The Turn of the Screw
How we cite our quotes:
Both the children had a gentleness – it was their only fault, and it never made Miles a muff – that kept them (how shall I express it?) almost impersonal and certainly quite unpunishable. They were like those cherubs of the anecdote who had – morally at any rate – nothing to whack! (4.4)
This rather bizarre-sounding quote serves to emphasize just how oddly (creepily, one might even say) innocent and angelic these children are. The whole thing about the cherubs with nothing to whack refers to a famous story related by author Charles Lamb, who lamented the fact that a former teacher, who was fond of corporal punishment, would have no students' bottoms to whip in heaven, since angels were frequently pictured as winged baby heads with no bodies. Weird, we know.
He had never for a second suffered. I took this as a direct disproof of his having really been chastised. If he had been wicked he would have "caught" it, and I should have caught it by the rebound – I should have found the trace. I found nothing at all, and he was therefore an angel. (4.4)
The Governess's faith in Miles's innocence again seems to rest simply on his outward aspect; we actually have no idea what he's like on the inside. The Governess's certainty that she'd be able to tell if he'd ever been bad is truly, truly naïve.
Then I saw something more. The moon made the night extraordinarily penetrable and showed me on the lawn a person, diminished by distance, who stood there motionless and as if fascinated, looking up to where I had appeared – looking, that is, not so much straight at me as at something that was apparently above me. There was clearly another person above me – there was a person on the tower; but the presence on the lawn was not in the least what I had conceived and had confidently hurried to meet. The presence on the lawn – I felt sick as I made it out – was poor little Miles himself. (10.8)
Despite the fact that Miles is clearly being "bad" here, he's still depicted as "poor little Miles," as though his air of innocence still protects him somehow.