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Part 1 (I)

Part 1 (I)

Daisy Miller opens with the narrator describing its setting. The time is the second half of the nineteenth century; the place is a resort town in Switzerland, called Vevey. Vevey lies on the other side of Lake Geneva from Geneva itself, one of the largest cities of Switzerland.

We learn that in Vevey there are a number of very comfortable hotels, and that in summer wealthy tourists come from all over the world to relax here. Among these are a great many Americans. They come here most often in the month of June, and especially to a luxury hotel called the Trois Couronnes. Here (the narrator tells us) the rustling dresses and chattering voices of American girls, dressed in the latest fashion, can be seen and heard everywhere.

As the story opens, a young American named Winterbourne is sitting in the garden of the Trois Couronnes, drinking coffee. Winterbourne is twenty-seven years old, attractive, intelligent, well-educated, and likable. He also seems to be a slightly lazy, self-satisfied member of the wealthy upper class.

We learn that Winterbourne was sent to Europe at a young age, and went to school in Geneva. These days, he is supposedly still "studying" there, but some people say he is really carrying on an affair with a fascinating, older, foreign lady. (The narrator coyly avoids telling us whether or not this is actually true -- we have to draw our own conclusions!)

Winterbourne has come to Vevey from Geneva the day before to visit his aunt, a wealthy woman named Mrs. Costello. But this morning, Winterbourne's aunt was feeling ill after breakfast -- something which happens to her a lot. So, after breakfast and a walk, Winterbourne is lazily drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette while he admires the lovely gardens.

A small boy comes down the garden path, carrying a sharp stick which he keeps poking into the flower beds. When he reaches Winterbourne's table, he stops, and -- without saying please -- asks Winterbourne for a piece of sugar. The boy's voice, like his face, is slightly sharp and hard, and seems a little too old for his age.

Winterbourne lets the boy take some the sugar left over from his cup of coffee. He recognizes from the boy's accent that he, too, is an American, and the two start to talk. It's the typical kind of conversation with a little boy: Winterbourne learns that the boy's teeth are all falling out, that he attributes this to the weather in Europe, and that he thinks American-made things are the best in the world -- American candy, American children, and American men and women as well. Winterbourne is very amused by this conversation, and wonders if he was like this when he was first brought to Europe as a child.

The little boy suddenly announces that his sister is coming to join them. Winterbourne looks down the path, and sees an unusually pretty young woman, beautifully dressed and holding an embroidered parasol. He is struck by her loveliness. When the young woman reaches them, she speaks to her brother and then turns to look over the wall, which has a view of the lake below.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Part 1 (I)
Part 1 (II)
Part 1 (III)
Part 2 (I)
Part 2 (II)
Part 2 (III)
Part 3 (I)
Part 3 (II)
Part 3 (III)
Part 4 (I)
Part 4 (II)
Part 4 (III)
Part 4 (IV)



 






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