header logo
Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller Summary


Here you will find a Daisy Miller summary (Henry James's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page. But the summaries are totally free!

Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Daisy Miller Summary Overview

In the exquisite Swiss holiday destination of Vevey, a young American man, Winterbourne, crosses paths with Daisy Miller, a wealthy yet naive American girl touring Europe with her family. Having spent the majority of his existence in Geneva, Winterbourne is intrigued and captivated by Daisy's unorthodox behavior that breaks from the decorum expected of European women. Despite facing the disapproval from his aunt, Mrs. Costello, he decides to spend more time with Daisy and even accompanies her to Chillon Castle, a renowned local attraction, without a chaperone. Winterbourne reunites with Daisy in Rome the following winter, only to be disturbed upon hearing rumors from his aunt about Daisy's new companions, renowned gold-diggers, and her becoming the talk of the town. He's particularly shocked by Daisy's close association with Mr. Giovanelli, a charming yet enigmatic Italian man, whose relationship with Daisy has left Winterbourne baffled and has drawn criticism from the American community in Rome, including Mrs. Walker, a prominent figure in the Roman high society. Despite Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker's attempts to caution Daisy about the damage her conduct is causing to her reputation, she turns a deaf ear. Her deepening connection with Mr. Giovanelli and her inconsistent statements about their relationship status leave Winterbourne questioning her character. One evening, he finds Daisy and Giovanelli at the Coliseum, a malaria hotspot, and is immediately disillusioned with her apparent lack of self-respect. However, concern for her well-being prevails, leading him to reprimand Giovanelli and implore him to ensure her safety. Unfortunately, Daisy falls seriously ill shortly after and passes away. Before her demise, she sends a message to Winterbourne through her mother, revealing that his opinion of her mattered. A year later, reflecting on Daisy’s message, Winterbourne admits to his aunt that he committed a grave error in judgment and confesses that he has been living in Europe for too long. Despite this, he eventually returns to the familiarity of his past life in Geneva.

chapter 1

At a Swiss holiday spot, Vevey, a youthful American named Winterbourne encounters a vivacious American girl, Daisy Miller, and her little brother, Randolph. Winterbourne, a long-time resident of Geneva, is intrigued by Daisy's spontaneous yet coarse demeanor. Winterbourne is unfamiliar with Daisy's open and unreserved nature, as she freely discusses her life and boasts of numerous "gentlemen friends". He's unsure whether Daisy's behavior is typical of girls from New York or if she's cunningly trying to entrap him. He concludes, however, that she's merely a naive American flirt, which eases his apprehension. Soon, Daisy expresses her wish to see the renowned Chillon Castle across Lake Geneva, and Winterbourne is surprised yet pleased to find himself as her sole escort. Things take a further unexpected turn when Eugenio, the Miller’s courier, arrives and Daisy confidently informs him about her plans with Winterbourne. Eugenio's sarcastic disapproval and suggestive glance towards Winterbourne hint at Daisy's regular rendezvous with men. To assure his honorable intentions, Winterbourne decides to introduce Daisy to his aunt, an action more aimed at comforting Eugenio than Daisy, who appears oblivious to the situation.

chapter 2

Winterbourne intends to acquaint Daisy with his aunt, Mrs. Costello, but the latter has observed the Millers already and has a negative opinion about them, describing them as “common.” Winterbourne defends them, calling them simply “uncultivated.” He further expresses his personal liking for Daisy, mentioning his plan to accompany her to the Chateau de Chillon. This statement only strengthens Mrs. Costello's negative view of Daisy, resulting in her warning Winterbourne against involving himself with girls of Daisy's type. Later, when he meets Daisy, she expresses her desire to meet his aunt. Winterbourne, embarrassed, blames his aunt's health for being unable to arrange the meeting. Daisy doesn't initially grasp the rejection, but when she does, she laughs it off saying, “She doesn’t want to know me!” Winterbourne suspects her laughter hides some hurt. After a couple of days, Winterbourne takes Daisy to Chillon, an experience unlike any he's had before. He is somewhat comforted that she doesn't act overly noisy or laugh excessively, leading him to reconsider his initial impression of her as “common.” At the castle, Daisy is energetic and expressive, pretending to be terrified of the place's gothic appeal. Her interest doesn't lie in history or tradition though, and she spends the trip mostly talking about herself and probing Winterbourne with personal questions. Winterbourne's mention of his impending return to Geneva alters Daisy's mood. She pretends to be angry, teasing him until he promises to visit her in Rome the next winter. She remains quiet for the rest of their journey home.

