ForumsDialogue is Action
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I'd have to agree that by reading a written account of the story straight from the governess's handwriting makes the story more reliable. Like others were saying, when writing things down rather than trying to tell someone verbally, we are more likely to include smaller details or other things we would otherwise leave out for times sake. That being said, I think the governess does believe what she wrote, but to some degree I also believe that she may have been a little "hysterical" as others have said. Because keep in mind she has written this after everything had already happened.
@snowyyeti, I agree that the telling of the story is more accurate than we believe. I don't mean that I think that there really were ghosts. Rather that, the governess gave an accurate retelling of the story as she saw it. Maybe her mental state influenced what she saw at the time, but I don't think that her telling of the story was misleading; for the most part, the reader can interpret what happened in the story.
@xwing37, I also thought it was interesting that we might not know what really happened. I think that the governess actually presents the story as she saw it at the time. She really believes she saw ghosts, so she described that. What makes me believe that she is truthful the most is that she includes things that paint her negatively, like her treatment of the children in the last couple of the book. Maybe afterward, she thought her behavior was justified, or she just wanted to tell the truth.
@alechayosh07 I like what you're bringing up here. The incorporation of past, present, and future storytelling can be really beneficial for the writing overall. Your preference for written accounts is also understandable, as you are right that it can be the most accurate form due to memories changing or being lost. If those events are put on paper during them, they cannot change unlike our memories of the event.
@stella I think this brings up an important point about bias is many primary sources. With this being the account of the governess, we never truly get to see the ideas of others unless they are altered by her writing. There is much dialogue, but in many instances it is followed up by the governess's opinion. We see this is many instances where the governess has an interaction with Mrs. Grose. The governess seems to make out Mrs. Grose to be lesser than her because of her illiteracy. She refers to Mrs. Grose as "slow" and "trying to keep up" and often cuts off her thoughts and sentences.
@xwing37 I agree that details of the story were probably skewed as she retold it, but I'm not sure every detail is really what is important in her storytelling. One important point that @snowyyeti brought up is that this isn't a story of a typical day in the life of the governess. I mean, if I asked you about what happened in 2014, how much could you really tell me? But in 2026, if I asked you what happened in 2020, I'm sure you could give me a much more detailed answer. Also, there are a lot of trivial details and conversations about which the governess writes which seem unlikely she remembered in such detail, but I don't think that was the point of writing about her experiences. I think it is much more important that she recorded that she saw ghosts that no one else seemed to see and how she responded to them than what specifically happened on any given day. The big picture is much easier to remember and more important than trivial details.
@abuzz, I agree. The story is told from the perspective of someone who thinks that they are a hero. I think this is why many of the governess's interactions with the other characters can seem a little odd; she doesn't really see those around as being on her side. All of the views we get of the characters are somewhat skewed, especially when you only consider the governess's words. While I was reading, I found that conversations between characters were the most helpful when trying to understand them. I mentioned earlier that I don't think the governess has changed the story or is trying to mislead the reader because she believes that there are ghosts, and she believes that her story shows this. Because of this, I don't think she would misrepresent any conversations. Rather than misrepresenting conversations, I think the governess is misinterpreting the reactions and emotions of the others. At the end of the book, she seemed to think Miles was anxious about being questioned by her about school, but it seemed to me that he was scared of her.
When I first started reading this book I was really confused about the way that the point of view switches over. Or I was until Chisnell explained it, but even then I was still confused. Someone had mentioned if we were reading a handwritten account of the story makes it more reliable, and I agree, I also feel as if that's more reliable, however, I feel like due to us reading from a specific perspective [the Governess] no matter how we were reading the story she'd still be an untrustworthy source.
@stella I think this is a great way of putting it. I think that the governess did 100% believe that what she wrote down actually happened, but I think the governess was so blinded by her view of herself as a hero that any ghosts that might have actually been there were turned in her eyes into evil spirits. I think the governess was spiraling into a paranoid state of delusion throughout the book, and while the major events may be accurate, I do not think the governesses perspective can be trusted at all, especially so in the later parts of the book.
@leinweber Near the start of the book I can say I was quite confused on the governesses motives, she just seemed odd and I think majority of us can agree with that. But once I started to get a grasp on the book and understood that it was being told as the governess wrote down it added an ominous feel for me. I can definitely agree with your statement on how she couldn't be trusted in later parts of the book. The part that made me form this similar opinion was when she would refer to herself as a hero, because well did others see her as a hero?
@savhoisington I agree with you on this! They did a really good job setting up the story, leaving us in suspicion of what happened to the governess. I also liked how the story didn't just start from the beginning. I enjoyed that it was a story teller who began the story, as it made the flow from reality to the memory of the governess really interesting. The only thing I wonder is what the experience of reading the story would've been like if we didn't know that she died from the start.
@a2m0n2 I think it was perfectly set up for the reader to interpret things. It succeeded in making the reader think of the true intentions of the governess and thus creating suspense that aided the story.
@alechayosh07 I like how you described her account as "ominous." I see that as well. To me, it seemed that her account was all over the place. Chronologically it was sound but the aspect of her present voice coming in and interrupting thoughts adds to that ominous feel. There is a slim chance that she was able to look back and write this account accurately since it seemed to have cover a decent amount of time. That aspect to me is very ominous because she knew how it would all end, so from the start she was conditioning her statements to make herself seem like a hero.
@abuzz She had her goals set on one thing and that was raising the kids. She had a very particular way of doing it though and it seemed that she convinced herself her way was best. Even if things got stressful for her she just stepped back and reminded herself that she was noble and ignored what could have been happening from everyone else's perspective.
@mangoman I think you worded this very well. I definitely felt the same kind of "step back" that you mentioned when I read this book. I really felt like the Governess kept driving herself towards this goal of protecting the kids, to the point where she stopped thinking about whether they needed protection, and just focused (possibly subconsciously) on making something to protect the kids from.
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