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Miles & Flora's last name?

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Stephen I'm just starting this but I gotta ask... Is there any chance that Miles and Flora's last name was Douglas? After all it IS Douglas who's recounting the tale (as sent to him by his sister's old governess)

Who's to say that Douglas is not a last name and the ending that I've heard about means something completely different.


Rachel Hmmm good question!


message 3: by C.E. (last edited Jul 11, 2012 08:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

C.E. Crowder Wow. I've never heard that proposed before. That's food for thought. Although when you get to the end, I think you'll find it fairly definitive.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

A very interesting idea, but I'm not sure that I understand where it leads. Miles died at the end of the story, so Douglas can't be Miles (unless the governess was lying at the end). Who else could he be - the descendant of Flora? Or a relative? Is your idea that the "Dougals descendant" faked the story to make the governess sound crazy? I'm intrigued to hear where your idea goes....


message 5: by Stephen (last edited Sep 29, 2012 09:27AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Stephen Andy wrote: "...unless the governess was lying at the end"

My apologies. I was not suggesting that she was lying but perhaps that she was mentally disturbed and she was NOT the reliable narrator that we initially believe.

Further I've gotten tangled up in moving and have never gotten back to actually FINISH this story so my impressions are based only on what I've heard and the bits I've come across elsewhere. (Plus an all too superficial reading of this for a Freshman English Class back in '74)


Robyn What a sneaky creeper that governess is!


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Robyn wrote: "What a sneaky creeper that governess is!"

As Stephen said above, not wholly reliable! When I re-read the book recently, I was reminded of "Spider" by Patrick McGrath. The narrative is more the ravings of a deluded mind than an accurate account.


Robyn I didn't really appreciate this story when reading it... I wish I'd caught on to the whole unreliable narrator, "is she nuts" gist sooner into it so I could appreciate it. Perhaps a re-read is what I need.

It never occurred to me that she was "in love" with the children she was watching. That really changes so many things. I sort of got caught up in her tangents and didn't really follow her story (I suppose, that's in part because she is so unreliable).


message 9: by mj (new) - rated it 5 stars

mj Hangge This might be a double post as I'd already posted it before, but I think there is some creedance to the thought that Miles may also be Douglas. I know that the last line of the book states that Miles' heart stopped, but I am curious if the governess was not an unreliable narrator because she seemed crazed through the story. It would make sense as Douglas said that the story was from his "sister's governess who was ten years his elder" and there are some clues throughout the story.

Would love to know what James had in his head, but it's a little too late for that unless he comes back to walk the parapets.


message 10: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Stoddard What if Mile's heart stopping is a testament to a loss of innocence. I've read several essays about how the Governess is a sexual predator preying on the children, and it makes sense. Especially when you consider the ambivalence that Henry James uses in his text when referring to her treatment of the children. Assuming the Governess is an unreliable narrator of a very dark nature, suppose this scene is actually when she finally goes too far, and then the character Miles dies as to ways of innocence, and Douglas is born.


Stephen Roat If Douglas was Miles, would the guest at the party have not known his first name? That being said, the unreliable Governess may have told the story to Douglass to manipulate his memories of the incident. Douglas said he was not involved. We do not know if he was a reliable narrator either.


message 12: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Stoddard I'm a firm believer that Douglas and Miles are the same person, and that this story is his convoluted confession as to the events that occurred with his sister's governess.


Beckbunch I absolutely thought that Douglas and Miles were the same person. I'd thought that early on, when he said that this was his sister's governess and that she was 10 years his senior. For me though, I thought it was a fictitious tale told by Miles that was supposed to suggest he was a ghost......to add to the creepiness of the story-telling.


message 14: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Shoemaker Robyn wrote: "What a sneaky creeper that governess is!"

She's awesome!


message 15: by Eric (last edited Mar 12, 2017 09:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Shoemaker The problem with the unreliable narrative idea concerning the Governess is that most scholars right now believe the ghosts were real and that the Governess isn't mentally unstable. They base this mostly on the second sight of the apparition Peter Quint, where Mrs. Grose immediately recognizes the Governess's description to be that of Peter Quint. This doesn't quite work if the Governess is an unreliable narrator, unless one wants to flip flop and say that "at times" she is reliable. It's also possible James wanted two possible endings and found a way to do it.


message 16: by Sheila (last edited Mar 14, 2017 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sheila Eric wrote: "The problem with the unreliable narrative idea concerning the Governess is that most scholars right now believe the ghosts were real and that the Governess isn't mentally unstable. They base this m..."

Thanks for mentioning this point, the "realness" of the ghosts. I, too, think that they were indeed supposed to be "real", given the evidence you mentioned.

However, that doesn't mean (to me) that the governness is necessarily the voice of reason here. It's her reaction to the apparitions (and her fixation on the children) that leads me to believe in her instability.

The conclusion I drew at the end of the story is that Miles didn't physically die. He probably is the gentleman relating the story.

I would lean more toward James making some sort of statement on

a) the effects of the overriding (hysterical) female force in the nursery on developing manhood (effectively "smothering" true independent manhood?)

b) the irony of the fact that the most damage done to these children is not inflicted by any ghosts of the dead, but by the actions of the living (an uncle who couldn't care less, a less-than-stable nanny, possible sexual abuse by the servants)


message 17: by Eric (last edited Mar 15, 2017 01:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Shoemaker If my memory is working, they were at this time, accusing women of hysteria in Western Europe, so James may be making a point of some kind on that, which I find interesting that they would think that their "manhood" was threatened, since also at this time "anti-Semitism" is on the rise at the close of the 19th Century, suicides are up, and World War I is coming; not to mention England's Victorian Age is a host of horrors, especially in London. Freud's walking round tying practically everything to sex and seems like a "freak/predator" in "Dora." Jack the Ripper was running around and still fresh in the minds of those at the time. Charles Dickens is telling it like it is; this is a crazy time to be living.

In my opinion, Miles is dead. Flora is irretrievable and likely a basket case. It's a novella, so there's no further development after Mile's heart stops. James leaves the reader to speculation, probably because whatever speculation there is, matters not, and this is because James' has made his point, is done with the story.

I do agree that "Douglas"is suspicious. I mean, can he even be believed? Keeps a woman's story hidden from view, locked away, and then sent for, to tell the story himself. And how fortunate for the opportunity to have risen. Really Douglas? I haven't often seen that kind of thing. LOL


message 18: by Tarek (last edited Apr 04, 2017 07:15PM) (new) - added it

Tarek Darwish In my opinion .. The heart of Miles stopped as the homosexual boy and became the heterosexual as Douglas .. He became in love with the woman who put him back to the normal sexuality as she thinks , and killed him as a homo and rebirth him as a man of a great sexual desire for her .. and thinking that she corrected his path by putting him on the normal sexuality (hetero) .. So Douglas owe her his remedy ... Mistake corrected by mistake and went to secret zone while Douglas doing catharsis by introducing it as a story ..and sending his servant to bring his diary from home.So She revised the turn of screw to the heterosexuality after Quint turned it to homo mode >> Good work Mr. Henry James (Syrian interpretation )


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