Daisy Miller

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Themes and Colors
European and American Character Theme Icon
Observing vs. Living Theme Icon
Judgment, Knowledge, and Knowability Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
Female Independence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Daisy Miller, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Many of the novels of Henry James—an American expatriate himself—are fascinated with the Old World and the New World, not necessarily as places themselves but rather in terms of how these places affect the development of character. The European and American continents come to represent an American youth, innocence, and spontaneity versus a European subtlety, age, and complexity—a difference that can be revealed in, or conversely challenged by, individual characters themselves. Both Winterbourne and Daisy

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Although the beginning of the novella suggests that a romance between Winterbourne and Daisy might supply the rest of the novel, that expectation is thwarted once Winterbourne arrives in Rome and Daisy has taken up with an Italian gentleman, Mr. Giovanelli. Yet even before this, Winterbourne’s relationship with Daisy is one of observation far more than interaction, and this mode of constant observation is tied to Winterbourne’s own inability to embrace his own circumstances…

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The heroine that lends her name to the title of Daisy Miller is an enigma both to Winterbourne and to the novella’s readers. Despite all the time he spends watching her—and despite the national categories that should help in terms of identifying and explaining Daisy’s actions—Winterbourne can never quite figure her out. Daisy’s very character is deeply ambiguous throughout the novel, and this ambiguity serves to make Daisy such a fascinating character, even as…

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Part of the difference between American and European culture, at least in the eyes of Henry James, is a greater naïveté and innocence on the side of the Americans—although this innocence is never considered wholly positive. Indeed, the word “innocence” is used in several different ways in the novel. In some ways it is related to a lack of knowledge about the way the world works, an ignorance of the unspoken rules and commandments that…

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The vast difference between the behaviors of Daisy and Winterbourne, two young, single Americans abroad, has one obvious explanation apart from their divergent personalities: as a man, Winterbourne is free to act as he wishes and to embrace an independent lifestyle without condemnation, while Daisy is not. The novella implicitly if not explicitly develops this unjust difference based only on gender norms. Daisy is part of a generation of young American women to whom…

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