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The Governess

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TheBoulder
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I am really interested in this particular book, especially because I was able to read through it much faster than the previous books we have looked at, haha. I feel that a good opening discussion could be examining the governess herself. I am writing this assuming the book has been read, so there will be spoilers. One major aspect of this book is that only the governess is proven to see the ghosts. As the story continued deeper and deeper I noticed that my trust in the governess's word decreased and decreased. By the end, I sort of didn't know what to believe. Of course, that is the point. What did happen? I want to know what you think happened. Are the ghosts real, and their intentions valid? Or, has the governess gone mad? How did the governess's upbring and her romanticism of the manor contribute to the whole situation? Did she become too attached to her own divine beliefs of the children and of her responsibility to them? Why, even though she was told not to, did she never contact the uncle? How did her ego contribute?


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Gil
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I have not yet finished the novel (I will come back soon once I do), so I do not know as much about the governess as you must know but I just wanted to add that right off the bat, I found her a bit untrustworthy, and her judgement strange. One of the first things that struck me as weird was her adoration for the children, especially Miles. Before she even meets him, she finds out he has been expelled, so I was imagining that this child must be some kind of crazy troublemaker. When she meets him however, she is completely, as @savhoisington put it in class, "oddly infatuated" with him. Our discussion in sixth hour was about this strange attitude she had toward the children, and so I feel that her judgement is peculiar right from the beginning.


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aplitstudent123
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@gil I agree. As I first began reading I found her description of both children to be very strange. She spoke of Flora as the most beautiful child she'd ever seen and used words I found to be odd about a child she had just met. Like you said, she did the same when describing Miles and seemed to ignore "red flags" or problems that a normal individual would have addressed. This also made me question her from the beginning seeing as her judgement and thoughts seemed odd and she seemed willing to leave things out that another person would think are important.


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SnowyYeti
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@aplitstudent123  In class today we also talked about the definition of obsession and people were saying that usually with obsession there is ill intent that is behind it but that the governess was not obsessed with the children.  I think i disagree with this the more I think about it.  Using what you mentioned about the way that the governess describes Flora, and Miles, completely dismissing how mischievous Miles is is definitely strange.  I think that obsessed is a good word to use to describe the way the governess feels about the children because of the way that she describes them in this early chapter.  This way of describing children is not normal and in my opinion she seems obsessed.  Anyone else agree?

 


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savhoisington
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@aplitstudent123 I agree. I haven't read as much into the novel but I do know that her judgement seems clouded. These children could very well be beautiful and the most perfect children to ever live, but still the immediate affection, especially to that extent signals to me that there may be something off. In addition, you all have mentioned her ignoring red flags such as the boy's expulsion. Could this be a way of offsetting some other bad feelings/ emotions? We touched on this a little in class, but Im curious if anyone else has any ideas on what previous event might have triggered her odd, extreme emotions


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savhoisington
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@snowyyeti I agree on the part where 'obsession' does not always have ill intent. I think when you say it was "strange" that is very important. Obsession, in my opinion, describes an out of the ordinary love for something, which would qualify here. But also, obsession implies a long-term commitment to loving the subject in question, when she just met these children, so i don't know if obsessed applies perfectly.

I looked up the definition and it is this- when an idea or thought continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind.

Using this definition, I change my mind again. These children are constantly on this woman's mind. It is her job, so there is some slack cut, but so far and with this definition 'obsession' could work.


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abuzz
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@gil I felt this same way about the governess. What stuck out to me was how she most certainly disregarded Miles's exemption from his school after she met him. There was this admiration she had for him that overrode his peculiar expelling. This is quite a peculiar relationship that she has built with the children. I understand that she is to help them grow up and raise them nearly as a motherly figure, but her unusual descriptions of how pure she finds the children are quite the opposite of the later realities.


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Persephone
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I think that this idea that we cannot trust the governess may have to do with the style of writing. Obfuscation was mentioned in other forum posts, and I think the uneasiness of being unable to find author intent could add to this trustworthiness. That being said, I am not far in the book, so I will absolutely be revisiting this idea once I finish the book. 


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Gil
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I am wondering, after reading all of these really great forum posts, about a question @persephone mentioned. Where do these feelings for these children come from? I had a thought about the origin of these feelings-what if the obsession the governess has for the children stems from her wish for her own family? We talked in class about the time period that this novel takes place and this governess is giving up about 8-10 years and the hope of her own family. The governess also mentioned that she tends to get carried away with things-she is a woman with strong emotions, going over the top! Maybe she so desperately wants to have her own family, that she is placing all of that affection and love she throws upon Miles and Flora. Perhaps we are seeing her displacing her wish for a family and placing it upon these children. 


