The Turn of the Screw is a Horror Gothic fiction – a novella – written by Henry James in 1897. It was published in 1898 and collected in The Two Magics by Macmillan Inc and Heinemann in New York and London respectively. It has been adapted into a movie of the same title in 2009. The Turn of the Screw was originally published as a serial in Collier’s Weekly from January 27 – April 16, 1898. This novella consists of 24 chapters.

The Turn of the Screw, critics say, has been influenced by Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The novella is about a governess who works as a caretaker for two children at a remote estate and her discovery of two Ghosts who haunt the children.

The Turn of the Screw


Henry James is an American novelist, short story writer, dramatist and critic. He is considered one of the greatest novelists, psychological realists and intensive critics in English. James was born in New York in 1843. His father is Henry James Sr, a theologian, his brother is William James, a psychologist. Apart from novels, short stories and plays, he also wrote letters, travel books, books of criticism, autobiography etc. James was regarded as one of the best short story writers in America at a very young age. When he was a small child, his family moved to Europe and returned to New York after two years.

While James was living in Paris, he was very much influenced by the writings of Ivan Turgenev, a Russian writer, and got to know a few European writers. Most of his works are dealing with confrontation between an American and a European. His novel Daisy Miller, garnered him international popularity and his reputation grew with every novel that followed it. The Portrait of a Lady is his masterpiece and the finest novel which James first published in serial format in The Atlantic in America and in Macmillan in England during 1880-81. Then he published it as a book in 1881.

James’ works include:

  • The Princess Casamassima
  • The Bostonians
  • The Wings of the Dove
  • The Ambassadors
  • The Golden Bowl 
  • A Tragedy of Error 
  • The Story of a Year 
  • A Passionate Pilgrim
  • Four Meetings 
  • A London Life, and Other Tales 
  • The Spoils of Poynton 
  • Embarrassments 
  • The Two Magics: The Turn of the Screw, Covering End 
  • A Little Tour of France
  • The Sacred Fount 
  • Daisy Miller 
  • The Aspern Papers 
  • The Lesson of the Master
  • The Pupil
  • The Figure in the Carpet 
  • The Beast in the Jungle 
  • An International Episode


On a Christmas Eve, guests gather at an old house. They entertain themselves by sharing horror stories. Everyone is interested in a ghost story which involves a child. Douglas, one of the guests, comes forward to tell a ghost story that involves two children. This story was told by his sister’s governess to him years back. He has her manuscript of the story locked up in his apartment in London. So he sends for the manuscript. After he receives it, he begins to read the manuscript. The narration is taken over by the governess from here.

The governess travels to Bly, the remote estate of her employer. Soon after she arrives at the house, Miles, the ten years old boy, is expelled from the school for no clear reason. Before he returns home, the governess receives a letter from her employer which encloses the letter from the school headmaster who has refused to admit Miles back into school after summer vacation.

This, I recognize, is from the head-master, and the head-master’s an awful bore. Read him, please; deal with him; but mind you don’t report. Not a word. I’m off! – The Turn of the Screw

Flora is eight years old. She is a sweet girl and the governess quickly comes to love her. Mrs Grose is an experienced housekeeper in the house is also generous to the governess. Upon his arrival, the governess sees Miles an attractive little boy and begins to think that he is good and innocent and the school might have made a mistake.

The governess finds the children are good. A few days go by. On an evening, she sees a strange man in a tower of the house staring at her. At first, she thinks that the man might have been a passerby who has trespassed in the tower. Another day, in a rainy noon, she again catches the same man appearing at the window again staring at her. She rushes out to inquire who he is. But he disappears at once. From Mrs Grose, she comes to know that the man is Peter Quintan ex-valet of the employer who passed away a year back and he is looking for Miles, not her.

Sitting by the lake one afternoon with Flora, the governess discovers another strange figure, a lady, across the lake. She is certain that Flora is aware of her appearance but says nothing. From Mrs. Grose, she learns that the lady is Miss Jesselthe children’s former governess who died mysteriously a year back. Jessel and Quint had an intimate relationship with each other. The children became familiar with these two: Miles with Quint and Flora with Jessel.

