On the one hand, I love Mrs. Grose (besides her charactonym), and on the other, if I was trapped working at a haunted house with two precocious children, Mrs. Grose would NOT be my sidekick of choice.
Hello and welcome back, turn of the screaders!
Today we discuss chapters 13-18 of this ghostwreck! You just can’t look away, CAN YOU?
Ok so can we talk about the fake-letters bit? I realize that TG’s employer/the kids’ uncle is a careless loserpit, and that there is no way that he would read letters from his niece and nephew, but ? Um? TG allowing the kids to write letters to their uncle while simultaneously assuring them that he will NEVER RECEIVE THEM is a really terrible move. Like, just tell them it’s not going to happen. Don’t lead the kids on with ideas that their uncle gives a shit about them (he DOES NOT.).
Of course, just when I’m feeling bad for the kids, TG assures me that they are master manipulators and I feel bad. TG realizes that while the kids never ever talk about their pasts, “they were in possession of everything that had ever happened to me.” On the one hand, this is a pretty typical kid thing to do because adults seem really interesting and full of stories, and on the other, TG always manages to word it in a way that makes me really suspicious and uncomfortable. Knowledge is power, after all, and these kids know EVERYTHING about her.
There’s also the bit about Strange Stillnesses in this chapter: “There were times of our being together when I would have been ready to swear that, literally, in my presence, but with my direct sense of it closed, they had visitors who were known and were welcome.” TG’s awareness and commentary on these quiet spells around the house are one of the many moments where we are 100% reliant on TG’s interpretation of an event. TG finds it suspicious that the kids don’t find the stillnesses, but maybe they don’t even notice because it’s a perfectly normal quiet time, not ghosts creepin in and hangin out with them in total silence.
My favorite part of chapter 14 is when TG is completely honest to Miles on one point, which is that “I don’t think your uncle much cares.” THIS IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT POINT, WHETHER OR NOT YOU GOT GHOSTS ON THE PREMISES.
Miles doesn’t believe her, which is just, well, his prerogative but is definitely a point against his trustworthiness and a point in TG’s favor. This chapter shows how aware Miles is of his masculine power and position in society. I don’t mean that he’s a full-grown man or possessed by a full-grown man (TG means that, for sure).
“Miles’s whole title to independence, the rights of his sex and situation, were so stamped upon him that if he had suddenly struck for freedom I should have had nothing to say.”
Even if there’s no ghosts involved, Miles is aware of what “his own sort” is, whether he means his peers, the ghosts, or lechers (like his role model Quint). Miles accuses TG of keeping him from becoming a man, which, first, ew, and second, maybe calm down with your fragile masculinity and feeling threatened by your own governess just because she won’t send you to school.
TG starts asking the important questions in this chapter; for example: “Why did they never resent my inexorable, my perpetual society?” She’s haunting them just like the ghosts, and these kids just put up with it for seventeen whole chapters.
As distressed as TG continues to be, I think we need to admit that Miss Jessel is pretty miserable as well. So far we’ve only seen her twice and both times she’s been collapsed with her head in her hands, rather than malevolently stealing souls or whatever. It’s noteworthy that when TG decides to leave, only to see Miss Jessel appearing to take possession of her schoolroom, TG has a complete turnaround. TG’s pride won’t let her leave now that she’s been so directly challenged by her dead peer: “she had looked at me long enough to appear to say that her right to sit at my table was as good as mine to sit at hers.”
In chapter 16, TG is incredibly irritated when neither the children nor Mrs. Grose make ANY comment on TG’s absence from church. I shouldn’t laugh but I did. I realize that TG is upset because their normal behavior would dictate that one of them would mention her absence, or ask questions, or accuse her, and that their atypical behavior is her problem. But it looks kind of childish for TG to hinge so much weight on the lack of commentary on missing a church service.
In any case, the important point from this interaction is that the children can manipulate Mrs. Grose easily: “Oh yes, they asked me to say nothing; and to please them- so long as they were there-of course I promised.” However, they seem to have lost the ability to similarly manipulate TG’s behavior; she seems to be staying because of her interaction with Miss Jessel more than anything else.
And then there’s this bit where TG lies through her teeth. She tells Mrs. Grose about seeing Miss Jessel, which is true, but then she implies that they had a conversation. Mrs. Grose asks, “Do you mean she spoke?” and TG answers “It came to that.” and goes on to specify that Miss Jessel said “she suffers the torments” “of the damned.”
I realize that TG and Miss Jessel got down to some serious eye-vibing, but at no point did Miss Jessel say anything. So here’s my question: Is the only time TG lies through her teeth, or is this the only time we catch her at it?
TG has also come to some conclusions about Miles, including that Miles must have been expelled “For wickedness. For what else-when he’s so clever and beautiful and perfect?” TG has a lot of feelings about Miles, but I like that she still can’t get any more specific on his expulsion than “wickedness.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN.
TG finally gets almost a heart-to-heart with Miles in chapter 17, where she admits that “his secret precocity…forced me to treat him as an intelligent equal” implying that Quint’s influence (or possession) is making Miles more adult than is normal. I’m not sure what I think about that, but I do know that Miles’ admission “I want a new field” is possibly the most disturbing thing he’s said or done. Am I oversensitive? Is this a normal thing for a homebound kid to say? The connotation of “field” suggests competition or battle, which is why it makes me concerned about his motivations.
What do you think about Miles’ wish to talk to his uncle? It doesn’t seem like his uncle has ever shown any inclination to care about talking to Miles. If Miles is influenced by or possessed by Quint, it might make more sense that Miles would rely on his uncle, since Quint seems to have been friends with (?????acquaintance of???? minion????) him.
TG comparing herself and Miles to Saul and David was probably the weirdest expression she uses in this book. Like….what.
In any case, by seducing her with music, Miles distracts TG from her haunting long enough for Flora to get away. I continue to be amazed at how useless Mrs. Grose is in a crisis, but the way TG leaps from conclusion to conclusion is also bizarre. She’s been watching Miles this whole time and she suddenly decides he can go to the devil and do whatever he wants? Why didn’t they recruit him to the search?