The Turn of the Screw
Since THE TURN OF THE SCREW is told in the first person by the governess, everything hinges on whether she is a reliable narrator. An innocent, susceptible young woman, the daughter of a minister, she has been hired by a wealthy bachelor to look after Miles and Flora, his orphaned nephew and niece.
There is no question of the governess’ good will, at least on a conscious level, and her honesty--she reports what she thinks she sees--but she has fallen desperately and hopelessly in love with her employer, and would like nothing better--as she herself admits--than to earn his gratitude by rescuing the children from some danger. Moreover, the atmosphere at Bly, the employer’s country house, is Gothic and vaguely sinister from the first--excellent circumstances for seeing ghosts, whether there are any to see or not.
The ghosts are those of Peter Quint, the employer’s former valet, and Miss Jessel, the former governess, who apparently died while giving birth to an illegitimate child. In life, these two had been sent away because they threatened the social order (sexual immorality, in particular, could not be tolerated); in death, the governess believes, they are trying to avenge themselves by claiming the children for their own.
The story centers on the struggle between the governess and the ghosts for the children’s souls, with the added hint that the real evil may lie in the governess’ possessiveness. The evil is real--that...
(The entire section is 521 words.)
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