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**Obviously if you couldn't tell by the title, there will be spoilers if you have not finished the book...
So, the end of the book was not what I was expecting. It was so bizarre I had to reread the it a few times. Now this whole book, I was pretty unsure whether or not the ghosts exist, but after reading the end I feel a little more confident in saying that they are not real. I feel that the governess has made the ghosts up in order to try and "save the children". The governess seems to have an insane urge to protect these children, but since they are perfect and untroubled (yeah okay...) she feels the need to bring about an almost physical threat. Mental/emotional challenges are much more difficult to deal with because there are no clear answers and causes that can be pointed out and dealt with easily. Whereas something physical is much easier to address. It is so much easier to say that one is possessed by ghosts than digging up and all of Miles' psychological trauma and issues. So with all this being said, did Miles actually die at the end of the book? What from, if not from the ghosts?
I am also wondering...What did Miles say that got him kicked out of school? Is he lying and he did something worse? I feel like the end occurred so fast it is hard to understand what exactly happened. What did you guys think of the end-I want to hear all of your thoughts!
I am really glad that you brought many of these points up. I also was really confused with the ending. I agree with the point that the ghosts are not real and just made up by the governess because it is easier for her to validate her need to save the kids from a physical threat. I thought Miles died from a heart attack if I'm not mistaken, but I also was confused on how that even happened. Personally, the whole ending seemed like it was just moving really fast. I am not sure if it was just because I was excited to see how this book ended or if it was intentionally supposed to feel like that. I am also unclear about how Miles died, I am interested to hear other people's thoughts as well.
I think Miles died, and I have several theories of how but of course, none can be proven. First I thought he saw Quint and that killed him, but how would that work if the governess had been seeing him, and that she thought he was talking with him. So that one went out the window. Next I thought he just had a heart attack for no reason and died. Could be possible. Then, I googled it and I saw a theory that she could have smothered to death while trying to protect him from Quint. That one makes the biggest impact in a storyline way, right, after trying to protect him she kills him. I think what is really fascinating about the book is the author didn't write a true answer. I can make these theories but we will never actually know, even if we dig through everything, what the answer is.
As far as why Miles got kicked out of school, I really don't know. The only thing that I can think of is that he used bad words. He and the governess discuss that Miles said things to his friends, but he never elaborated on what he said. It was also mentioned that Flora used "appalling language" to describe the governess; if Flora knew these types of words, it wouldn't be surprising if Miles knew them as well. For the reason of Miles's death, I thought the governess suffocated him. When I first read this part of the book, I was really confused, and everything seemed to happen so quickly. When I reread it, though, it made more sense. The governess talks about miles gasping for breath, but she doesn't seem to realize she's hurting him. Instead, it seems the governess is preoccupied with her concerns about ghosts. This moment really encapsulates the governess; she thinks she is helping the children, but caught up in her mental issues, she ends up hurting them.
@theboulder When I first read the ending, I too assumed Miles died of a heart attack. As others have stated, the ending went very quickly for the reader, so we can only assume that it happened even more quickly for someone living through it. I assumed maybe Miles got overwhelmed by the events taking place around him, and his heart just... stopped. From the stress, too much excitement, maybe fear of whatever the governess was going on about, even if he couldn't see it. That solution didn't seem very likely, but it was all I had at the time. After hearing the theory that the governess accidentally killed him, and after rereading the last chapter, I think this is the more likely answer (although of course we will never know for sure). She definitely doesn't seem to be handling him with any sort of care--"yet my hands...shook him..."--and every time she draws him in, he is gasping for breath and breathing very laboriously. Even more, when she lets him go, he turns away from her with a sigh, as if it's the only substantial breath he has been able to take! Then there is the irony in the very last paragraph of him letting out a cry "of a creature hurled over an abyss" that causes her to grab onto poor little Miles and hold onto him tighter. She thought he was in serious danger, so she held him even more tightly than before, which inevitably leads to his death. I think he did really die because if he did, I think it shows the extent to which she manufactured the danger of the ghosts. She made them so real and so present that she had to protect the children so much that she actually ended up killing one of them.
Like everyone else, the ending had me shocked! I'm also unsure whether Miles died or not. I was talking to my aunt about it last night and she said she didn't even pick up on that, so I googled it lol. I saw this one theory saying that the Governess was so relieved that Miles hadn't done anything evil (to get kicked out of school), that she hugged him so tight she smothered him, literally, to death.
@klynnph That's so unsettling, To be honest I like not knowing the full truth to the ending. I think the story sets itself for mystery so well that It would be best to leave it to the readers mind, what do you think?
@Stella As for why miles got kicked out of school we discussed that a lot today in 4th hours class. First you really need to look at the context clues of the issue. Miles revealed a secret to only his close allies that he could trust, avowing that the thing being said may be something that was not right/politically correct in the era that this story was written. Next, he was kicked out of school with barely any explanation, meaning they wanted to keep the issue on the low. This kind of clues us in again that it may be a topic of embarrassment or shame to the schools teachers and headmaster. The thing that was brought up by someone in my class is that miles revealed to some of his friends that he was gay. The friends told other friends, and eventually when the headmaster found out, due to the political climate in their day, miles was kicked out of the school.
Honestly the ending kinda pissed me off. It was brilliant and very captivating, don't get me wrong, but when a novel ends this way I sort of begin to lose my mind trying to figure out what happens. It's a very smart and strategic literary move for authors to do this, though, because it forces the reader to engage with the text rather than just glaze over the words. (which is why I can appreciate it ending like this.) However, the unanswered questions I had and that were brought up here cannot escape my mind without proper explanations. (my imaginary ego simply will not allow that).
