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Chapters 13, 14, and 15


She feels that the children are aware of her predicament with a certain ironic consciousness, and work with her to find ways to avoid the subject. She thinks they whisper about her desire to mention the previous governess to them. Their close knowledge and interest in her past life and memories, which she has recounted to them in stories, makes her feel that they watch her reactions under cover. She sees no apparitions for quite some time now, but her nerves aren't quieted, because she's convinced that Quint and Miss Jessel reappear to the children but she simply can't see them. She also notices that the children heap her with the wildest profusion of kisses and affection when they return to the frequent subject of their uncle, whether or not they should write him, and whether he would come to visit. The uncle never writes to them. She tells the children that their own letters are charming literary exercises, too beautiful to be posted, and she keeps them herself. She also thinks that the children know what incredible awkwardness it would be for her if he were to show up. This puts a huge strain on her, and she marvels now that she did not hate the children then. She feels suffocated.


As they walk to church that Sunday she finds it amazing that the children don't mind her perpetual company, and realizes that she has "all but pinned the little boy to my shawl." In his Sunday waistcoat, made by his uncle's tailor, Miles looks so manly that she realizes his title to independence. Just then, he turns to the governess and asks her when he is going back to school. He says to her, "You know, my dear, that for a fellow to be with a lady always-!" and explains that he's getting too old for this. He points out that he's always been good, except for that one time, just to show he could be bad, and then mentions that he can be bad again. Then he repeats his question. She asks if he was happy at school. He says he can be happy anywhere, but he wants to see more of life and be around his "own sort." He asks if his uncle knows how he is getting on. She tells him she doesn't think his uncle cares. Miles then says he thinks his uncle can be made to, and that he will make the uncle come down. Then he charges off alone into church.


The governess thinks that Miles has gotten an important piece of information from her-the knowledge that she was afraid of something, and he could use this fear to gain more freedom. She can't bear the idea of writing to the uncle, and can't bear the idea of getting in the pew with Miles after this conversation, so in desperation she circles the church and walks home. Back at Bly, she sees the specter of Miss Jessel sitting at her schooldesk. When she enters the room, Miss Jessel stands and they face each other, as if Miss Jessel were saying that she has just as much right to sit at the desk as the current governess. Miss Jessel is in black mourning clothes, haggardly beautiful and full of unutterable woe. The governess exclaims out loud: "You terrible, miserable woman!" and the apparition vanishes.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Framing Scene
Chapters 1, 2, and 3
Chapters 4, 5, and 6
Chapters 7, 8, and 9
Chapters 10, 11, and 12
Chapters 13, 14, and 15
Chapters 16, 17, and 18
Chapters 19, 20, and 21
Chapters 22, 23, and 24


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