Frederick Winterbourne is a late-twenties American expat lightly involved with an older woman. He's suffering from ennui at a fashionable little hotel in Vevay, Switzerland. He meets a young and charismatic American girl: yep, Daisy Miller.
The older, established members of society, like Winterbourne's aunt, Mrs. Costello, and his friend Mrs. Walker, view Daisy's untraditional ways with deep skepticism. Everything seems pretty hum-drum, but the introduction of Daisy to the old scene promises to shake things up.
Daisy and her love interest, Mr. Giovanelli, roll into Mrs. Walker's uptight little party at 11 o'clock, and everyone is scandalized by their late arrival alone together. On their way out, Mrs. Walker snubs them, which is the beginning of the end of Daisy's reputation among the "proper" crowd.
We now know that Daisy's never going to be accepted among Winterbourne's crew, so the question arises: will Winterbourne go against the herd to make Daisy his own, or will he end up wimping out and snubbing her, too?
Winterbourne runs into Daisy and Mr. Giovanelli canoodling at the Colosseum like it's the last night of summer camp. It's evening and the mosquitos are out in full force, which means that Daisy is likely to contract more than just a bad reputation. Yikes.
Daisy semi-listens to Winterbourne and calls it a night, but we're not sure if this romantic evening with Giovanelli means Daisy's picked her man or if it's just another ploy to get Winterbourne's attention.
Edgar Allan Poe once creepily wrote that there's nothing more poetical than the death of a beautiful woman. That's basically what's going on here. Daisy's dying of malaria, and Winterbourne can't see her. But he begins to realize his feelings for her when Mrs. Miller passes along a cryptic message from Daisy: she was never really engaged to Giovanelli.
Daisy's death signals that Winterbourne was seriously too slow to make a move. Their love affair crash lands before it ever gets off the ground.
Winterbourne has a conversation with Giovanelli at Daisy's grave where Giovanelli confirms that Daisy and he were never engaged. Winterbourne reasons to his aunt that Daisy's message was intended to tell him that he was the object of her affection all along.
Winterbourne goes back to Geneva to keep on keepin' on, maybe engaging in an affair with the same older foreign woman we hear about in the beginning. You know how Gandhi said to be the change you wish to see in the world? Winterbourne seriously failed to heed that advice. He liked that Daisy was different, but he wouldn't make a bold move.