the story (setting + tone), and how does the atmosphere affect the action and meaning of the story?
3. Who is the protagonist, and who is the antagonist?
4. What do we know about Winterbourne?
5. What do we know about Daisy?
6. What is the social code in
7. Clearly Daisy wants "society," but she seems unwilling or unable to accept the complex social code that is essential to acceptance in that society. What does she value most: personal freedom, social acceptance, or flirting?
8. What are Winterbourne’s intentions? Does he love Daisy Miller?
9. In August 1880, in a letter to one of his readers, James defended his portrayal of Daisy and emphasized her innocence:
Poor little Daisy Miller was, as I understand her, above all
things innocent. It was not to make a scandal, or because she
took pleasure in a scandal, that she "went on" with Giovanelli.
She never took the measure really of the scandal she produced,
and had no means of doing so: she was too ignorant, too
irreflective, too little versed in the proportions of things.... She
was a flirt, a perfectly superficial and unmalicious one....I did
not mean to suggest that she was playing off Giovanelli against
Winterbourne--for she was too innocent for that.
Does James' defense ring true? Does Daisy's behavior really suggest that she was not "playing off Giovanelli against Winterbourne"?
10. What does the scene at the Colosseum reveal about each of the three characters in the love triangle, Daisy, Giovanelli, and Winterbourne?
11. For some readers, Daisy's visit to the Colosseum with Giovanelli near midnight is a sign of moral collapse, as though she had been seduced by him and, like the "fallen woman" in the sentimental novels of an earlier age, she must die for her moral laxity. Is it to Daisy's sexual conduct that Giovanelli and Winterbourne refer so emphatically when they make the following comments about Daisy at her grave:
"She was the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the
most amiable." And then he added in a moment, "And she was
the most innocent."
Winterbourne looked at him, and presently repeated his
words, "And the most innocent?"
"The most innocent!" (527)
12. Is Daisy the victim of her own ignorance and innocence? Or is her death the fault of the rigid society that rejected her and thereby encouraged her fatal relationship with Giovanelli? Does the story suggest that arrogant disregard of society is lethal? Does it suggest that association with the lowly brings ruin and death?
13. Here is the crucial question of the story: what is Daisy Miller? Is she a flirt, an innocent, a rebel, or something else? Who or what determines the appropriate label—the society in which she finds herself, or American society, or she herself, or someone/something else?
Three related questions: What motivates her actions throughout this novella? How does Winterbourne interpret her behavior? How does James seem to interpret it?
14. Why does James "kill off" Daisy?
15. Daisy Miller is told in the third person, but the events of the novel are presented through the narrow perceptions of Winterbourne. Is the story primarily about Daisy, or is the story equally about Winterbourne and the experiences with Daisy that cause him to confront the inadequacies, the hesitations, the failures of his own life?