The governess is convinced that the children continue their relationship with Jessel and Quint even after their death and Miles’ expulsion from school might have something to do with this relationship. In the following nights, she senses the children secretly communicate with the apparitions and she tries in vain to keep them away from the sight of the apparitions. Obviously the ghosts want to possess the children and take away their lives. Mrs Grose suggests to contact the employer to get assistance, but the governess denies.

The following days become worse and the governess considers to write a letter to the bachelor uncle. She writes one but keeps it with herself. While she is listening to the piano of Miles one day, suddenly Flora is missing. They rush to the lake to find the boat is missing. The governess believes that Flora has taken it away with the help of Miss Jessel. Walking around the lake, the governess suddenly sees Jessel. But Mrs Grose is unable to see her. Distraught, the governess cries.

Next day, Flora falls ill and is seen terrified. Immediately, the governess sends Flora and Mrs Grose to the uncle and she stays at home with Miles. She requests Miles to reveal the reason behind his expulsion from school. He says that he revealed ‘things’ to his friends.

The governess shouts that Quint is at the window. Miles yells “Peter Quint – you devil! Where?” The governess holds the boy in her arms and in a few moments realizes that he is dead.



In the prologue of The Turn of the Screw, an unnamed narrator recalls guests gather at an old house on Christmas Eve. They entertain themselves by telling horror stories, a Christmas Eve tradition. The guests wonder what if an innocent child encounters a ghost. Everyone is intrigued to hear ghost stories involving a child. At this point, one of the guests named Douglas offers to tell a horror story that involves two children and their communication with two ghosts. But, Douglas says, the manuscript is not with him and they must wait until it is brought to him from London.

“I can’t begin. I shall have to send to town. The story’s written. It’s in a locked drawer—it has not been out for years. I could write to my man and enclose the key; he could send down the packet as he finds it.” – The Turn of the Screw

The guests become angry at this delay. The narrator asks if the experience is his own. Douglas says ‘NO‘ and continues that it is of a woman’s who died twenty years back. She was a most charming person, but she was ten years older than I. She was my sister’s governess”, he says. He heard the story directly from her. “She had never told anyone. It wasn’t simply that she said so, but that I knew she hadn’t. I was sure.” he says hopefully.

On hearing about the woman, the narrator wonders if she was in love. Douglas accepts that she was. Mrs Griffin asks who she was in love with. The narrator himself replies that the story will answer this question. But Douglas denies that the story won’t tell that. Then he assures to reveal it the next day and goes to bed saying goodnight to all. After he leaves, Mrs Griffin says,if I don’t know who she was in love with, I know who he was.” Her husband says that she is ten years older than him.

The unnamed narrator admits that the present narrative is of his own transcript much later the death of poor Douglas adding a Prologue of his own. The manuscript arrives and Douglas starts describing the background. The governess was  the youngest daughter of a poor country parson. At her twenty, she came up to London to respond an advertisement. At an interview held at a house in Harley Street, she was impressed by the advertiser, a bachelor. He was wealthy, handsome, bold and kind. She accepted to be a governess and take care of his orphaned nephew and niece. She had to travel immediately to his old country house in Essex to take over the job. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw

The children were very small. They lost their parents two years back. The bachelor uncle told the governess the main condition that she had to dealt with all the problems by herself and never seek to get assistance from him, neither complaint him about the children nor write to him. Inspite of such apparent hurdles, she agreed to take over the position. She never saw him again. Douglas begins to read the governess’s story with a fine clearness. From hereon, the governess takes over the narration.


With a confused state of mind that she has made a mistake, the governess begins her journey to Bly. When she reaches Bly, she meets Flora, the eight-year old little girl and the housekeeper, Mrs Grose. She is astonished at the beauty of the little girl and thinks she is the most beautiful and charming child she has ever seen. The housekeeper is also exceptionally good indeed. Far from her room, she hears the cry of a child and a light footstep sound by her door. But she doesn’t care much about that in the excitement to be a teacher to the children. 

