protagonist of the novella, a twenty-year-old woman who has been
put in charge of educating and supervising Flora and Miles at the
country estate of Bly. The governess has had a very sheltered upbringing
and little life experience, and her new job puts an immense responsibility
on her, since she has no one to supervise or help her. She is intelligent
as well as sensitive and emotionally volatile. Over the course of
two short interviews with her employer, she fell in love with him,
but she has no opportunity to see him or communicate with him. She
is extremely protective of her charges and hopes to win her employer’s
approval. She views herself as a zealous guardian, a heroine facing
dark forces. However, we never know for certain whether the ghosts
and visions the governess sees are real or only figments of her
imagination. No one else ever admits to seeing what she sees, and
her fears, at times, seem to border on insanity.
in-depth analysis of The Governess.
servant who acts as the governess’s companion and confidante. Mrs.
Grose, who is illiterate, is very aware of her low standing in comparison
with the governess and treats the governess with great respect.
Mrs. Grose listens patiently to the governess’s constantly changing
theories and insights, most often claiming to believe her but sometimes
questioning whether the ghosts may not be imaginary. The governess,
however, tends to overwhelm Mrs. Grose, often finishing Mrs. Grose’s
sentences or leaping to conclusions about what Mrs. Grose is saying.
Thus, it can sometimes be difficult for us to judge whether Mrs.
Grose is as strongly on the governess’s side as the governess thinks.
Mrs. Grose cares deeply about Flora and Miles and consistently defends
them against the governess’s accusations.
in-depth analysis of Mrs. Grose.
ten-year-old boy, the elder of the governess’s two charges. Miles
is charming and very attractive. He seems unnaturally well behaved
and agreeable for a child, never fights with his sister, and tries constantly
to please his governess. He is expelled from school for an unspecified
but seemingly sinister reason, and although he seems to be a good
child, he often hints that he is capable of being bad. The governess
is alarmed by the fact that Miles never refers to his own past and
suspects that wicked secrets belie his perfect exterior.
in-depth analysis of Miles.
eight-year-old girl, the younger of the governess’s two charges.
Flora is beautiful and well mannered, a pleasure to be around. Although
the governess loves Flora, she is disturbed that Flora, like Miles,
seems strangely impersonal and reticent about herself. Flora is
affectionate and always ready with an embrace or a smile. She is
so unusually well behaved that her first instance of misconduct
is disquieting. The governess eventually becomes convinced that
Flora sees the ghost of Miss Jessel but keeps these sightings secret.
in-depth analysis of Flora.
The Children’s Uncle
The governess’s employer, a bachelor who lives in
London. The uncle’s attractiveness is one of the main reasons the
governess agrees to take on her role at Bly. The uncle is friendly
and pleasant, likely rich, and successful in charming women. He
hires the governess on the condition that she handle his niece,
nephew, and all problems at Bly herself. He asks not to be bothered
former valet at Bly. Red-haired, handsome, and exceedingly clever,
Quint was “infamous” throughout the area of Bly. According to Mrs.
Grose, he was a hound and “too free” with everyone, Miles and Flora
included. The governess describes his specter as an unnaturally
white, silent “horror.” She believes Quint’s ghost is haunting Bly
with the intention of corrupting Miles.
governess’s predecessor. Mrs. Grose describes Miss Jessel as a lady,
young and beautiful but “infamous.” Miss Jessel apparently had an
inappropriate relationship with Quint, who was well below her class
standing. The governess describes Miss Jessel’s black-clad ghost
as miserable, pale, and dreadful. The governess believes Miss Jessel’s
ghost is haunting Bly with the intention of corrupting Flora.
at Bly. Luke is expected to deliver the governess’s letter to the
children’s uncle, but he cannot find it. Miles uses Luke as an attempted
escape route and asks to see Luke before telling the governess what
she wants to know.
The narrator of the prologue. The anonymous narrator
is an educated guest at the Christmas Eve gathering. The narrator
is most likely a man, since he speaks disdainfully of the sensation-hungry
women at the gathering. The narrator may be a stand-in for Henry
James, as he mentions he has a title for the tale at the end of
the prologue. As Douglas repeatedly hints, the narrator will find
a deeper meaning in the story.
teller of the governess’s tale at the Christmas Eve gathering. Douglas
knew the governess, who had been his sister’s governess after her
time at Bly, and may have been in love with her. He is
the only one who has heard the tale, since the governess left him
in charge of her manuscript after she died. Douglas was fond of
the governess and introduces her as a “most agreeable” person, giving
her credibility regarding the tale to come.
storyteller at the gathering. Griffin tells a ghost story involving
a child and his mother.
Women at the Gathering
Guests at the house. The women are characterized
as sensation hungry and eager to hear the most “dreadful” and “delicious”