Turn of the Screw

Characters: The Governess

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  • Created on: 18-04-14 10:22

The Governess

  • Her unsettling emotions questions the existence of ghosts she sees. Because there is no one else to witness them, her stability remains ambiguous
  • Her relationship with the children renders her an unreliable narrator and a dubious source of information.  Keeps changing her mind on their innocence.
  • Affection for the children are intense. Often embraces them with passion, going as far as kissing miles. Ambiguity of the text portrays the affection as both harmless and inappropriate.
  •  Douglas is an unreliable source because his views could be biased as he was infatuated with the governess. She is “the most agreeable person” he has ever known. But he excuses her behaviour by saying that she was “in love”
  • She can be viewed as a strong willed and intelligent but emotionally precarious character. Takes her position as the children’s caretaker with a seriousness that portrays her as a villain and a heroine 
  •  However, she can also be a sheltered inexperienced young woman who fantasises about her employer to the extent that causes nervous exhaustions due to the two strange children. This results in an elaborate and ultimately hallucinations
  • James provides one side of the story. This makes it inaccurate in whole. The governess’s account is not the full account, which is never revealed.
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The Governess QUOTES

1.     She was the most beautiful child I had ever seen… CH 1  

2.     I had the view of a castle of romance…; it was a big, ugly, antique… CH 1 

3.     He was therefore an angel. CH 4

4.     A disguised excitement …turned to something like madness. CH 6       

5.     "They know—it's too monstrous: they know, they know!" CH 7

6.     "I don't save or shield them! It's far worse than I dreamed—they're lost!" CH 7

7.       In the state of my nerves, I absolutely believed she lied… CH10

8.     I’d rather die than hurt a hair of you. Dear little Miles” I just want you to help me to save you!" CH17

9.     . She was there, and I was justified; she was there, and I was neither cruel nor mad. CH20

10.  I was so determined to have all my proof that I flashed into ice to challenge him. CH24

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Mrs Grose

  • The governess’s key FRIEND throughout the story, Mrs. Grose is a long time servant at Bly.
  •  her love for the two causes her occasionally to deny the accusations the governess makes against the children’s character and behaviour.
  • Mrs. Grose respects the governess and listens willingly to her claims to see ghosts and her concerns about Bly.
  •  Sometimes, though, Mrs. Grose seems to withhold information from the governess; she often stops short of full disclosure about such matters as the histories of the children and the estate’s past.
  • Gov thinks of Mrs. Grose as her friend, but doesn't have an entirely honest relationship.
  • The governess sees her as simpleminded and slow witted. But, she knows more of the story than the governess does and is as capable of piecing things together. She is also slower to leap to dire conclusions
  •  Mrs Grose is the information bank for the governess. She uses Mrs Grose as a “receptacle of lurid things” rather than ask for her opinion.
  • Mrs. Grose is usually sceptical of these speculations, but the governess takes Mrs. Grose’s incredulity for astonished belief.
  •  Like the reader, Mrs. Grose is willing to hear the governess out but doesn’t necessarily agree with her logic or conclusions.


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Mrs Grose Quotes

  •  “Faraway faint glimmer of a consciousness more acute” CH 5

·         "It was Quint's own fancy. “ to “spoil” and “play” CH 6

·         "Too free with everyone!" CH 6

·         Mrs. Grose took it as she might have taken a blow in the stomach. CH 7

·         . "I've never seen one like him. He did what he wished." CH 7

·         " little darlings—?" CH 12

·         but she failed for the moment…to respond to my pressure.  CH 18

·         nobody's there—and you never see nothing, my sweet! and she appealed, blundering in, to the child. “ CH 20

·         "Your idea's the right one. I myself, miss—"

·         She shook her head with dignity. "I've HEARD—!" CH21
"From that child—horrors! “ CH 21

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        When the governess arrived at Bly, she received a letter saying that Miles had been expelled from his school, though the note does not give a reason for this expulsion.

·         The governess’s relationship with Miles is clouded by this suspicious past, because it implies that there is a kind of devious or even evil side of him which she cannot reconcile with what she perceives to be his immaculate behaviour.

·         Miles might be either a cunning and deceitful plaything of ghosts or merely an innocent, unusually well-mannered young boy.

·         Governess repeatedly changes her mind, leaving Miles’s true character in question. When the governess first meets Miles, she is struck by his “positive fragrance of purity” and the sense that he has known nothing but love.

·   She finds herself excusing him for any potential mishap because he is too beautiful to misbehave. The fact that Miles is otherwise unusually pleasant and well behaved suggests that the sinister quality of his behaviour exists only in the governess’s mind

·         Once the governess begins having her supernatural encounters, she comes to believe that Miles is plotting evil deeds with his ghostly counterpart, Quint, and indeed Miles does exhibit strange behaviour.  He plans an incident so that the governess will think him “bad,” and he steals the letter she wrote to his uncle.

 Mrs. Grose tells us that Peter Quint was a bad influence on him, but no way to measure the extent or precise nature of this influence, and Miles’s wrong could have been jokes.

