Daisy Miller

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Mrs. Costello Character Analysis

Winterbourne’s aunt, who leads a typical life of a society lady between seasons in Vevay and in Rome. She appreciates her nephew’s attentiveness, though she does not refrain from expressing her disapproval of his friendship with Daisy, whom she finds—together with Daisy’s family—vulgar and “common.” Mrs. Costello, indeed, possesses an acute and carefully shaded sense of social standing, and manages to situate the Millers on a low rung of her ladder, despite having to acknowledge their beautiful taste and Daisy’s charming manner.

Mrs. Costello Quotes in Daisy Miller

The Daisy Miller quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Costello or refer to Mrs. Costello. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
European and American Character Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Daisy Miller published in 1995.
Part 1: Les Trois Couronnes Quotes

“But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake. You are too innocent.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Costello (speaker), Daisy Miller, Mr. Winterbourne
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Costello, Winterbourne's aunt, has learned of his conversation with Daisy, and it is obvious that she does not approve. Mrs. Costello has noticed Daisy and her family around the hotel, and has been quick to point out their very American improprieties, such as being overly close and familiar with their servant, as well as their general "vulgarity."

Winterbourne has been attempting to discern whether or not Daisy is innocent, a judgment which assumes that he is knowledgeable enough to decide. Here Mrs. Costello reveals another, even opposite approach, suggesting that in fact Winterbourne is the innocent one, and Daisy the dangerous American interloper that he'll have be wary of. Mrs. Costello thus reflects the paradoxes of the way American character is perceived throughout the book. On the one hand, Americans—especially "little American girls"—are considered to lack the social sense and cultivation of Europeans; but in another way they are thought to be threatening and even conniving, the very opposite of innocent, and indeed liable to damage the innocence of well-meaning European men like Winterbourne. 

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Part 2: Rome Quotes

Winterbourne meditated a moment. “They are very ignorant—very innocent only. Depend upon it they are not bad.”

Related Characters: Mr. Winterbourne (speaker), Daisy Miller, Mrs. Miller, Randolph Miller, Mrs. Costello
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Winterbourne has just arrived in Rome, and Mrs. Costello is updating him about the earlier arrival of the Millers and their shocking behavior—particularly that of Daisy, who has taken to showing up at parties with an Italian man with a moustache. Here, Winterbourne seems to carefully consider his aunt's judgment, though not to embrace it wholeheartedly. Although he seems to only be thinking about the evidence that his aunt has laid out for him, it is clear that his own experience with Daisy influences what he tells his aunt as well. 

Winterbourne does not entirely challenge his aunt's condemnation, but only seeks to explain it. "Ignorance" for him is not exactly a positive trait, but it is justifiable in terms of "innocence," rather than stemming from any kind of maliciousness. Winterbourne thus seeks to defend the Miller family's moral standing even as he refrains from justifying their behavior—for him it is simply that this behavior is socially rather than morally wrong. He seems to place a great deal of importance on his ability to describe and classify the Millers fairly, as well as on his ability to be an impartial judge in the matter. In that, Winterbourne fails to fully understand, or perhaps admit to himself, how much his own fascination for Daisy plays into this process of judgment.

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Mrs. Costello Character Timeline in Daisy Miller

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Costello appears in Daisy Miller. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Les Trois Couronnes
European and American Character Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
...as Winterbourne watches her go. He returns to his aunt’s apartments, and asks his aunt, Mrs. Costello , if she’s noticed an American family with a little boy. Mrs. Costello is a... (full context)
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
Mrs. Costello agrees with Winterbourne that the young lady is pretty and charming, and dresses perfectly: she... (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
Winterbourne, more seriously, asks if Mrs. Costello thinks Daisy might expect a man to “carry her off.” She doesn’t know, but cautions... (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...says she’s been looking around for Winterbourne’s aunt. The chambermaid has told Daisy all about Mrs. Costello , Daisy says: she is apparently quite proper, quiet, and has a headache every two... (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
...Winterbourne slowly contradicts that, Daisy stops walking and pauses. She suddenly cries out, laughing, that Mrs. Costello simply doesn’t want to know her—Winterbourne should have just said so. He wonders if he... (full context)
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
In fact, Mrs. Costello has taken an apartment in Rome for the winter. But Daisy says she wants Winterbourne... (full context)
Part 2: Rome
European and American Character Theme Icon
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
Winterbourne asks for more specifics, and Mrs. Costello says that Daisy wanders around alone with the Italians, whom she takes as guests to... (full context)
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
...them wander toward the wall, where Giovanelli perches himself. Winterbourne pauses, then walks away towards Mrs. Costello ’s. (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...asking him questions and ordering him around. One day Winterbourne is at St. Peter’s with Mrs. Costello and sees the couple together. Mrs. Costello remarks that Winterbourne has been quiet recently, and... (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Mrs. Costello , watching the couple, says she easily understands the appeal: Daisy must think him a... (full context)
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
At St. Peter’s, other friends of Mrs. Costello gather around them and discuss how Daisy has really gone “too far.” Winterbourne is upset... (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
...The next summer he meets his aunt again at Vevay. One day he reflects to Mrs. Costello that he had done an injustice to Daisy: she gave him a message before her... (full context)