“I daresay I fancied myself, in short, a remarkable young woman and took comfort in the faith that this would more publicly appear. Well, I needed to be remarkable to offer a front to the remarkable things that presently gave their first sign.”

In Chapter 3, the governess describes herself as “remarkable,” and expresses pleasure at the idea that this quality will soon be made apparent to those who know her—most notably the children’s uncle, who she wants to impress. She relishes the opportunity to prove herself in her role as governess, and this quote serves as an early indication that the governess is preoccupied with the way she’s viewed by others. She alludes to the “remarkable things” she will soon face in the course of her duties, and the fact that she’s clearly craving an opportunity to present herself as a “remarkable young woman” right before seeing Peter Quint for the first time reinforces the possibility that the ghosts are not real, but rather a subconscious manifestation of a desire for some sort of adventure.

“I scarce know how to put my story into words that shall be a credible picture of my state of mind; but I was in these days literally able to find a joy in the extraordinary flight of heroism the occasion demanded of me. I now saw that I had been asked for a service admirable and difficult; and there would be a greatness in letting it be seen—oh, in the right quarter!—that I could succeed where many another girl might have failed. It was an immense help to me—I confess I rather applaud myself as I look back!—that I saw my service so strongly and so simply…It was in short a magnificent chance. This chance presented itself to me in an image richly material. I was a screen—I was to stand before them. The more I saw, the less they would.”

In Chapter 6, the governess makes the decision to act as the children’s protector, though whether this is noble or self-serving is debatable. On the surface, choosing to place herself between the children and danger is indeed heroic. However, the fact that the governess describes this as a “magnificent chance” that has “presented itself to [her]” suggests she rather likes being granted the opportunity to prove herself a hero. She revels in it, enjoys the idea of her heroism being seen by the children’s uncle, and grows excited thinking she might succeed “where many another girl” would fail. Essentially, the governess’s heroism in the text is made more complicated by her wish to be seen as heroic—is she saving the children from danger, or is she (consciously or unconsciously) pushing them towards it?

“It made me, the sound of the words, in which it seemed to me that I caught for the very first time a small faint quaver of consenting consciousness—it made me drop on my knees beside the bed and seize once more the chance of possessing him. ‘Dear little Miles, dear little Miles, if you knew how I want to help you! It's only that, it's nothing but that, and I'd rather die than give you a pain or do you a wrong—I'd rather die than hurt a hair of you. Dear little Miles’—oh, I brought it out now even if I should go too far—‘I just want you to help me to save you!’”

In Chapter 17, the intensity of the governess’s yearning to save Miles reaches fever pitch. She becomes distressed when Miles mentions going back to school, and goes so far as to say she fears she has only “one more chance of possessing him.” That she wants to possess him, not unlike Quint, is quite revealing; it suggests her quest to save the children is obsessive and possibly dangerous, and links the governess with the ghosts, suggesting she is just as much a threat as they are. If we interpret the ghosts to be merely figments of the governess’s imagination, her claim that she’d “rather die” than hurt Miles is quite ominous and foreshadows his death, possibly at her hands, at the end of the novel.