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aplitstudent123
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@gil This was also my guess as to why the governess thinks of these children in such way. She knew that she will not have a family of her own once she accepted this job so I think that she is treating this job with as much passion towards the children as she would have for her own. When someone first has a baby, they think of the baby as so beautiful and pure and instantly love them. I think the governess is so set on having a family and fitting the mother role that he has taken this mindset on when considering Miles and Flora. However, this mindset she has is strange because these children she had never even met before are much older than babies now and have made mistakes (Miles' expulsion being an obvious one), yet the governess remains confident in her thoughts of them being as pure as can be.


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MangoMan
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@abuzz I almost feel like she is creating a reality for herself.  She looks at herself and sees that she is noble and right in wanting to help these kids more than anything else, but is she helping? or obsessing?


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SnowyYeti
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I was thinking about this after our class on wednesday but after class today and reading a bit farther, I think it to be a bit more true.  I think that there is a bit of sexual tension between the governess and Miles.  With they way that the governess talks about Miles and the way that Miles talks to and addresses the governess, i think there is something here.  I noticed it when I was reading and then Chisnell pointed it out today in class too, but when Miles refers to his governess (almost a nanny) as "dear" it seems a bit strange.  We know that the governess is most likely a teenager, 16-19 I feel like is an appropriate age for her, so the age difference is not huge but because of her role in Miles life it is definitely strange.  I am confident that there is something going on between the two of them, I am just not sure of the implications of it.  If you guys agree or disagree, or want to take this hunch a step further please do so


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Nicole
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I am currently about half way through the book, and I have definitely thought that the governess has come across as irrational and emotional. I think this idea of maybe the ghosts aren't real at all plays in really well with our discussion in sixth hour today about the hysterical presentation of the governess. Even though I thought she was a bit dramatic, I didn't really question whether or not the ghosts were real. I sort of assumed they were because they were just a part of the book. But now that I think about that in relation to how I thought of her reaction to the ghosts... I think it's quite possible that they aren't real at all. @gil mentioned that maybe the reason she was so infatuated with the two kids is that she was giving up her chance at having a family of her own, so maybe she was trying to create a perfect family in these kids because she won't have any of her own. So that got me thinking, if the ghosts aren't real, she could be so driven to protect these kids that she may be manufacturing a danger from which she has to protect Flora and Miles. Which leads to her dramatic response in her desperate desire to protect who she very well may be telling herself are "her" kids.


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Gil
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@snowyyeti Yes! It is SO WEIRD!!!! Especially chapter 10, that is when it is starts to get really bizarre between the governess and Miles. That is when Miles kisses her, now when little kids kiss adults it might be on the forehead or cheek or something but it said that she, "met his kiss". That must mean that they actually like kissed each other, which really weirds me out especially considering how obsessed she is with Miles. She calls him "beautiful Miles" just about every time she talks about him...it is so strange and uneasy. She is supposed to be their teacher/motherly figure in his life and to think she possibly has romantic feelings towards this little boy is so bizarre. She definitely is more interested in him than Flora. Do you guys think she has romantic/sexual feelings towards Miles? Is the governess really struggling with her sexuality? Is she unsure of her role? Is this demonstrating the confusing state she is in? Maybe it is showing the weird stage she is in her life, for she did not get married and have her own family so she has this sexual feelings she never placed and she also has these motherly instincts that she has no where to put-so perhaps both of these feelings she has put on the little, creepy Miles. 

(Also, I think the governess is in her mid to late twenties because she has given up on having a family).


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Carla Tortelli
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@aplitstudent123 I agree with your thoughts on the Governess. I haven't finished the book yet so my thoughts on her really vary chapter to chapter at the moment. She is really caught on looks and first appearances, as we saw with the manor and the children. I feel like to her if a rotten apple appears to be fresh even with a bite she would come up with some excuse to why its not rotten. To be honest that barely makes sense. She sees both of the kids with a ray of childhood innocence that, for her, is very hard to look past. In her head these kids are so perfect that at first mention anything they do wrong couldn't be their fault. We do see some breaks from this mentality of hers but so far it seems to stand strong.


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