"If he confesses, he's saved"

At the Confessional, 1826
Public DomainAt the Confessional, 1826 - Credit: Guillaume Bodinier
The practice of confessing one's sins in order to gainĀ absolution, often through the medium of a priest, is most associated with Catholicism, but confession is also an important part of other religions, including Judaism and Protestantism. Though the governess here imagines herself as the conduit through which Miles will find divine forgiveness, other aspects of her rhetoric indicate a more pernicious role. In particular, her oft-repeated desire to "possess" the children, especially Miles, suggests a demonic function equivalent to that she sees in Quint and Jessel. Amongst the many possibilities that James opens up is the idea that she might actually be working to lead the children into damnation.