Do you think the governess is a hero or a villain in The Turn of the Screw?

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sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it is oversimplifying the governess's role in "The Turn of the Screw" to try to label her as either hero or villain. Her actions are really neither heroic nor villainous when seen within the context of the story.  She is attempting to do what she thinks is good for the children, but it is always secondary to what is good for her. She is quite self-righteous, thinking that she knows best, but that does not make her a villain.  She makes huge mistakes and misinterpretations of what is going on, but that does not make her a villain either. She never, apparently, admits she might have done something wrong, even in the re-telling of her story within the story, as her tale is told as a letter to someone, and not directly by her, even though the voice is first person as soon as the letteer begins and does not switch back to third person before the end .  She has a particular moral code, and the events that occur around her go beyond what she is capable of processing and understanding.  She may consider that she is doing her duty by the children, but that does not make her heroic, either.  If you have to choose one of the other, then she does fall more into the category of hero, because she tries her best within the framework of her own belief system, to help two children, whom she sees as being possessed by evil.

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The Turn of the Screw

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