ForumsDialogue is Action
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@gil I definitely agree that it's simply weird the way the governess acts towards Miles. To respond to your question, I'm not quite sure where I stand in regards to if the governess has sexual feelings towards Miles. If so, it's definitely a very strange concept that I think I'd have a lot of trouble grasping. We've definitely learned that the governess formulates some ideas in her head that aren't necessarily true. Could it be that this is the case with Miles? Has she formed this nonexistent relationship with him in order to help her cope with her obvious trauma? Definitely a bit of a creepy relationship, but I'm not sure if we could rule it as sexual feelings quite yet.
@carlatortelli I like your idea of innocence as a response to the way she perceives the children. To respond to what Gil was saying as well and what I stated previously, I'm not sure if it can be ruled a sexual attraction to Miles (which would just be downright creepy)! I think that it's definitely more likely that the governess just longs for that perfect family life that she believes she can never have, and that's what causes her to feel what we view as a weird attraction to the children and the manor. But, if this is the case, what makes her favor Miles so much? Does anyone have any other ideas that could explain this?
@persephone I really like your thoughts on this idea. I would agree that the style of writing has a lot to do with the overall sense that we get from the Governess. Though I haven't gotten too far we can see that this sort of secrecy heavily impacts the novel. Even though its through her perspective we still feel this distrust in the Governess. The writing style is a great thing to point out in this forum.
I do think she is a very troubled young lady. Except for the point that I want to make out of this post is this we need to know. I think that we have to be careful to go and over-diagnose the governess because we are going back and essentially look at a culture that is foreign to our own. I mean many of us do not have that much in common with victorian people. So we need to have that perspective of a victorian person. This doesn't have to be our only perspective which a reader takes in to try and understand this novella
@gil I can agree with you about your initial interpretation of the governess. I am only on chapter 18, but and hoping to read more and probably finishing the book this weekend. So when I finish I will make sure to come back and edit my post as I see needed. I feel as thought I get this vibe off of her because of her age. In class we talked about her age being on the younger side and still in my opinion has a lot to learn. When it comes to the obsession over the children, I think that those feelings come from excitement. In fourth hour we talked about the amount of opportunities for women during these times and well came up with very few. This was not a normal thing for them to do and had to be exciting to get this time of opportunity. I tried not to read to many posts so I didn't get any spoilers but I will definitely be coming back so that I can read others opinions on her.
I agree that the differences both in terms of social norms and the lifestyles of now versus the Victorian Era need to be included in our analysis of the Governess. I think that the in-class discussion we had did well to point out the most important point, (To summarize and present in this post) there were very limited life paths for women during the time period of the book (Victorian Era). The Governess's willingness to be obligated to caring for these children for a number of years seems odd to us, as this long-term commitment would be binding and risky in case of even not getting along with one of the children, leading to an unhappy day to day life. Given the time in which the Governess lived and in turn, the misogynistic system in which she must live her life, an opportunity to have secured employment was one to take seize.
As I progressed in the novel, my confidence in the governess greatly decreased. The main reason being that the ghosts were never confirmed by any of the other characters. Another thing that led to my distrust in her was how her interactions with children changed from the beginning of the book. When she first met them, she saw them as pure and angelic, but after her first encounter with the ghosts, it seems like she is suspicious of the children. Despite their young age, the governess believes that the children are plotting against her.
We talked about the oversimplification of mental issues and phenomena in women although the cause of it is in them being female. Chisnell broke down that hysteria has the root hyst, which refers to women. The point of me saying this is that this book is written during a time in which this type of demeaning gender-specific language was commonplace, and perhaps the author (I forgot their name) is attempting to make a point in the area of mental issues on a deeper level, I am not sure if they intend it to be a misogynistic statement against women, or if it is supposed to represent the fact that mental illness is a real issue whose causes and effects transcend sexist oversimplification. I am not sure what the point could specifically be yet as I am still working through the book. Does anybody think that this has any validity? Or are the mental issues pointed at something else as a meaning?
@conster, I think this is a really interesting thing to think about. While I read the book, I didn't really see that the governess's portrayal was misogynistic. I had the opposite interpretation; this was a commentary on women's mental health issues during this time. I saw a young woman who was tasked with raising two children almost entirely on her own. She is isolated from society with only one person she considers to be a friend, and almost all of her time is spent teaching the children. These conditions are something that could drive a woman to "hysteria."
@gil I agree that her inability to have her own family is likely the reason for her quick adoration of the children. but also, not regarding the children, I think that also goes for her line of work. much like her love for the children the governess described the job as something that will fulfill her life. At this time, for a woman her life would not be fulfilled till she was married and with children. So maybe in her past she hadn't attracted the interest of a husband and had to move on to work? So now she is trying to convince herself that this job and these children would be better than the traditional life she could not live?
@conster I never considered this. I think that that very well could have been part of writing this book, and definitely could have played a part in obfuscation. But then again, I also agree with @stella when they say that the governess was just affected by fear and that got to her; the author was just trying to portray that. So, Im not sure what I believe but I can see either option
@gil I had no suspicions of anything strange between the governess and Miles until he called her "dear". At first I asked myself, is this just how they talked? But I don't think so, children calling adults "dear"? I did not think of it as a sexual relation, but as a maturity aspect. In the governess's descriptions the children never fought, never misbehaved (except at school, and when Miles steals the letter ??), and always listened. He doesn't seem like a child. He feels the equal to the governess, yet he is ten! I think now that the governess does have feeling for Miles, as messed up as it is. In the end, the governess holds Miles "it may be imagined with what a passion;", and I think that phrase is enough to confirm our suspicions.
@conster I think the author (Henry James) didn't outwardly write to share misogynistic feelings, and I also don't think he wrote to raise awareness for mental health. But, I don't think that we can ignore the misogynistic tendencies of the novel. After all, this misogynistic idea of "crazy" women is everywhere, I mean, think of the Salem witch trials. I think what James was doing was taking this archetype of the "crazy lady" and using it to make a double sided horror story. If we look at it the ghost way, well, ghosts are scary! But what may be scarier, is a crazy woman who can traumatize children, or kill them, and never think she was in the wrong.
@theboulder I agree! I think that Miles acts like he is an adult, almost older than the governess, which is very bizarre. We talked in sixth hour about how Miles seems to think that he is above Flora, like he is much older and wiser than that mere child of a sister! It is quite peculiar that Miles acts the way he does and maybe I will find more about why he acts this way once I finish this book, but I started to think about this situation for anyone, it doesn't sound too great. You have no parents and even though you do have an uncle, he wants absolutely nothing to do with you. Maybe Miles feels a responsibility for himself and Flora because of his situation. I assume that it is most likely common for children that have no parents/stable parental figures for the oldest child to have to grow up faster than other children, with the oldest taking more of a parental role. Perhaps this is happening with little Miles.
@nicole I think the intentions she has with these kids is to make them her own as well. I think she not only wants to fill that motherly role, but also to impress their uncle. She insists on the importance of doing well by the kids. She prides herself on the fact that she is handling things and doesn't need to bother him as he asked her not to do. I think this development of ghosts, if they are truly only in her imagination, could be another obstacle she was able to overcome and protect the children from in order to feel successful on behalf of the uncle.
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