The governess asks Mrs Grose if the boy, Miles, comes back from the school the next day. Mrs Grose replies that he will arrive on Friday. She also exposes the gentleness of the boy and his good looks. Miles is the brother of Flora. He is two years elder to her.


A few hours before the arrival of the ‘little gentleman’, the governess receives a letter from her employer. The postbag contains another letter from the headmaster of the little boy informing about his expulsion from the school and he will not be admitted back into the school after vacation. Upset by this letter, she asks Mrs Grose about the possible reason for his expulsion. On contrary to what she has been told about the boy earlier, it seems, he is not a little gentleman, but a troublesome person.

On discussing about the letter, Mrs Grose’s eyes are filled with tears. She seems to have no clues to guess the possible reason behind his expulsion. Upon asking about the boy’s misbehaviour in the past, Mrs Grose says that he never injures others but there are few occasions when he misbehaved. Along with Flora, the governess rushes to meet Miles.

The next day when the governess is about to depart to meet Miles, she asks Mrs Grose about the last governess in the house. Mrs Grose says that the previous governess was as pretty and young as she (the governess) is. She died a year ago and the cause of her death is unknown. She went to her house for holidays and never came back. Then, Mrs Grose says, their master reported that she died. Along with Flora, the governess rushes to meet Miles.


Before the door of the inn, Miles is put down by the coach. The governess goes late to pick him up. The moment she sees him, she has a change of mind and becomes optimistic about the boy, the same positive fragrance of purity which she had on seeing Flora for the first time. He is incredibly beautiful. She feels, “It would have been impossible to carry a bad name with a greater sweetness of innocence” (The Turn of the Screw).

Back in the house, she argues that the school headmaster might have made a mistake in the matter Miles’ expulsion. She decides to do nothing in this matter. Instead of resolving the issue by finding the truth on the matter, she becomes irrational. Neither she will write a letter to her employer nor respond the headmaster. Mrs Grose agrees with the governess. Then they embrace each other and kiss. The children seem to be gentle although little troublesome. Soon, she engages into her responsibilities as a governess to the children.

One afternoon, as she is strolling away, she has a thought that how charming it will be to meet someone, some gentleman, suddenly at the turn of path and he smiles at her approvingly. To her shock, when she comes back, she sees a strange man, as she imagined, standing at the top of the tower of the house staring at her as definite as a picture in a frame. Slowly, he passes to the opposite corner of the platform, but his eyes are fixed still at her. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw


In a confusion of curiosity, the governess wonders if there is any mystery at Bly – a mystery of Udolpho – and who might have been that intruder. She plunges into imagination for the following days and decides herself that the  intruder might have been some unscrupulous traveller who trespassed into the house. Turning her thought to the children, she determines that Miles is too fair and fine for the horrid and unclean school, so that he was expelled out of the school. She enjoys her days with Miles and Flora.

On a Sunday, there is a heavy rain that makes it impossible to visit the church for prayer. When the rain stops, she wishes to go for a walk. She goes to recover her gloves near the window but only to see the same intruder by the window looking straight in. As he is looking through the glass intensely, she recognizes that he is looking for somebody else, nor her. Rushing out of the room, she finds none out there. The visitor has disappeared. She places herself at the same place where the visitor has appeared and looks through the window. By this time, Mrs Grose enters in and is scared to find her looking through the window from outside.


Flushed and breathless, Mrs Grose asks the governess why she looks ‘as white as a sheet’, awful and afraid. She replies that she has seen an extraordinary man, a stranger, out there. Mrs Grose asks if she has seen him before. “Yes – once. On the old tower,” she replies. She adds that she feels compelled to say it to her now and describes how he looked like. On hearing about his looks and appearance, Mrs Grose recognizes him to be Peter Quintthe former valet of the employer, who has been dead for a year. The governess has almost shrieked at this revelation that she has encountered with a ghost.


