Study Guide

Daisy Miller Dissatisfaction

By Henry James

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"I haven't got any teeth to hurt. They have all come out. I have only got seven teeth. My mother counted them last night, and one came out right afterward. She said she'd slap me if any more came out. I can't help it. It's this old Europe. It's the climate that makes them come out. In America they didn't come out. It's these hotels." (1.9)

It's hard to sympathize with a nine-year-old who's sick of his European vacation, but just think of all of the edifying schooling he's missing!

"She declared that the hotels were very good, when once you got used to their ways, and that Europe was perfectly sweet. She was not disappointed—not a bit." (1.63)

Americans, including Daisy's own brother Randolph, famously complained about European hotels. This goes to show that Daisy's happy as a clam wherever she goes.

"Our courier says they take you right up to the castle," the young girl continued. "We were going last week, but my mother gave out. She suffers dreadfully from dyspepsia. She said she couldn't go. Randolph wouldn't go either; he says he doesn't think much of old castles. But I guess we'll go this week, if we can get Randolph." (1.74)

Dyspepsia is a digestive disorder that tends to affect the rich in novels. Though it's a real and sometimes serious illness, here it's more meant to be like "oh, I just had so many truffles!" With Mrs. M's tummy troubles and Randolph, who's sick of castles, the Millers are quickly becoming dissatisfied with the world and its delights. Not so for Daisy, though.

Mrs. Costello was a widow with a fortune; a person of much distinction, who frequently intimated that, if she were not so dreadfully liable to sick headaches, she would probably have left a deeper impress upon her time. (1.99)

The world is just too much for this old broad. She needs a little lie-down.

"Well, I hope you know enough!" she said to her companion, after he had told her the history of the unhappy Bonivard. "I never saw a man that knew so much!" (1.251)

Daisy delivers the surprising knowledge bomb that sometimes too much knowledge is a bad thing. You can know a lot about literature, but if that knowledge prevents you from living your life, a la Winterbourne, it's worse than useless.

The young man asked Mrs. Miller how she was pleased with Rome. "Well, I must say I am disappointed," she answered. "We had heard so much about it; I suppose we had heard too much. But we couldn't help that. We had been led to expect something different." (2.27)

Listen, Mrs. Miller: If you let yourself get disappointed every time something is different than what you're expecting, you're in for a sad, sad ride.

Would a nice girl, even allowing for her being a little American flirt, make a rendezvous with a presumably low-lived foreigner? The rendezvous in this case, indeed, had been in broad daylight and in the most crowded corner of Rome, but was it not impossible to regard the choice of these circumstances as a proof of extreme cynicism? (2.89)

They say it's only paranoia if you're wrong. So, we suppose Winterbourne's not paranoid. Or… is he?

"Singular though it may seem, Winterbourne was vexed that the young girl, in joining her amoroso, should not appear more impatient of his own company, and he was vexed because of his inclination." (2.89)

Don't you just hate the old double-vex? When you know you shouldn't want something and you don't get it?

He stood there, looking at her—looking at her companion and not reflecting that though he saw them vaguely, he himself must have been more brightly visible. He felt angry with himself that he had bothered so much about the right way of regarding Miss Daisy Miller. (2.240)

This moment totally breaks our hearts, because it's when Winterbourne finally decides that—after a fleeting promise of being reinvigorated by the charming Miss Miller—he's finally dissatisfied with her, too.

"You were right in that remark that you made last summer. I was booked to make a mistake. I have lived too long in foreign parts." (2.275)

Winterbourne wistfully delivers his final line of dialogue to his aunt, Mrs. Costello. Unlike your fabulous roommate who's just returned from Ibiza with a tan and a taste for house music, living abroad has turned Winterbourne into a total sad-sack.

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