chapter 3

During winter, Mrs. Costello invites Winterbourne to Rome and requests a novel, Paule Méré. She mentions the Millers are also in Rome, with Daisy stirring quite a bit of talk among the American community. Daisy has been interacting with prospective suitors and attending unescorted parties with an unfamiliar Italian man, “a gentleman with a good deal of manner and a wonderful mustache.” Upon arriving in Rome, Winterbourne meets the Millers at Mrs. Walker's home, a wealthy acquaintance from Geneva. Daisy chastises Winterbourne for visiting Mrs. Walker before her and also requests to bring “the beautiful Giovanelli” to Mrs. Walker's upcoming grand party, even though no one knows him. Mrs. Walker reluctantly agrees. Daisy reveals plans to meet Mr. Giovanelli at the Pincio Gardens, a popular social gathering place. Mrs. Walker opposes this due to societal norms, while Mrs. Miller worries about Daisy's health due to the risk of "Roman fever" or malaria. Despite their advice, Daisy insists on proceeding and invites Winterbourne along. Winterbourne is surprised to meet Mr. Giovanelli, who appears to him as a subpar version of a gentleman. He can't fathom why Daisy would publicly display her relationship with such a man in a crowded area of Rome. He sees Daisy as “an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence.” Mrs. Walker arrives in a horse-drawn carriage, concerned about Daisy's reputation. She attempts to convince Daisy to leave with her and Winterbourne, but Daisy simply responds with, "If this is improper [. . .] then I am all improper, and you must give me up." Daisy continues her walk with Giovanelli, leaving Mrs. Walker bewildered and upset. Winterbourne spots Daisy and Giovanelli sitting on a bench at the Villa Borghese as he exits Mrs. Walker's carriage. Giovanelli takes Daisy's parasol and positions it to obstruct them from view while Winterbourne looks on.

chapter 4

At a social gathering, Winterbourne tries to help Daisy understand the implications of her flirtatious behavior, which is frowned upon in Italy. Daisy insists she is simply a flirt, and when Winterbourne hints that she might be in love with Giovanelli, she deflects and accuses him of being unpleasant. She spends the remainder of the night with Giovanelli. When the Millers leave, Mrs. Walker snubs Daisy, leaving her visibly upset. Mrs. Walker insists she will not invite Daisy into her home again. Winterbourne keeps visiting Daisy, who is consistently in the company of Giovanelli. Daisy's reputation suffers in the local society, and she no longer receives invitations from the American community. Seeing Daisy with Giovanelli at St. Peter’s, Winterbourne's aunt, Mrs. Costello, wryly suggests the courier may have introduced them for a commission on their potential marriage. Winterbourne doubts Daisy’s intention of marrying Giovanelli. Mrs. Costello dismisses Daisy’s behavior as vulgar and thoughtless. Winterbourne is exposed to the widespread disapproval Daisy's actions are causing. Even in the face of these negative opinions, he finds himself sympathetic towards her. He hears a rumor about Daisy and Giovanelli spending time alone in a small room at the Doria Palace. He tries to advise Mrs. Miller about Daisy’s behavior, but she seems to believe Daisy and Giovanelli are betrothed. Winterbourne still struggles to understand Daisy and her disregard for societal norms. One day, Daisy accuses Winterbourne of judging her relationship with Giovanelli. He admits that people judge her, but he defends her. Daisy ambiguously states they are engaged but then denies it. Later, Winterbourne is surprised to find Daisy and Giovanelli late at the Coliseum, a notorious spot for malaria. He warns them about the danger, but Daisy seems unbothered. The encounter leads him to conclude that Daisy is no longer his concern. Soon after, news reaches Winterbourne that Daisy is seriously ill. Mrs. Miller nurses her devotedly and conveys a message from Daisy stating she was never engaged to Giovanelli. She also asks if Winterbourne remembers their visit to a castle in Switzerland. Daisy eventually succumbs to her illness and is buried in Rome. At her funeral, Giovanelli praises her innocence and beauty and admits he would not have won her hand in marriage. Haunted by Daisy’s memory, Winterbourne confesses to his aunt, Mrs. Costello, that he had misjudged Daisy. Recalling Daisy's last message, he realizes she cared about his opinion. Mrs. Costello wonders if Daisy would have reciprocated Winterbourne's feelings. Acknowledging his mistake, Winterbourne admits to having lost touch with his own culture due to living abroad for too long. Despite this, he returns to his life in Geneva.

Enjoying this summary?
Buy the book! (it's better)

People who recommended Daisy Miller

Lists that recommended Daisy Miller