Both the governess and Mrs Grose engage into no service for sometime after this revelation. Mrs Grose says that Quint has been looking for Miles. Before his death, Miles was too familiar with him. This further frightens the governess. She wonders why neither Miles nor Flora has ever mentioned Quint’s name. She determines to protect the children anyhow and assumes this situation as an opportunity to show potential. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw

On an afternoon, Miles is left indoors as he wishes to complete a book and the governess is strolling with Flora at the edge of the lake called the Sea of Azof. Suddenly, there appears a strange figure on the other side of the lake. Breathless, she watches Flora if she also see the apparition and waits if she shrieks aloud. Flora doesn’t cry. The governess is certain that Flora also sees the strangest figure. She turns her attention to the strange visitor again.


Back at the house later that afternoon, the governess speaks with Mrs Grose. She says that she has seen a woman at the lake dressed in black, and she is certain that Flora also could see her but said nothing. She claims that the children know the apparitions but keep it to themselves.

Flora knows the woman but she doesn’t want me to know. She is even able to determine that the woman is Miss Jessel, the former governess of the children, who died a year ago. Mrs Grose doesn’t disagree with her (it is Miss Jessel) and questions why it can’t be a proof of the blessed innocence of the children. Only God knows, the governess says, and the woman is a horror of horrors.

Mrs Grose admits that Miss Jessel and Peter Quint were intimate with each other. Miss Jessel went home for holidays and never returned to work. None at Bly knows the exact reason of her death. At this point, the governess feels that she may not be able protect the children as they have already been lost to the strange visitors: “I don’t save or shield them! It’s far worse than I dreamed—they’re lost!” (The Turn of the Screw).


The housekeeper and the governess meet up later and they are of a common mind about the duty of resistance to extravagant fancies. Late at night, they have another talk when the governess is happy about her ability to describe to the last detail about each of the ghosts appearing to her. On seeing Flora and Miles, she feels guilty to accuse the children of being cunning. The children are not mature enough to be prompted to be cunning. She also recollects the degree of certitude that makes her believe Flora saw the ghost by the lake the day before and intentionally tried to conceal it from her.

Later, not convinced about Miles’ expulsion, she inquires the housekeeper about the occasions when Miles has been unpleasant in his behaviour. Mrs Grose replies that the boy and Mr Quint were perpetually together for a period of time. Miles is a little gentleman. He spent hours with Quint. Quint was a base menial. He and Jessel had an infamous relationship. Though Miles spent much time together with Quint, he denied to know the occasions when Quint and Jessel had been together. The governess is certain that Miles knew their relationship. She put a number of questions to Mrs Grose which almost torment her. She presses,So that you could see he knew what was between the two wretches?” But Mrs Grose denies.

The governess wonders if Miles has been a little gentleman, how he could be a a fiend at school. Inspite of all such doubts and confusions, she determines to be quiet and will accuse nobody before finding further evidence on this matter.


The governess waits as the days pass. She gives more attention to the children and at the same time worries lest that the children may notice her extra care and guess that she has strange thoughts about them. Although she still wonders how and why Miles was kicked out of school, she never talks about this to anybody. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw

The children are engaged in their lessons enthusiastically and become extravagantly fond of the governess. They get better everyday in their lessons and entertain her by reading her passages, telling her stories, acting her charades, popping out at her in disguises as animals like tigers and and historical characters as Romans, Shakespeareans, astronomers, and navigators, and astonishing her by reciting the poems they have memorized.

One night, the governess is reading Amelia, a novel by Henry Fielding, in her room. Suddenly she feels a cold touch, the impression that she felt the night of her arrival at Bly. Holding a candle, she rise to her feet and locks the doors. While she is stepping up the stairs, the candle suddenly blows out. In the moonlight coming through the uncovered window, she sees Quint staring at her. During this confrontation, she speaks nothing, only a dead silence of long gaze. The governess muses that if it is a murderer, she still would have spoken at least. Then, the apparition vanishes.


