contrasts between :
THE AMERICAN vs THE EUROPEAN
innocence vs. knowledge or experience
utility vs. form and ceremony / spontaneity vs. ritual/ action vs. inaction/ nature vs. art/ natural vs. artificial /honesty vs. evil
In Daisy Miller, James is more concerned with the difference in behaviour than he is with the specific person. But generally, the character that represents the American is, of course, Daisy Miller herself. The representative of the European attitude in the worst sense of the word is Mrs. Costello, and to a lesser degree Mrs. Walker and Winterborne. Of course, all of these "Europeans" were actually born in America, but they have lived their entire lives in Europe and have adopted the European mode of viewing life.
The Europeans in James’ novels are more sophisticated, more concerned with art,more aware of the subtleties of social situations.
But in his works America and Europe have a two-fold meaning:
America→ provincialism and cultural impoverishment
Europe → Prejudices, rigidity and categorical thinking
“The American girl” as Henry James’s most celebrated creation: His heroines are usually very wealthy, but their money comes with a baggage.
Fiction is art and transcends mimesis: Fiction should enlarge and deepen experience rather than merely reflect it.
Innovatory use of the narrative voice:
Rejection of the omniscient narrator in favour of spectator-narrators
Situations and characters are presented through the eyes of his characters (“centres of consciousness”)
His work anticipates the modern psychological novel, grounded on subjectivity
His realism focuses on the inside, on an interesting mind dealing with life.
Daisy Miller serves as both a psychological description of the mind of a young woman, and as an analysis of the traditional views of a society where she is a clear outsider. Henry uses Daisy's story to discuss what he thinks Europeans and Americans believe about each other, and more generally the prejudices common in any culture. In a letter James said that Daisy is the victim of a "social rumpus" that goes on either over her head or beneath her notice.
Daisy is a flower in full bloom, without inhibitions and in the springtime of her life. Daisy contrasts sharply with Winterbourne. Flowers die in winter and this is precisely what happens to Daisy after catching the Roman Fever. As an objective analogue to this psychological reality, Daisy catches the very real Roman fever, the malaria that was endemic to many Roman neighbourhoods in the 19th century. This novella turns in the "innocence" of Daisy, despite her apparently scandalous behaviour.