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MonkeyNotes Study Guide-Daisy Miller by Henry James-Chapter Summary
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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The plot of Daisy Miller is rather simple; an innocent American girl is destroyed by the world's complexity. Her tragic end is sad but inevitable. Daisy is a wealthy but extremely uncultivated young woman of the American social scene in Europe. The action of the story surrounds her antics, her puzzling behavior, and Winterbourne's fascination with her charming and extremely innocent ways. She is the ultimate freedom-loving American, yet she and the other characters are extremely cognizant of the rules of social position. Her youth, vitality, and beauty are all foils to the tragedy of her wasted life.


As the novel progresses, Daisy makes more and more grave social errors. She is mostly oblivious, and it seems her strong-willed selective vision comes from a life of ineffectual parental guidance. Winterbourne tries to warn her, steer her "right," and protect her from her fatal errors, but to no avail. From the beginning to the end, the plot foreshadows this odd girl's demise.

Daisy is a vexing set of contradictions, and it becomes easy to both condemn and appreciate her various attributes. As Daisy is developed, so goes the plot; the reader understands that there will inevitably be consequences to her wild actions. At the climactic moment when Daisy is in the Colosseum, the reader realizes her fatal nature. Her poor social situation has turned physical.

After her death, the author shows both how she is regarded (her funeral is well attended) and disregarded (no one's life is changed much because of her). To the end, Daisy represents the innocent, exposed to the fickle nature of society and the crushing finality of its perplexing contradictions.

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