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Main Characters

The GOVERNESS is a poor but educated young woman who has succumbed to the charming manners of a young man who wants to employ her as caretaker of his niece and nephew in a distant country estate. Loving but possibly hysterical, the governess shows great firmness and courageous presence of mind in fighting against what she believes are ghosts come to corrupt her young charges.

MRS. GROSE is the simple but good-natured and decent housekeeper at Bly, who listens to the governess' mounting fears for the children and attempts to soothe her. It's not fully clear for much of the narrative if Mrs. Grose believes the governess or is humoring her. She is close-mouthed, sensible, very loving to the children, kindly, illiterate, and conscious of her lower class.

MILES and FLORA are the children being cared for by the governess. Miles is ten and has been expelled from school for unknown reasons (later revealed as "saying things to boys he liked,"). He is beautiful and precocious and has preternaturally good manners. He takes care of his sister and is affectionate to the governess, but also demands his independence and the society of other boys by the end of the novella. He also steals a letter that she writes to his uncle. The governess believes he has been corrupted by his association with Quint, her employer's dead valet. Flora is eight, babyish and charming and beautiful. The governess believes she has been corrupted by the dead former governess, Miss Jessel.

PETER QUINT is the uncle's former valet, sent down to Bly to restore his health until he suddenly dies there-his body is found by the side of the road with a wound to the head, apparently caused by a fall. Villagers speculate he had been drunk and walking alone at night. Quint's phantom-red-haired and always without a hat, that sign of gentility-is seen by the governess around Bly in high places and on the other side of windows, as if tempting the children to put themselves in physical danger. Quint is rumored to have been "infamous" with Miss Jessel (i.e. had an affair), and also to have corrupted Miles by keeping him constantly in his society while alive.

MISS JESSEL is the former governess whose sudden death has caused the uncle to seek a new governess. She apparently had an affair with Quint and died of a miscarriage during a holiday-all we know for sure is that she left for a short period and then died under mysterious circumstances. The new governess sees her phantom dressed in mourning clothes, haggardly beautiful and full of an unutterable woe. She appears in the schoolroom and on the opposite bank of the lake, also as if to tempt the children into putting themselves into physical danger. The governess believes she wants Flora to share the torments of hell with her.

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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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