On returning to her room after the apparition vanishes, the governess is terrified to find Flora’s bed is empty. Distraught, she cries. A few minutes later, Flora comes out from behind the curtain. Before the governess would ask anything, Flora asks “You naughty: where have you been?” Instead of reproaching her, the governess holds the child tight and demands a pardon from her. She asks why did she pull the curtain over the bed to make her think that she was still there. The child replies that she does not want to frighten her.

Most of the following nights, the governess stays awake. One night she sees a different figure, the same woman which she saw by the lake, Miss Jessel, at a lower staircase with her head in her hands and her body half-bowed. She vanishes immediately. A several days go by without an event. On the eleventh night since her last encounter with Quint, she suddenly wakes up at one O’ clock and finds the candle blown out. She immediately guesses that Flora has extinguished it. Flora is missing in her bed. One again the child has squeezed in behind the curtain and is peering out through window in the darkness. The governess slips out without being noticed by Flora. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw

Standing outside the room in the hall, the governess tries to trace what Flora looks at. Just ten feet off from the passage is Miles’ door. She has thoughts to go and visit Miles. On this thought she crosses the threshold but steps back thinking it is hideous as he might be innocent. From the window, through the moonlight, she sees a figure on the lawn stands motionless looking at above her window. The governess is terrified to know that it is none other than the poor Miles. Apparently there is someone on the top of the tower.


The following day, the governess speaks to Mrs Grose. On the lawn, the children are playing. She decides to keep the children in sight always. She describes to Mrs Grose what she saw the last night. Miles was standing alone on the lawn looking at the tower. She then rushed to the terrace. Miles then came on the terrace. They returned without sharing a word. The governess thinks that this is a strong evidence to challenge the gentleness of Miles. But, again she decides to approach the matter lightly.

Mrs Grose says that Miles just wanted the governess to think of him bad. Miles comes and admits that the whole incident was a set up so as to make her to look outside and see Miles standing on the lawn. The governess calls the whole incident as a joke.


The governess and the housekeeper continue their conversation. The governess assures that the children have been meeting secretly with Quint and Jessel. They are not as good and innocent as they look. It is their policy to make others believe that they are well-behaved and innocent. She is sure that they are lost to the ghosts and the ghosts encourage the children to continue their relationship with them. Mrs Grose agrees with the governess and suggests to write to their employer and move away from Bly as soon as possible. But the governess neither wants to contact the employer  nor to move away from the estate. She determines to face it by herself at any cost. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw


For a month of time, the governess goes through insurmountable difficulties. Although she suspect the children a number of times, she avoids discussing the matter. At the same time, she also believes that the children are aware that she knows their relationship with ghosts. As a result of which, she also believes, the children are conspiring against her. When she is together with them, she is often uncontrollably trying bring up the matter of Jessel and Quint, but she stops short and repeatedly talks about her personal life, family and neighbours etc. The children also frequently presses her to say about her family which increases her suspicion.

Until the autumn drops in, the governess has encountered with neither of the ghosts since she last saw Miss Jessel in the staircase. She has been expecting to come upon either of the ghosts and even sensing the impressions which she had at the first encounter with Quint, but never has seen either them since then. At this juncture, she feels if she has lost her ability to see the ghosts. Her fear grows more as she believes that the children continue to communicate with the ghosts while she is unable even to see them. At certain times when she is with the children, she is sure that the ghosts are also present with them, invisible to her.

She often rehearses to confront the children to speak face to face about Jessel and Quint but never can do so. In such embarrassing situations, she and the children kiss and change the topic. They often speak about writing to their uncle in Harley street and the governess encourages them to write at times but never sends them, keeping them as their educational exercises. The governess comes to hate them, but worries about their unsafe circumstance.


On a Sunday morning, the governess walks to the church with Miles by her side and Flora with Mrs Grose walks in advance of them. The governess wonders why the children always surrender to her and behave gentle whenever they are with her.

