Daisy Miller
Henry James
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Chapter 12

Winterbourne decides he should try to talk to Mrs. Miller, to give her a hint of what others are saying about her daughter. One afternoon, Winterbourne runs into a friend on the street who tells Winterbourne that he has just seen Daisy and her friend sitting in a quiet corner together in a famous art gallery. Winterbourne, deciding this would be a good time to see Mrs. Miller alone, goes to the Millers’ hotel. 

But there he discovers that Mrs. Miller is almost impossibly blind to what is "proper". She knows Daisy is always spending time in public with Mr. Giovanelli, but she doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with this. She doesn’t even know whether or not Daisy is "engaged" to Mr. Giovanelli; she says she’s made Mr. Giovanelli promise to tell her if that happens, since she can’t count on Daisy telling her, and she would want to write home about it to Daisy’s father. Winterbourne gives up his hope that Mrs. Miller might be able to persuade her daughter to be more careful.

After this, things change again. Now Winterbourne never finds Daisy at home. The Americans in Rome have completely stopped inviting her to parties, or speaking to her when they meet her. It seems to Winterbourne that they are trying to show the Europeans that, although Daisy Miller is American, she isn’t representative -- the other Americans are embarrassed by her behavior. Winterbourne spends a lot of time thinking about Daisy, and her frustratingly confusing habits. Sometimes he believes she is perfectly innocent of the impression she makes on other people; sometimes he thinks she knows, but defiantly keeps on challenging conventions. Any way he looks at it, it becomes clear to Winterbourne that he has, somehow, missed his chance with Daisy: she has been "carried away" by Giovanelli. (Still, because Winterbourne doesn’t actually try to court Daisy or sound her out on her feelings, it’s hard to know whether he’s just making assumptions.)

One spring afternoon, Winterbourne runs into Daisy and Giovanelli in a beautiful, flower-filled Roman ruin known as the Palace of the Caesars. The always-polite Giovanelli tactfully says them alone to talk, and Winterbourne tells Daisy that everyone thinks she goes around too much with Mr. Giovanelli. Daisy doesn’t believe him: she says she thinks people really don’t care at all what she does. But Winterbourne tells her that if she goes to visit the other Americans, she’ll discover that they will give her the "cold shoulder," just as Mrs. Walker did at her party. 

Daisy, turning red, asks Winterbourne why he doesn’t try to stop people from being so cruel. Winterbourne asks her, in a roundabout way, if she is engaged to Giovanelli. Daisy says she is, and then, claiming that Winterbourne does not believe her, changes her mind: no, she says, she is not engaged. Giovanelli returns, and he and Daisy leave the place together, leaving Winterbourne unsure what to think.

A week later, Winterbourne is walking home from a dinner party when he decides to stop by the Colosseum, the enormous Roman stadium, to see it by moonlight. Entering through one of the arches, he notices an empty carriage parked nearby. As he stands inside the vast darkness of the ruin, he gradually realizes that there are two other people sitting nearby in the shadows, on the steps of the large cross in the center. Suddenly, a woman’s voice floats out to him: it is Daisy Miller and Giovanelli!

Winterbourne feels a sudden surge of mixed feelings -- partially relief, as if he no longer has to try to think well of Daisy, since this is the final proof that she is not a "nice girl." But just as he turns to leave, Daisy says his name aloud: she has recognized him, and knows that he is "cutting" her. Winterbourne turns back instead and walks toward the couple.

Have study documents to share about Daisy Miller? Upload them to earn free Studypool credits!