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good looks and red hair, but the fact that she has no prior indication of Quint’s appearance tells against those who want to make the ghosts just creatures of the Governess’s diseased imagination. The Governess is surprised at Mrs Grose’s failure to see Miss Jessel, but not as alarmed as we might expect: ‘You don’t see her exactly as we see? – You mean to say you don’t now – now? She’s as big as a blazing fire! Only look, dearest woman, look–!’ Flora too denies seeing anything, but her behaviour – she’s described in the stage directions of the opera as being beside the lake watching – suggests the opposite. James writes some of his most magnificently opaque sentences at this moment in the story, leaving the reader guessing what really happened, but sure about what the Governess thinks happened. After all, she feels justified in coming out into the open at last, in saying to Flora: ‘She’s there, you little unhappy thing – there, there, there, and you know it as well as you know me!’ James’s framing device creates the necessary claustrophobic atmosphere. The attractive dilettante instructs her most precisely. The Governess must deal with all problems herself. She must never trouble him – but never, never: neither appeal nor complain nor write about anything; only meet all questions herself . . . take the whole thing over and let him alone. James tells us a lot implicitly about the Governess’s emotional condition in describing her reaction to her employer. She saw him in all the glow of high fashion, of good looks, of expensive habits, of charming ways with women. We learn all this not from the pages of the thin, old-fashioned, gilt-edged album, the Governess’s record of what happened, but from Douglas, her old friend (and lover (?); some fanciful critic has gone so far as to suggest that he is in fact little Miles, grown up), in whose reading of the old book the story unfolds. We are looking through double gauze into the heart of an impressionable twenty–year–old daughter of a poor country parson. In her own account the Governess confirms her impressionability, with references here and there to the distinguished remote man, in words suggesting that social deference has heightened sexual attraction by making its object unattainable. James subtly suggests the Governess’s attitude to Miles through the words she uses of him: he was incredibly beautiful . . . everything but a sort of passion of tenderness for him

Still from the 1947 Robert Siodmak film Time out of Mind

was swept away by his presence; there was in this beautiful little boy something extraordinarily sensitive, yet extraordinarily happy; an imperturbable little prodigy of delightful lovable goodness. The sentences come pages apart in the story and their effect is subtly cumulative. She speaks very powerfully of Flora too: she was the most beautiful child I had ever seen. Those who are looking for extra reasons for tension in her about her charges see her feelings for her employer increasing the weight of her duty until it becomes too much for her. In one interpretation these passages suggest the governess’s desire to thwart the passage of the children to puberty, to the sexual world of Quint and Miss Jessel, a world remote from her. In another the beauty and fragility and apparent perfection of the children increase their vulnerability and hence the gravity of her responsibilities and her accountability to the distant dashing man she thinks she loves. Much of James’s skill as a storyteller lies in his deliberate ambiguities. He hints; he suggests; some of the hints and suggestions seem almost to contradict others, but he leaves you to make things out for yourself, to construct with your imagination, knowing that such constructions can be more vivid and terrifying than a more concrete, carefully defined world. Painters have long appreciated the power of

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Grange Park Opera 2002 Programme  
Grange Park Opera 2002 Programme  

Grange Park Opera 2002 Programme