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The Governess

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abuzz
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@msar The Governess greatly exaggerates--- to the point where she seems unbelievable in my opinion. The Governess constantly compliments herself, stating how wondrous and grand her ideas and actions were that she is recounting. We talked in class about why this might be so. She is writing this account to merely prove that she is still suited to be a governess, even after the horrific events at Bly. She is writing it because for one, Mrs. Grose is illiterate so she could not write it, and the uncle was not around so he does not know what happened. She seems to be speaking so highly of herself because she needs to make up for the fact that, in the end, Miles's heart stops.


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MangoMan
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@abuzz Perhaps the governess has something wrong up in her head.  At the time this was written stuff like that wasn't greatly known about and there is a good chance she had a couple of screws loose.  I think she compliments herself to distract her from the fact that she may be different from everyone else, she convinces herself that she is just in her actions.


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octavia
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@mangoman She definitely has something wrong when it comes to her mental state. I think when it comes to the Governess, she has convinced herself that she needs to protect the kids so badly that she's created this false reality of the ghosts so she can make herself a reason to protect. 


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ahayo
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Now I haven't read all of the posts here yet to see if this topic has been discovered about the governess but I'm going to mention it anyways. 

After doing our deep character dive with the final "project" if you will with TOS I have gone deeper into the idea of her being psychologically insane. Now yes this is a normal observation as some of her actions can be seen as quite dicey and a little unethical. Deeper than that I believe that the governess account to just be a story of her tormented and repressed mental health. None of this is real and it's all a figure of her imagination. In the story we find that when Miles dies he doesn't essentially die. He is dispossessed and is no where else written as dead. Just gone with the wind. This observation all came together when I had re-read the back of the book and it says "weave a spell of psychological terror". These ghosts were never the terror in my theory, it's the governesses mind and her terror.   


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Conster
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@alechayosh07

I find this to be a plausible way to look at the novel that helps to explain the story and confusion that is purposely written into the text. The differences in being able to see the Governess's ghosts also allude to her being the only one that is afflicted. The actions described by the book could be her own interpretation of what is going on around her. It would be interesting for the story to be her dealing with her own actions such as the death of Miles, trying to explain in her eyes what she thought was happening around her, and that she saved him from possession, but in reality, it was her actually just killing him. I know that is a dark place to take it, but for this to be within the realm of being "psychologically insane", then there are incredibly odd changes in people's behaviors and senses that can change to view things in a completely different reality.


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Delphine
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@conster I definitely think that this is a possibility. I personally don't believe that the governess thought she was killing Miles. Whether she did or not is a different story. However, we have many clues pointing towards her being somewhat psychologically insane. I think it's a great point to bring up that although she most likely killed Miles, it was most likely not a malicious or intentional act. Is she still to blame?


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@nicole I agree! My initial impression about the ghosts was that they were real, but taking in the governess's personality into account, it doesn't seem all that crazy of an idea after all. In the book, the governess continuously jumped to conclusion that everything going on was someone else's fault. One example of this that I noticed was when Flora ran away by the lake, and the governess just kept insisting that ghosts took her, even though kids tend to wonder if you aren't paying attention to them. The governess also kept saying that the kids were hiding things from her, and even though they were (Miles stealing the letter) the governess was thinking that they had some conspiracy against her. Apart of her being 'too' involved would make sense, in order to make up for the lack of her own personal life. 


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abuzz
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@mangoman I agree that her mental state is off. Your thought of her distracting herself because of her differences is an interesting take that I haven't previously thought of. The occurrences of her ego boosts do seem to fall into place at more fragile moments. This may be a tactic that she uses to reassure herself that there is nothing wrong and she did everything correct despite an unnerving ending.


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abuzz
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@siennamuscat742 I'm glad that you surfaced the idea that the governess always seems to blame someone else. This seems to be a deflection trait that she holds to further convince herself that she is in the right. With her thinking she is above the others, she seems to be able to easily place blame. Mrs. Grose is illiterate, therefore the governess is always thinking she is above Mrs. Grose and Miles and Flora are children so as their caretaker she seems to leave that as the excuse.


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SnowyYeti
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@mangoman  I also agree with this point.  I think that she might be a schizophrenic.  I think that with her not thinking she is doing anything wrong and her intense attachment to the kids makes for a logical diagnosis of schizophrenia.  But what really bothers me with this story is that if this is true, then are there really ghosts?  How did Mrs. Grose know what the ghosts looked like if they were really in the Governess's head?  So I guess this is a plausible theory to a certain point but here it is


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username27
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@snowyyeti - I thought a lot about this idea of schizophrenia a lot. I also saw a few interpretations about this idea when I was browsing others online. Many of the governess's actions point to schizophrenia, if you count the ghosts as hallucinations. Her intense attachment to the kids as you saw also falls under the cloud of symptoms. I really don't think the ghosts are real. It makes more sense to me in the novel that they aren't. I also think that the interpretation that the ghosts aren't real adds to the horror of the whole novel.


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SnowyYeti
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@username27  I like that you acknowledge that the ghosts may not be real because I think that that is such an important thing to remember.  I want to believe that the ghosts are all in the Governesses head so so so badly but I just can't.  There is no way that Mrs. Grose describes them in detail and it is accurate it just doesn't make sense to me, it is too big of a detail to just overlook.  What I want to know though is WHY did Henry James make this huge aspect of the book so foggy?  In good literature nothing just happens.  Everything is deliberate so James must have known that this part of the book would confuse the reader but why?  Why make it so unclear whether or not the ghosts are real? What significance is there?


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savhoisington
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@snowyyeti yes, this is something that confused me throughout the entire story. I couldn't understand whether the ghosts were real or not, I still am not sure. If they were, I thought that that would be too simple of a story. So if they weren't, then how did Miles die? or what meaning did the ghosts have? 

But beyond the governesses account, james set up the novel as there were real people, reading a real woman's account of this event (one a man knew personally when he was younger), and that makes it very much more realistic. So, why? to ensure the reader that it was real? or enlighten the fact that she was delusional? I wonder why, I am still not sure


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Persephone
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I agree with @conster for this one. For awhile I was stumped with miles death, but I think taking into account her personality as well as her likely being mentally ill given she thinks she can see ghosts, she likely killed Miles unintentionally via suffocation. That being said I don't think it's fair to diagnose her with schizophrenia given we don't actually know if the ghosts are real or not, as @snowyyeti was saying, how can we say 100% the ghosts are not real if Ms.Grose is able to describe their appearance? Whether the ghosts are real or not, I think the end is a tragedy based around the governess trying to protect Miles from the ghosts she could see.


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xwing37
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@username27, I find the idea of her bias throughout the novel super interesting. We never see how the kids feel unless it's through her perspective. I would really like to see another novel come out where you can see how everyone felt. This would show us if the governess did make things up and if the children were innocent. This was just a random thought but I feel like it would be interesting.


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