(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Miriam climbs the staircase and looks down from the bedroom of the second floor to the garden below, aware of the sense that she is leaving behind everything familiar to her. She thinks back over her days of quiet, sun-filled mornings. She remembers the afternoons she spent reading books, and the moments when she played duets on the piano with her sister, Harriet. Her packed trunk stands in the hallway downstairs, ready for the trip to Hanover, Germany the next morning. A governess position at a girls’ boarding school awaits Miriam.

Miriam crosses the English Channel and takes a train to Germany. She already regrets her decision to become a governess. As night falls, the train rushes her across the countryside toward Germany, and Miriam doubts her ability to teach English to young girls. She is leaving the house of her family because her father is bankrupt. There is no looking back. Miriam knows that she has to take her place in the world. Nervous but expectant, she feels freedom might await her.

After several months at her position in the boarding school, Miriam is confronted by Fräulein Pfaff, headmistress of the school. They stand in the central room of the school, along with the other teaching staff. While Fräulein Pfaff chastises the teachers for talking about men in front of the schoolgirls, Miriam grows angry. She realizes that the Fräulein is talking about her. She vows not to bow to Fräulein Pfaff’s spiteful attitude but sees that she might be asked to resign her teaching post with the girls. Meanwhile, back in England, one of Miriam’s sisters becomes engaged to be married. Miriam announces to Fräulein Pfaff that she will go home to England. Once again, she boards a train. This time, when it pulls out from the bright platform in the night, it is to return to England. Miriam disembarks at the English station with her first year of work behind her.

Upon her return to England, Miriam is asked by her mother to assume a teaching position with young children. At her eighteenth birthday, Miriam puts up her hair and goes to work as a resident governess in a school for the daughters of gentlemen. By the end of the teaching year, she goes on...

(The entire section is 894 words.)