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Quotes

Quote #4

An unknown man in a lonely place is a permitted object of fear to a young woman privately bred; and the figure that faced me was – a few more seconds assured me – as little anyone else I knew as it was the image that had been in my mind. (3.11)

The tension between the "unknown man" and the Governess is palpable, even at a great distance (remember, he's standing atop a tower, and doesn't pose an immediate threat to her). This perspective on the relationship of men and women implies the threat of violence at any time.

Quote #5

I had had brothers myself, and it was no revelation to me that little girls could be slavish idolaters of little boys. What surpassed everything was that there was a little boy in the world who could have for the inferior age, sex, and intelligence so fine a consideration. They were extraordinarily at one, and to say that they never either quarreled or complained is to make the note of praise coarse for their quality of sweetness. (9.3)

Miles and Flora's unique relationship is sweet on one hand, but a little too sweet on the other, if you ask us. The phrasing of this description comes off as condescending to our contemporary ears (we have to remember that this was the common view of the status of men in relation to women in James's day), and we wonder for the umpteenth time if Miles is really as swell as he seems to be.

Quote #6

Turned out for Sunday by his uncle's tailor, who had had a free hand and a notion of pretty waistcoats and of his grand little air, 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. I was by the strangest of chances wondering how I should meet him when the revolution unmistakably occurred. (14.1)

Miles and the Governess are sitting on an odd metaphorical seesaw – the question is, when does a woman in an authority position get outweighed by a male child, who has more heft simply because of his gender?

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