Suddenly Miles asks her when he is going back to school. She stops short as if one of the trees has fallen across the road, unable to reply his question. She sniffs a hidden motive behind his question. Miles just wants to be around the people of his taste and age and not with a woman like the governess. She suggests that Flora is of his own sort and Miles objects to compare him with a baby girl. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw

Miles asks again when he will be back to school and what his uncle’s opinion about his going back to school. She feels it difficult business to keep the boy quiet until they reach the church. Once they reach the church, she thinks, Miles won’t ask questions.


The governess does not follow Miles into the church. When she stays outside, she reflects upon the conversation with the boy and her pitiful surrender to his agitation. She senses Miles has something got out her, something that she is much afraid of and he will probably use this fear to acquire more freedom. Her fear is of having to deal with the much intolerable question of how to discover the ground on which he was kicked out of school.

Walking around the church ruminating over the conversation, she feels she is hurt beyond repair. She also has thoughts to set aright the situation with the help of her employer, but feels it too much for her to handle. Distraught, she leaves the church without a word saying to the children and Mrs Grose.

On returning home, she opens the door and sees Miss Jessel sitting on her table. The governess notices an indescribable melancholy of indifference and detachment on her face. The lady in black dress with an unutterable woe on her face looks at the governess which gives her chill feeling to think that she is the intruder. Miss Jessel disappears.


Miles, Flora and Mrs Grose return home from the church. To her dismay, the governess sees that they are dumb about her absence in the church. She guesses that the children are dead silent so as to taunt her and they also bribed Mrs Grose into being silent. However, soon she secures an opportunity to interact with Mrs Grose before tea. On this meeting, Mrs Grose admits that the children had asked her to be silent about her absence and please them as long as they are there. She also says that the children, particularly Miles, thought that they must do only what she likes.

Then, the governess tells Mrs Grose about her meeting with Miss Jessel. She says she has had a talk with her. Miss Jessel is too woeful and she wants Flora to console herself. The governess says that she has determined to write her employer to get assistance. Mrs Grose encourages that it is a good decision.


It is raining outside. The governess sits inside with a blank sheet to write to her employer. Unable to sit long, she gets up with a candle and goes to Miles’ room. She waits outside to listen if he is asleep. Miles says that he knows she is there and calls her inside. She goes inside and begins to interact with him. He repeats that he wants to go back to school. The governess is helpless and assures to help him anyhow. Miles tells that he wishes his uncle at Bly to settle everything. Suddenly the candle goes out and the governess is horrified that there is a ghost. Miles admits that he has blown it out. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw


On the next morning, Mrs Grose asks the governess if she has written the letter. She says that she has written, but doesn’t mention that the letter is in her pocket. Then the governess muses that Miles is ingenious and an extraordinary little gentleman. After dinner, Miles approaches the governess and asks if he can play piano for her. Soon she is lost in his mesmerising music. When she comes back to conscious, she realises Flora is lost. She asks Miles where Flora is and he says he doesn’t know.

Nervous, the governess rushes to Mrs Grose. She also doesn’t know where she has gone. The governess is sure that Miles has played piano intentionally to distract her and Flora has gone to visit Miss Jessel. Mrs Grose asks the governess where Miles is and the governess says he must be with Quint and adds that they have together conspired so as to have meetings with the ghosts. They both rush out to search for Flora leaving Miles alone in the house although he might be with Quint. She also leaves the letter on the hall table so that Luke, a servant, will have it posted.


The governess heads towards the lake accompanied by Mrs Grose. She believes that Flora should be there as she had last seen Miss Jessel there. No trace of Flora is found by the lake when they reach there. The boat that is usually there is missing at its place. The governess says  that it must be Flora who has taken it to meet Miss Jessel. Mrs Grose expresses her doubt that it is almost impossible for such a small girl to do such a difficult task alone. The governess replies that Flora is not a girl when she is alone, she is an old, old woman.

