Daisy Miller

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Roman fever (malaria) Symbol Analysis

Roman fever (malaria) Symbol Icon

During the nineteenth century, Rome was considered the crowning destination of the “Grand Tour,” a European voyage undertaken by Britons and Americans. Its many monuments and crumbling ruins made it a quintessential place of Romanticism for these travelers. But Rome was also considered to be dangerous and beset by malaria (which literally means “bad air”), which was thought to travel through the air to infect people, particularly delicate women.

Throughout the novella, Daisy’s actions seem to remain in the relatively benign sphere of social relations. However, the threat of catching the Roman fever, also known as the perniciosa—a disease that is warned of throughout the book, before Daisy finally contracts it herself—raises the stakes of Daisy’s stubborn desire to wander outside alone or late at night. Roman fever thus represents Daisy’s uncouth behavior, suggesting its relation with a kind of ominous female sexuality. Roman fever, especially with respect to the prevalent theory of aerial transmission, also symbolizes the insidious ways that rumors and gossip seep through the air, infecting Daisy and isolating her from the social set of Americans abroad in Rome. Rome is the source of excitement, thrills, and novelty for Daisy, but it also will ultimately contribute to her downfall, as her feverish pursuit of Roman beauty becomes literal and she succumbs to the city’s pernicious effects.

Roman fever (malaria) Quotes in Daisy Miller

The Daisy Miller quotes below all refer to the symbol of Roman fever (malaria). 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 2: Rome Quotes

“Anyway, she says she’s not engaged. I don’t know why she wanted you to know; but she said to me three times, ‘Mind you tell Mr. Winterbourne.’ And then she told me to ask if you remembered the time you went to that castle in Switzerland.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Miller (speaker), Daisy Miller, Mr. Winterbourne, Mr. Giovanelli
Related Symbols: Roman fever (malaria)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Daisy has fallen seriously ill with the Roman fever after spending an evening at the Coliseum, where Winterbourne had encountered her and Mr. Giovanelli. Upon seeing them there together late at night, Winterbourne was shocked and disappointed: he decided that it must be the case that Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli are simply lovers, and that all the alluring mystery he had assigned to Daisy was a lie.

Now, Mrs. Miller's comments to Winterbourne complicate this scheme once again. Daisy's true motivations and character continue to be obscure, especially since her words are refracted through her mother, who can be flighty. Still, it appears that Daisy is at least aware of how the scene must have looked to Winterbourne, and is eager to insist that he need not be disappointed in or angry with her—indeed, she may even have stronger feelings for him than he believed. What remains unclear, of course, is the full extent of these feelings, as well as the reason for reminding him of the visit to the castle in Switzerland, apart from the fact that it is a fond memory they both share of a more "innocent" time.

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Roman fever (malaria) Symbol Timeline in Daisy Miller

The timeline below shows where the symbol Roman fever (malaria) appears in Daisy Miller. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: Rome
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...and Mrs. Walker doesn’t think it’s safe. Mrs. Miller agrees, saying Daisy will get the fever. Daisy smiles and kisses Mrs. Walker good-bye, saying she’s not going alone, but with a... (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...then turns to other topics. She says she’ll stay in Rome all winter if the fever doesn’t kill them. She was afraid Rome would be stuffy and boring, but now she’s... (full context)
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...against spending time around these ancient monuments at night, since it can lead to the fever. Winterbourne hastens towards the middle, planning to leave quickly afterward. Then he sees two people... (full context)
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...for Daisy to be spending the evening lounging around in a place known to cause malaria. (full context)
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...all evening, and nothing can be so pretty. Winterbourne tells her that people catch Roman fever from such beauty. He rebukes Giovanelli for leading her here, and Giovanelli says he’s not... (full context)
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...a strange tone, Daisy declares that she doesn’t care whether or not she gets Roman fever, and the carriage rolls away. (full context)
European and American Character Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
...are in Mrs. Miller’s salon, and Randolph is declaring that Daisy is sick with the fever from wandering around at night. (full context)