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Miles Quotes

impossible to carry a bad name with a greater sweetness of innocence CH3

 he was therefore an angel CH4

 "It was Quint's own fancy. To play with him, I mean—to spoil him” CH6

 "He was looking for little Miles." A portentous clearness now possessed me. "That’s whom he was looking for." CH6

  "They know—it's too monstrous: they know, they know!" CH7The presence on the lawn…was poor little Miles himself. CH10

 "Think me—for a change—bad!" he bent forward and kissed me. It was practically the end of everything. CH11

 I'd rather die than hurt a hair of you. Dear little Miles… just want you to help me to save you!" CH17

 I could feel in the sudden fever of his little body the tremendous pulse of his little heart, CH24

"Peter Quint—you devil CH24

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  • Flora is both angelic and diabolical and is preternaturally well behaved.
  •  She has “extraordinary charm” and is the most” beautiful child” she has laid eyes on. But, her personality distinct from these glowing description.
  •  When the governess asks flora why she looked out the window, her response is evasive. Her next turn at the window was a part of mile’s scheme to show the gov that miles can be bad.
  •  At this point, the governess has already assumed Flora to be conniving and deceptive, but this is the first instance in which Flora seems to be exhibiting unambiguous deceit.
  •  The story remains inconclusive, however, and we never know for sure what Flora and Miles are up to.
  •  Eventually, the governess begins to suspect that Flora meets secretly with Miss Jessel, and she thinks that Flora’s outward displays of innocence and beauty intentionally conceal a dark inner life.
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Flora Quotes

·         A creature so charming…the most beautiful child I had ever seen… CH 1

·         Hair of gold and her frock of blue, danced before me… view of a castle of romance. Wasn't it just a storybook over which I had fallen a-doze…No; it was a big, ugly, antique… CH 1

·         "I don't save or shield them! It's far worse than I dreamed—they're lost!" CH 7

·         —"Flora saw!"
"That’s the horror. She kept it to herself!” CH7

·         "Well, you know, I thought someone was"— smiled out that at me. CH 10

·         Flora saw more—things terrible and unguessable and that sprang from dreadful passages of intercourse in the past. CH13

·         I see nobody. I see nothing. I never have. I think you're cruel. I don't like you!" CH 20

·         She was there, and I was justified; she was there, and I was neither cruel nor mad.CH20

·         "From that child—horrors… she says things—!" CH21

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  •  First ghost the governess encounters at Bly.

 ·    According to Mrs Grose, he was a hound and a scoundrel. Also a bad influence on the children.

 ·     Mrs. Grose also says that he had a scandalous relationship with Miss Jessel.

 ·    A former valet at Bly. Red-haired, handsome, and exceedingly clever, Quint was “infamous” throughout the area of Bly.

 ·   The governess describes his spectre as an unnaturally white, silent “horror.”

·     Believed that Quint’s ghost is haunting Bly with the intention of corrupting Miles

·      Character is ambiguous throughout the novella

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Quint Quotes

·     My imagination had, in a flash, turned real. He did stand there! CH3

·     That it was not for me he had come there. He had come for someone else. CH 4

·     "I'm afraid of HIM." CH5 

·    "He was looking for little Miles." A portentous clearness now possessed me. CH 6

·   "It was Quint's own fancy…Quint was much too free." CH6

·  " He did what he wished." CH7

·   He was… a living, detestable, dangerous presence. CH9

·   Peter Quint had come into view like a sentinel before a prison. CH 24

·   I kept my eyes on the thing at the window and saw it move and shift its posture. CH24

  "Peter Quint—you devil!" CH 24

"familliarity of him wearing no hat" CH3

"he never wore his hat" CH5

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Miss Jessel

·         Miss Jessel - The governess’s predecessor. Mrs. Grose describes Miss Jessel as a lady, young and beautiful but “infamous.”

·         Apparently had an inappropriate relationship with Quint, who was well below her class standing.

·         The governess describes Miss Jessel as miserable, pale, and dreadful.

·         The governess believes Miss Jessel intends to corrupt Flora.

·         Mrs. Grose says that Miss Jessel had been a lady and she had a controversial affair with Peter Quint.

  • The governess eventually comes to believe that Flora meets secretly with Miss Jessel
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Miss Quotes

  • We had an interested spectator… I waited, but nothing came… CH 6
  • They're not mine—they're not ours. They're his and they're hers!" CH12
  • They want to get to them."CH12
  • Dark as midnight in her black dress, her haggard beauty…I had the extraordinary chill of feeling that it was I who was the intruder. CH 15
  • She was there, and I was justified; she was there, and I was neither cruel nor mad. CH20
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When he reads the governess’s manuscript to the partygoers, a story that involves two ghosts and two children.

 The governess was Douglas’s sister’s governess, and the way Douglas speaks of the governess implies that he had once been in love with her..

He is the only one who has heard the tale, since the governess left him in charge of her manuscript after she died.

  Douglas was fond of the governess and introduces her as a “most agreeable” person, giving her credibility regarding the tale to come.

 Biased opinion.  Cannot be trusted as a narrator as he was infatuated with the governess. Not a reliable source.

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Douglas Quotes

      1.         "If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to TWO children—?"

2.         Begun to read with a fine clearness that was like a rendering to the ear of the beauty of his author's hand.

3.         "in the most beautiful hand"

4.         "you'll easily judge when you hear"

5.         I saw it. And she saw I saw it."

6.         "almost the tone of hope"

7.         "the story won't tell"

8.         I don't know who she was in love with, I know who he was."

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Unnamed Narrator

·         The narrator of the prologue.

·         The anonymous narrator is a guest at the Christmas Eve gathering.

·         The narrator is most likely a man, since he speaks disdainfully of the sensation-hungry women at the gathering.

·         The narrator may be a stand-in for Henry James, as he mentions he has a title for the tale at the end of the prologue.

·  describes the Christmas Eve storytelling party at which the governess’ account of her time at Bly eventually is told.

·  The anonymous narrator is also unreliable. This is because he is retelling the story in Douglas’s perspective. Telling us what he remembers. 

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