by Henry James
Mr. Giovanelli is Daisy's not-so-serious love interest when she's in Rome. He's a good singer, a good dancer, a snappy dresser, and he has a superb mustache. What more could you ask for in a vacation fling?
Giovanelli is a lawyer, of all things. But this isn't L.A. Law. He's not a hotshot. We're supposed to think of him as a regular, working guy with a yen for social-ladder climbing. He's not rich, but he manages to pull himself together and always appears finely dressed and impeccably well-mannered.
Winterbourne decides that he's "not a gentleman […] only a very clever imitation of one," but Daisy's either pretty well fooled or she doesn't care either way (2.89). Winterbourne also learns that Giovanelli's been involved with more than one American heiress before, which leads us to believe he may be more into Daisy's money than her jokes.
Our Italian gentleman isn't altogether a bad guy, though. He's even very civil to Winterbourne when Winterbourne's trying to turn Daisy against him, which we think shows a little bit of class.
Putting on an Italian Show
Our buddy Henry James is at his funniest, and maybe his most offensive to us today, when he's describing Giovanelli. When Giovanelli arrives at Mrs. Walker's shindig, he writes that Giovanelli "smiled and bowed and showed his white teeth; he curled his mustaches and rolled his eyes and performed all the proper functions of a handsome Italian at an evening party" (2.145). The guy is always fiddling around with the flower in his buttonhole (on the lapel of his jacket), which is supposed to let us know that he's some kind of 19th-century metrosexual.
Winterbourne claims that Giovanelli is a fake, but admires what a good fake he is: "Giovanelli chattered and jested and made himself wonderfully agreeable. It was true that, if he was an imitation, the imitation was brilliant." We're not sure just how fake he is. Maybe he's after Daisy's fortune, maybe he's not, but why can't they spend some time together hanging out?
In the end, he's the first to admit that Daisy never would have married him, and though he fails to visit Daisy when she's sick, he seems genuinely saddened by her death:
Giovanelli was very pale: on this occasion he had no flower in his buttonhole; he seemed to wish to say something. At last he said, "She was the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable"; and then he added in a moment, "and she was the most innocent."
Looks like they really never did anything un-innocent together.