The Prologue introduces the story of a Governess who is entrusted with the care of two children by their guardian and uncle. He gives her strict instructions that she is to take full responsibility for them and not to make any further contact with him.
The Governess travels to Bly, the country house where she is to take up her new position.
She is greeted by the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, and the two children, Miles and Flora.
The Governess receives a letter from Miles’s school, stating that he has been expelled and will not be welcome back. Convinced that Miles is innocent, she resolves to dismiss the letter and do nothing further about it.
Feeling more and more at home with the children at Blythe, the Governess is alarmed when she catches sight of a strange man.
The children play together. As they run off, the Governess again sees the man, staring at her through a window. When she describes him to Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper tells her that he is Peter Quint, valet to the children’s guardian, who was killed in a fall the previous winter.
Miles has a precocious grasp of Latin, but Flora prefers to study History.
While Flora plays, the Governess becomes convinced that both she and her charge can see an apparition of the previous governess, Miss Jessel.
The children are discovered out of their beds in the middle of the night.
Colloquy and Soliloquy
The Governess is tortured by Quint’s and Miss Jessel’s claims on the children.
Mrs.Grose, the governess, Miles and Flora are going to church. Miles asks when he will return to school.
The Governess comes across Miss Jessel in the schoolroom.
The Governess tells Miles that she has written to his Guardian.
Miles is tempted to steal the Governess’s letter before it can be sent.
Mrs. Grose and the Governess are enchanted by Miles’ performance until they realize that Flora has disappeared.
At the lake, Flora becomes hysterical and accuses the Governess of cruelty.
Mrs. Grose takes Flora away. Left alone with Miles, the Governess challenges Quint for the last time as the boy collapses in her arms.