Turn of the Screw, by Henry James


In the Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the Bachelor is responsible for his niece and nephew after the death of their parents and he hires a woman, the Governess, to take care of his niece and nephew. The story is written as if it happened to the Governess and as she tells the story as if it happened to her.

When she arrives to begin taking care of Flora and Miles, the bachelor’s niece and nephew, the governess immediately starts seeing ghosts and learns from the maid that the ghosts are Peter Quint and Miss Jessel who were former employees of the estate.

We wonder if the governess has really seen the ghosts or is experiencing an inner battle of conscience  is affecting her perception of reality because she has fallen in love with a boy much younger than herself. she believes she is justified in pursuing her desires through unconscious means.

Flora and Miles won’t admit to seeing the ghosts but the governess fears for them.  After more sightings she writes a letter to the Bachelor, but it is stolen before it can be mailed. Flora gets sick and Mrs. Grose takes her away leaving the governess alone with Miles who then admits that he stole her letter.

As the story line unfolds we see suggestions that the governess is highly influenced by her imagination and emotions and that the ghosts are scapegoats created to take the blame for what has happened.

The governess sees the ghost of Peter Quint out the window and when Miles looks and sees the ghost he dies from fright.

Quotes from Turn of a Screw

“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!”

“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains than one.”

“He was there or was not there: not there if I didn't see him.”

“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was.”

“The summer had turned, the summer had gone; the autumn had dropped upon Bly and had blown out half our lights. The place, with its gray sky and withered garlands, its bared spaces and scattered dead leaves, was like a theater after the performance--all strewn with crumpled playbills.”

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The Turn of the Screw
Starring Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, Nicola Walker, Eva Sayer