Daisy Miller, one of Henry James' first major works, addresses the emergence of the United States as an economic and political world power. In the late nineteenth century, American industry was flourishing, and Americans were becoming more wealthy. With this money came a desire to look successful and aristocratic. For many Americans, Europe provided their only model of wealth and power. Therefore, luxurious foreign goods, like women's dresses, jewelry, and musical instruments, became popular in American cities in this era. Americans not only wanted to look like European royalty, but they also hoped to act and seem like them. Members of American high society adopted European customs rather than developing their own. With new money available and interest in Europe at a peak, this era also witnessed a boom in American tourism in Europe. The relation between touring Americans and Europeans was a wary one; though European nations were still politically and economically more potent, there was a general awareness that fortunes were shifting, and America was on the rise.
Daisy Miller - The title character and heroine of the book, Daisy is a young, beautiful American girl traveling in Europe. Winterbourne falls in love with her, as does Mr. Giovanelli. But because she does not conform to the social etiquette of her European setting, she is eventually shunned from society. Due to reckless behavior, she dies of the Roman fever.
Winterbourne - Winterbourne is the protagonist of the story. He is a 27-year-old American but has been living in Geneva since he was a boy. For that reason, he seems more European than American. He falls in love with Daisy Miller while visiting his aunt, Mrs. Costello. He remains sympathetic to Daisy even after she has been dropped by society.
Randolph Miller - Nine or ten years old, Randolph is Daisy Miller's younger brother. He is greedy and self-righteous about his own country.