Summary of Section XII
Mrs. Grose has not accepted her version of the story, even when she says what Miles said at the end: to imagine how bad he could be if he was really trying! The governess takes this statement seriously and not as a joke. She also takes it as a sign of guilt that neither child has ever alluded to Quint or Miss Jessel. Miles is reading to Flora, but as the two adults watch from the terrace, the governess declares they are not reading; they are speaking of the ghosts. She claims she knows she sounds crazy, but she is actually getting more “lucid” (p. 48). She tells Mrs. Grose that the innocence and beauty of the children are a fraud. Mrs. Grose admits that Quint and Miss Jessel were wicked, but what could they do now? When the governess tells her what evil ghosts can do, Mrs. Grose says that their uncle must come and take them away. She asks the governess to write to him.
Commentary on Section XII
There is a question in this section of whether it is the governess instead of the children who has been corrupted. According to the governess, she finally convinces Mrs. Grose of the danger, but her words sound more and more hysterical instead of lucid, as she thinks. One wonders if Mrs. Grose wants the employer to get involved because she thinks the governess has lost her mind. The children appear innocent, but the governess has become completely cynical. There are thus three possibilities for the reader now: the governess is making up the ghosts; the ghosts are real but the governess is losing it; the ghosts are real and wreaking havoc on the people of the house, including the children and governess. When the housekeeper suggests it is time to tell the employer, the governess backs off because she is so proud of handling this by herself. She wants to impress the employer, not give him trouble. The situation looks worse for the governess now.