Victoria Olsen's Reviews > Daisy Miller
by Henry James
by Henry James
Victoria Olsen's review
Feb 04, 2012
Read in January, 2012
It's hard to call anything by Henry James a quick and easy read, but this story may come closest. It's beautifully contained and concise: the aptly name Winterbourne meets a charming American girl in Rome, flirts with her, condemns her careless behavior, and regrets it after her death. That's it. We're always in Winterbourne's head and perspective so we're never quite sure of Daisy ourselves, not even at the end when Winterbourne decides that all along she was too innocent to understand the whispers about her. By necessity Daisy is a cipher who swans through scenes as her literary successor Daisy Buchanan will a few generations later. She's all breeze, and the American expatriates in Rome don't know what to make of her. It's a wonderful commentary on the social confusion of the nouveau riche in America as well as class tensions between Americans and Europeans. But James is perhaps most impressive in his sheer restraint. He hardly tips his hand at all: what does he think of Daisy? It's really hard to say. His attitude toward Winterbourne is more obvious: James reveals him to be a prig whose belated appreciation of Daisy is about as stupid as his initial confusion. Winterbourne never seems to notice that he is himself one of the circling men taking advantage of this pretty young thing -- but James does.
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