#1. Miles' "death"?
Miles didn't die (physically) and he is actually the man narrating the tale. I think the author was trying to make a symbolic point on the overwhelming "smothering" force of the Governess on his young male psyche.
On the other hand, another theory I had is that it is possible that his heart gave out under stress or as the result of an illness. My initial thought was that seeing the ghost of quint killed him but that was dismissed almost immediately because Miles is described as an anxious child with somewhat frail health. Not to mention that leading up to his death in those very last few pages, he has deep heavy breathing and seems to be acting a little frazzled. (though one could merely pass this off as his frustration towards being asked so many questions/ being smothered by the Governess)
#2. What, in the name of all things holy, did Miles do to get expelled?! AND WHY THE HELL WON'T HE TELL ANYONE?!
Anyway, I did some heavy digging into this book and, admittedly, Redditt to try and figure out what he could've done that was so bad even the administration couldn't speak about it.
At the end of the book, Miles tells the governess that he said some things to some friends he "liked" (key word) and/or trusted and was betrayed when they began to tell other people what he said. Miles was expelled for saying bad things to boys he "liked". This could indicate that he was gay and with that being very frowned upon at the time, it could explain why the school kicked him out with no reasoning. But I'm not content with that, I demur.
I think that Miles was under the influence of the bad manservant of his uncle - perhaps even groomed and sexually abused by him. He could've been talking about that, attempting to do it also (under the assumption that it was normal), or even just alluding to it to some peers he thought he could trust.
I'll be honest, it's not a perfect theory but it's not completely insane either. There are obvious signs of abuse (sexual or otherwise) in the story. The Governess senses that both Quint and Jessel's influence on Miles and Flora (when they were alive) was corruptive and "contaminating." It's not crazy to assume that this is the reason why the two want to come back from beyond: To complete the destruction of the children.
I had speculations about what happened within the last couple paragraphs of this book and our class discussion confirmed and elaborated my suspicions. For one, with Miles’s use of “boys he liked” my initial thoughts were maybe that he liked some of his classmates romantically. In this time, homosexuality was illegal so it makes sense that the talks through the school of Miles being gay sent him home with no explanation. This also gives reason to why he thought that he did not do any wrong.
@nicole When I read that the governess had grasped Miles with “passion” I was most certain that she was holding him much too tight, eventually causing his heart to stop. Your pinpointing of his gasping breath is something that I didn’t notice at first, but looking back it backs these thoughts greatly. The governess strangled Miles to death. What was brought up at the end of our discussion was the question of whether this murder was accidental or intentional. What are your thoughts on this?
@abuzz I definitely think this murder was accidental. It appeared to me that the governess was holding Miles in an attempt to protect him. She created these ghosts as a way to feel needed, and now she is finally getting her chance to protect one of them. I think the most telling part of this chapter is when she says he let out a cry "of a creature hurled over an abyss." To me, this shows that she saw he was in danger and needed help, even though there wasn't a real danger present--other than herself evidently. Think about what a "creature hurled over an abyss" would sound like. The word "hurled" is a pretty strong verb, especially compared to what else could have been used, such as fallen. Not only that, but she says "creature" which, in my mind, has a stronger effect than if a person were hurled over an abyss. These two things together create a picture of a pretty horrifying cry. Whether he actually let out that cry or not, she is certain she heard it. And if she heard that coming from him, she would have held onto him as tight as she could so nothing could hurt him. Throughout the book she makes very clear that she loves beautiful, angelic Miles. So why would she kill him intentionally? These things lead me to believe that the death was accidental. What do you think? Do you see it that way, or do you possibly think she intended to murder Miles?
@madams43 Since I have finished the book, I have stuck with the thought that Miles did actually die, and I even just wrote a post about why I think the governess killed him, and did so unintentionally^^. When I read your thought that Miles is actually the one telling the story, I kind of dismissed it for a few minutes. I mean, the man's name is Douglas, he was reading from the governess' account--not his own--and there was something about a love interest that didn't fit with that theory the way I remembered it. But after going back to the beginning, I realized that maybe... maybe this makes sense.
As approaching the end of the book, I tried to think about who Douglas could have been, but nothing made sense. However, there are a few things that happen in the prologue that make me think it's possible it could have been Miles. First, he states that the governess is ten years his senior. If we are correct about how old we think the governess is, that would be true compared with Miles' age. Second, Doulas says that he really liked her, and he likes to think that she liked him too, or she would have said something. I think this is also very possible based on what we read from the governess. Third, Doulas says that the governess was in love with someone else, and we saw that the governess was kind of taken by the uncle. And lastly, the most obvious piece of evidence, he calls her "[his] sister's governess." This would mean that either it's Miles, they had another brother (which doesn't make sense), Flora later got another brother (if that makes sense, like another relative that became like a brother to Flora--cousin, step-brother (kinda), brother in-law, etc.), or after Miles died, she went to work for another family where she had another creepy relationship with a kid and he received the story from her to keep after she died.
So why the name change? Well, a quick Google search indicated that Douglas could possibly be a last name. Whether it's Miles or not, I don't think the ending is Douglas' way of saying she smothered him by being too overbearing because it is still the governess' account of what happened, and I don't think that would have been her message. So whoever Douglas is, it still leaves the mystery of why the governess would say and think Miles died, if he didn't. I'm not completely sold that Douglas is Miles, but I definitely think it's an interesting thought. Sorry for such a long post, but this idea lead to a lot of interesting thoughts and theories about Douglas!
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