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Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller

by Henry James

Daisy Miller Part 1 Summary

Les Trois Couronnes (The Three Crowns)

  • Open scene on Vevay: a "little town" in Switzerland that serves as a fancy getaway spot for rich and fabulous Americans. It's more tourist trap than hidden gem but is still trendy and expensive. Think St. Bart's without the rap stars.
  • Les Trois Couronnes is the name of the upscale inn where Frederick Winterbourne, our dapper protagonist, is staying with his stuffy old aunt. He's enjoying a leisurely breakfast in the opening scene when a young boy interrupts him.
  • After a cute conversation with the kid (Randolph Miller) that serves to let us know Winterbourne's not that uptight, the "little urchin" announces the arrival of his sister, who steps into the garden in a super flouncy dress, like a life-sized doll.
  • Winterbourne clearly has a thing for Miss Miller right away; the narrator describes her in detail through Winterbourne's eyes. Though he lists her physical attributes in a general way, "her nose, her ears, her teeth," it's more like he's undressing her soul with his eyes, trying to figure out what her deal is. No conclusions reached.
  • Daisy turns out to be a big talker. Winterbourne finds out that the Millers are from Upstate New York, that they've been traveling a lot, that she did some shopping in Paris, etc., etc. He determines that the Millers are rich and have taste when it comes to clothes and hotels but aren't that classy in a rules-of-the-society-game kind of way.
  • He's still into her on account of those lovely ears and her youthful flirtatiousness, so they agree to plan a daytrip to a nearby castle called the Chateau de Chillon. Daisy also expresses an interest in meeting Winterbourne's aunt, Mrs. Costello, who has a lot of old-school social cred. Winterbourne goes back inside to check on his aunt. (She had a headache before.) She's fine now, but is all riled up about the improprieties of the Miller clan when Winterbourne mentions them. "They are very common!" she says, and refuses to be introduced to Daisy (1.101).
  • Her main gripe with the Millers is that they're too friendly with their servant, Eugenio. Honestly! (You're going to have to get into the social haughtiness stuff here if you want to hang.)
  • That night, Winterbourne sees Daisy in the garden again. She figures out that Mrs. Costello has told Winterbourne she's not interested in meeting her, which is a pretty big burn, but Daisy takes it in stride.
  • Mrs. Miller comes into the garden while they're talking and the three of them go over the logistics of the big castle trip, even though it's only across the bay. Will they go alone? Should Randolph go? Should the servant, Eugenio go?
  • It's finally decided that Daisy and Winterbourne will go alone, which we totally knew/hoped would happen.
  • Two days later, they go to the castle in a steamboat. Daisy, of course, is looking super cute, and they have a blast. There's a lot of flirty banter on the boat and Winterbourne clearly likes how everyone is checking Daisy out, even though it also makes him kind of nervy.
  • Winterbourne tells her he's going to Geneva tomorrow and Daisy gets a little huffy. It's hard to tell if she's really upset or if she's just playing. After all, they only met two days ago.
  • Daisy guesses he's got a special lady friend in Geneva and, though he denies it, he's impressed by her powers of deduction. Daisy's no slouch.
  • Finally their pretend fight ends when Winterbourne agrees to meet her in Rome in the winter.
  • The chapter closes on Winterbourne telling Mrs. Costello that he and Daisy went to the castle alone. She is so scandalized she has to have some smelling salts. Oops!

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