Henry James Questions for English 222 American Literature, CSU Fullerton



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Note: see the Journal Schedule and Instructions Page for the details on how to keep your journal. You can either work up your own material altogether, or use your choice from among the questions below to help generate your responses; you can also move back and forth between these two ways of keeping the journal.


Daisy Miller (Norton Vol. C 421-59).

Daisy Miller

Part I (Norton 421-29)

1. Two Swiss locations – Vevey, including the hotel named Trois Couronnes (image, and Geneva -- play a significant role in establishing the atmosphere of Henry James' Daisy Miller. What do we learn about these places in Part I, and how do they help to give us our first impression of Frederick Winterbourne? How, for example, has his character been shaped by living in Geneva for much of his youth? And what effect does visiting Vevey have on him?

2. On pages 422-25 of Daisy Miller, we are introduced to little Randolph Miller, younger brother of the woman he will soon introduce to Winterbourne as Daisy. How does Randolph provide us with a fresh look at the major Henry James theme regarding what it means to be an American living in Europe? What are the boy's views about America and Europe, respectively, and how do they seem to strike Frederick Winterbourne, himself an American?

3. On pages 424-29 of Daisy Miller, Winterbourne gets acquainted with young Daisy Miller. What are his main observations about her at this point in the text? Why does he attach such importance to the term "flirt" in trying to determine Daisy's personality and quality? Why does he apparently feel such a strong need to categorize Daisy in the first place?

4. On pages 424-29 of Daisy Miller, leave Winterbourne aside for the moment and consider Daisy in her own right, i.e. by means of her own words, gestures, and so forth. How do you interpret the words and conduct of this young American woman visiting Europe?

5. On pages 427-29 of Daisy Miller, Daisy says that she wants to visit the Château de Chillon (pronounced similar to "She-ówn" with a French nasalized final "n"), a Swiss landmark where sixteenth-century patriot François de Bonivard was held prisoner for seven years. From a decorous Victorian point of view (the story is apparently set in the 1870s), what is odd about this scene, in particular the way Daisy and her mother conduct themselves in the presence of Winterbourne?

Part II (Norton 429-39)

6. On pages 429-31 of Daisy Miller, Winterbourne's aunt, Mrs. Costello, offers her nephew a very strong opinion of Daisy and family. What is the basis of Mrs. Costello's judgment about these fellow Americans, and how does that judgment affect Winterbourne? What does the conversation with his aunt determine him to do vis à vis Daisy?

7. On pages 432-36 of Daisy Miller, what reassessment does Winterbourne make upon once again meeting Daisy and her mother? How has his opinion changed since his initial acquaintance?

8. On pages 436-39 of Daisy Miller, Winterbourne and Daisy undertake their trip to the famous Château de Chillon. How does Winterbourne at first see the trip shaping up? How does Daisy behave at this place so prominent in European lore -- what traits and interests manifest themselves as she and Winterbourne go through the Château?

9. On pages 438-39 of Daisy Miller, what are Winterbourne's concluding thoughts about the trip to Chillon, and how does the subsequent conversation with his aunt go? In what sense does this conversation with Mrs. Costello encapsulate Winterbourne's dilemma regarding how to "interpret" and act towards Daisy?

Part III (Norton 439-48)

10. On pages 439-43 of Daisy Miller, Winterbourne visits Mrs. Walker at a reception in the fashionable Roman Via Gregoriana (image), where Daisy soon makes her entrance. How does this encounter go for all concerned?

11. On pages 443-45 of Daisy Miller, what does Daisy decide to do as she departs from Mrs. Walker's reception? How does Winterbourne judge Daisy's new companion, signor Giovanelli, and what new assessment does he make of Daisy herself? To what extent is this view of her different from what Winterbourne had expressed previously?

12. On pages 445-48 of Daisy Miller, Mrs. Walker confers with Winterbourne and then gives Daisy some rather heavy-handed advice about her present conduct. How does Daisy react to that advice? Does her response to it surprise you? Why or why not? Subsequently, how does Winterbourne handle the strong disapproval that Mrs. Walker has voiced regarding Daisy? How do his and Mrs. Walker's opinions of Daisy differ?

Part IV (Norton 448-59)

13. On pages 448-51 of Daisy Miller, Daisy again calls upon Mrs. Walker at a reception, and parries wits with Winterbourne before Mrs. Walker cruelly "cuts" her (i.e. turns her back on the young woman). Consider how Daisy and Winterbourne dispute the significance of the term "flirt" -- who gets the better of this argument, and why? Does Daisy's poise and her general line of self-defense here surprise you? Why or why not? Finally, how does Daisy react when Mrs. Walker insults her?

14. On pages 451-54 of Daisy Miller, Winterbourne begins visiting Daisy at her hotel, where signor Giovanelli dotes on her. What seems to be Winterbourne's present state of mind with respect to Daisy and her moral standing? What terms does he adopt in talking about her with his aunt Mrs. Costello and with a tourist friend?

15. On pages 454-55 of Daisy Miller, Winterbourne has his last "almost alone" meeting with Daisy since Giovanelli isn't much of a hindrance even though he is as usual by her side. How does this encounter go for Daisy and Winterbourne? What seems to be Daisy's aim in alleging that she is engaged to the Italian walking beside her?

16. On pages 456-58 of Daisy Miller, a week after his most recent conversation with Daisy, Winterbourne encounters her and Giovanelli unexpectedly while walking at night in the ruins of th eColosseum. What seemingly final judgment does this chance meeting lead Winterbourne to make regarding Daisy's character? What seems to be Daisy's state of mind in reacting as she does to Winterbourne's rather alarmed, heavy remarks to her and Giovanelli?

17. On pages 458-59 of Daisy Miller, Daisy falls ill of malaria ("Roman fever") and dies after a week of suffering. What does Winterbourne do after the funeral? What do the text's last six short paragraphs, and especially the last two of them, suggest about the ultimate impact of Daisy on the feelings and consciousness of Frederick Winterbourne?

General Questions on Daisy Miller

18. Daisy Miller belongs to the first phases of Henry James' long career, a phrase in which, as biographer Leon Edel points out, he writer was much concerned with the theme of what it was like, and what it meant, to be an American living in Europe during the mid-to-late nineteenth century. So what do we learn from this text in that regard – what does it mean to be an American living in or visiting Europe for an extended period? What similarities and differences between America and Europe does the text explore?

19. Daisy Miller may be broadly about "Americanness" in relation to Europe, but it's also a story about a potential love match between a young man and a young woman. Why, ultimately, do you think Daisy proves to be such an enigma to Frederick Winterbourne? Is it because she really is full of simultaneously mysterious and contradictory qualities, or are the mystery and contradictoriness qualities that Winterbourne needs to project into her being for reasons of his own? Is the young man simply pulling the usual male-centered scam identified by authors such as Simone de Beauvoir when it comes to women -- i.e. is he defining her a priori as an "inessential other" and then judging her on that false, pre-fabricated basis, or is there some other way of understanding Winterbourne's difficulties with Daisy? Explain.

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