Going around the lake, they find the boat exactly where the governess supposed it to be. It has been intentionally left out of others’ sight. Crossing the fence gate, they both exclaimed at once, “There she is!” She smiles on seeing them. Mrs Grose rushes to her and hugs. Flora, then, asks the governess a line of questions. In reply, she simply asks, ‘Where, my pet, is Miss Jessel?”


After having found Flora, the governess sees Miss Jessel on the other side of the bank exactly where she had seen her at the last encounter at the lake. She shows her to Mrs Grose, but Mrs Grose says she can’t see Miss Jessel there, much to her dismay. But it is no imagination that the governess is sure Miss Jessel is there staring at her. Again, she tries to point out to the place where she sees Miss Jessel. But Mrs Grose is unable to see her. She thinks that the governess sees nothing as she knows Miss Jessel is dead.

Mrs Grose call all these things ‘a mere mistake and a worry and a joke’ and insists that they return home. The governess looks at Flora and finds her childish beauty has vanished. Flora denies seeing anything in the direction she points out and she makes a furious wail and demands Mrs Grose to take her home from the governess. Under Miss Jessel’s dictation, apparently, Flora’s behaviour gradually becomes awful. As Flora is taken away to home, the governess says although she has tried her best to protect her, she has lost her to Miss Jessel. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw

For a quarter of an hour after she is left alone, the governess remembers nothing. She notices that she must have lain there, sobbed and cried. She wakes up and walks around the lake to find the boat is missing. On reaching home, she goes to her room and finds Flora’s belongings have been removed from the room they both have shared. Then the governess sits by the fire. Miles comes and pauses a moment as if to look at her. Then they both sit together in absolute stillness and silence.


The following day Mrs Grose comes to the governess to inform that Flora has fallen gravely ill with fever. Flora seemed to be extremely restless throughout the night conspicuously over the fear of the governess and seems to have grown weak. The housekeeper adds that she is persistently denying to have ever seen Miss Jessel and likely will not speak with the governess anymore. The governess says Flora is too clever to reveal anything about her communication with Miss Jessel and it is pointless to bring up the matter to her again. The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw

The governess feels that Flora should be taken away from Miss Jessel. Most of all, Flora needs to be away from the governess. But the governess never wants to leave Bly. So, she asks Mrs Grose to take Flora to her uncle and she will stay behind at Bly with Miles.

While again talking about Flora, Mrs Grose says that she senses Flora has been under the influence of Miss Jessel in the way she talks about the governess. She, now, believes the claims of the governess about Miss Jessel and Quint. Mrs Grose informs Miles has stolen the governess’s letter and says that it might be the reason why he must have been kicked out of the school. The governess determines to protect him.


After Mrs Grose and Flora leave Bly, the governess waits for the time to be alone with Miles. The servants and maids at Bly seem to be staring at her. She hears a maid saying that Miles had his breakfast with Flora before her departure. She doubts that the children likely had a discussion secretly on the subject of the ghosts. She determines to take control over the situation and stay rigid which might need only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.

On the dining table, the governess and Miles have a conversation. Miles asks the governess if Flora is gravely ill and does Bly suddenly disagree with her terribly. The governess convinces the boy saying Flora was not too ill to travel. She is almost prompted to bring up the subject of Miss Jessel but unerringly diverted herself. Miles’ table manner is quite charming. The little gentleman has been gentle from the beginning, but, the governess senses, he is trying to be more conscious now.  Dinner is over soon and Miles exclaims,Well—so we’re alone!”


Alone at Bly, Miles feels happy that Bly agrees him. Looking out of the window he says “We have the others.” The governess claims Miles is looking for something. She asks if he has been enjoying himself. He admits that he feels so free now and absolutely enjoy the freedom. If they are alone together at Bly, he says, it is she who is alone most. The governess says the boy that she misses his company and that is the reason why she stays there. She reflects on what she once said to him, ‘there is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for you.’

