The Turn of the Screw Characters

Henry James

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The governess

The governess, from whose point of view the story is told. Employed to look after his orphaned niece and nephew by a man who makes it clear that he does not wish to be bothered about them, she finds herself engaged in a struggle against evil apparitions for the souls of the children. There has been a good deal of the “Is-Hamlet-mad?” sort of inconclusive speculation as to whether The Turn of the Screw is a real ghost story or a study of a neurotic and frustrated woman. Probably both interpretations are true: the apparitions are real, the children are indeed possessed by evil, and the governess is probably neurotic.


Miles, a little boy, one of the governess’ charges. At first, he seems to be a remarkably good child, but gradually she learns that he has been mysteriously corrupted by his former governess and his uncle’s former valet, whose ghosts maintain their evil control. Miles dies in the governess’ arms during her final struggle to save him from some mysterious evil.


Flora, Miles’s sister and feminine counterpart. The governess finally sends her away to her uncle.

Miss Jessel

Miss Jessel, the former governess, now dead. She appears frequently to the governess and to the children, who refuse to admit the appearances.

Peter Quint

Peter Quint, the uncle’s former valet, now dead. Drunken and vicious, he was also Miss Jessel’s lover. The governess sees his apparition repeatedly.

Mrs. Grose

Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper of the country estate where the story is set. Good-hearted and talkative, she is the source of what little concrete information the governess and the reader get as to the identities and past histories of the evil apparitions. Allied with the governess against the influence of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, she takes charge of Flora when the child is sent to her uncle.

The Turn of the Screw Characters

In his portrayal of the governess, James effectively uses the technique of leaving the reader in doubt by alternately suggesting interpretive...

(The entire section is 1132 words.)

The Turn of the Screw Character Analysis

The Turn of the Screw Flora

Flora is the eight-year-old girl who the governess thinks is being tempted by the ghost of Miss Jessel, her former governess. When the...

(The entire section is 249 words.)

The Turn of the Screw The Governess

The governess tries to save Miles and Flora from Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, two ghosts she claims she has seen. In the introduction to the...

(The entire section is 370 words.)

The Turn of the Screw Mrs. Grose

Mrs. Grose is the housekeeper at Bly, who gives the governess information about the identities and lives of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. When...

(The entire section is 272 words.)

The Turn of the Screw Other Characters

Douglas is the person who reads the governess's tale to the narrator and the assembled guests at the Christmas...

(The entire section is 848 words.)