Friday, September 4, 2009

The governess - driving herself crazy or being helped along by the children?

It is agreeable that the governess was driven mad by the sight of the ghosts, Ms. Jessel and Peter Quint, but to what extent are the children also responsible in her eventual mental breakdown? When the governess first works at Bly, she is troubled by Mrs. Grose's silence to why the former governess quit and is also uneasy about why Miles was expelled from school. From that point, the ghosts add on to her own madness, but it is also true that the children participated in playing with the governess's psyche.

Through her conversations with Mrs. Grose, the governess finds out that the ghosts are seeking antagonism towards the children, and becomes attentive to protecting the children to whatever harm the ghosts want to cause them. The first interaction between the children, the governess and the ghost is the scene near the lake. The governess sees Ms. Jessel across the lake, and is certain that Flora saw her too. But, Mrs. Grose sees nothing and Flor does not say anything, but gives the governess a devious glare. This is the first example of the children contributing to the governess's madness, with the governess seeing the ghost but the child saying otherwise, making the governess think she is indeed going mad.

There are indeed other numerous example of the children plotting together (and although unknown, probably also with the ghosts) to drive the governess mad. Although the true reason is never uncovered, it is simple to say that the children did have a part in the governess's madness.


  1. I agree that the children have some influence on the governess' mental stability. It is a combination of the children's actions and her thoughts that ultimately lead to her "craziness" (assuming you believe that she is crazy). For the argument's sake let's assume that she is.

    The images of the ghosts initially raise her awareness and whets her psychological appetite. (Sorry it's game day and I'm really excited.) As if seeing ghosts are not enough, the governess concludes that they are after the children. Her job is to protect them. At this point the governess is no longer in fear but in anger at the threat against her pupils. The moment she begins to suspect the children of plotting against her is the point where she begins to lose it. Any previously perceived notions of innocence are now lost, and the governess feels like she no longer has control.

    Certainly the children plotting against her will have a major effect, but I believe the governess makes it worse by making unsupported assumptions (not wrong just unsupported).

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  3. I find it funny how I find myself more scared of the children than the ghosts themselves. I am know starting to understand how the Governess felt when she spoke to Miles on their way to church.

    The thing that I never understood was how the Governess got so intuitive about the ghosts without evidence. She could have interpreted their meaning anyways she wanted as if she was the creation of their purpose thus being more destructive than helpful to the children.

  4. I agree that the children do have a part in the governess' madness. The way the children act is somewhat bizarre and suspicious. I think that the children start affecting the governess' mental stablity when she finds Miles on the lawn in the middle of the night. From then on, she starts to question their innocence. I think that she starts obsessing over their innocence which then further continues the process of her going mad.

  5. I do agree with the fact that the children were trying to make the governess feel crazy. By saying that they didn't see the ghost it just reinforced the very idea that the governess was not in her right mind. The children were very tricky and were begining to manipulate the governess. This I believe does make them some what evil because they are harming the mental state of a women who is just trying to help them. She always believed that they had good inside of them but in reality they had more evil then good.

  6. I'm a little confused by some of the arguments being made in relation to this post.

    Why do we think the governess is crazy?

    If it's because she sees ghosts and is suspicious of everything, then we must also believe that the ghosts are not real and she has no reason to be suspicious. Otherwise her reaction would be sane, not insane.

    But if the ghosts are not real and she has no reason to be suspicious, then there is nothing manipulative about the children's behavior. They don't see any ghosts, and act innocent because they are innocent.

    The two most prevalent ideas I'm seeing in this conversation are (1) that there are no ghosts and (2) that the children are manipulative/evil. Are they really compatible ideas? And if so, under what conditions?

  7. I think that the governess is crazy because she thinks she is crazy, as in she is seeing ghosts (and apparently so are the children - we'd have to take that lake scene with a grain of salt) but other people like Ms. Grose does not see them. What complicates the matter even further is that she thinks the ghosts are there to hurt the children, which is making her a bit crazy, trying to fight against an enemy that no one else (except probably the victims, who again do not say anything) sees.

    I would venture another question is that why are the children, instead of telling their "superiors" that there are ghosts, say nothing and simply let themselves be avenged upon by the ghosts? Are there any socioeconomic advantages of being a ghost? Is there something that we don't understand abut being ghosts that the children do?


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