Gathering up the courage, she finally asks him what is in his mind. At once he asks if, then, that is what she has stayed here. Finally he accepts to tell her everything, anything she likes. But before telling anything, he asks her to let him see Luke. Though she feels the boy tries to deceive her, she agrees to let him go. But before he can go to see Luke, she asks him to tell the truth if he has taken the letter she kept on the table in the hall the previous day afternoon. 


As the conversation continues, before Miles would reply if he has stolen the letter, the governess sees Peter Quint looking through the window. At once she springs up and draws the boy close to her, keeping his back to the window. Miles admits that he has taken the letter thinking that the letter contains something about him. On knowing that there is nothing about him, he has burnt it. The governess is delighted at this revelation and she embraces him. At this time Quint has gone.

The governess asks Miles if he had stolen letters at his school. Miles is shocked to know that the governess knows about his expulsion from school. He says that he did not steal letter but he said ‘things’. The governess presses to tell whom he said things. The boy tries to remember the names and but unable to do so. When the governess asks whether he said things to everyone. He says no, but it was only to those he liked and says that they must have spread to those they liked.

Quint reappears at the window. Panicked, the governess springs up and tries to press the boy against her. Miles asks whether She is there. It is not she, she says, but it is ‘the coward horror’. It’s he, the boy asks. The governess inquires what does he mean by he. Peter Quint—you devil!”, he cries and asks where he is. Holding the boy, the governess shouts there. But soon she realizes that the boy’s little heart has stopped beating.



An unnamed narrator is the one who recalls guests gathered on a Christmas Eve in an old English house where they share ghost stories for entertainment. Douglas reads a ghost story in which two children communicate with ghosts. After the death of Douglas, the unnamed narrator adds the prologue to the main story.


Douglas is one of the guests at the Christmas Eve celebration. As a Christmas Eve tradition, the guests gather there entertain themselves by telling ghosts stories. Douglas tells a ghost story which involves children.


The governess is the main character in the novel. Her name is never revealed. She comes to undertake the two children, Miles and Flora, at Bly and tries her best to protect them from the ghosts. As a governess, she is best at her duties at times, but throughout the novel, she seems nervous and bewildered most of the times.


Mrs Grose is the housekeeper at Bly. She accompanies the governess and be affectionate and loving towards her and the children as well. She never sees the ghosts and so she doesn’t believe the governess’s accusations against the children that they secretly communicate with the ghosts. At the end, although, she comes to believe her on sensing the unusual changes in  the children’s behaviour.


Miles is one of the children who secretly speak with the ghosts. At the beginning of the novel, he is expelled from the school for an unknown reason.  In spite of his protective governess’s warnings, he continues to be connected with the ghosts and dies at the end as a result.


Flora is the sister of Miles. Flora seems a loveable girl at the beginning but at the end, the governess feels, she is a tough girl to deal with. Influenced by Miss Jessel, one of the ghosts, Flora is a girl when she is with others but an old woman when she is alone.


Peter Quint is the former valet at Bly who died a year ago. He haunts the children, particularly Miles, after his death. When he was a valet at Bly, he and Miles were familiar with each other. It is this relationship that he continues with the boy even after his death.


Miss Jessel is the former governess of the children. She died a year ago mysteriously. She had an infamous relationship with Peter Quint. She seems awfully distressed because she is unable to possess Flora, her favourite before death.The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw


“The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“To gaze into the depths of blue of the child’s eyes and pronounce their loveliness a trick of premature cunning was to be guilty of a cynicism in preference to which I naturally preferred to abjure my judgment and, so far as might be, my agitation.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“All roads lead to Rome, and there were times when it might have struck us that almost every branch of study or subject of conversation skirted forbidden ground.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I had the view of a castle of romance inhabited by a rosy spirit, such a place as would somehow, for diversion of the young idea, take all colour out of story-books and fairy-tales. Was n’t it just a story-book over which I had fallen a-doze and a-dream?”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“And if I wavered for the instant it was not with what I kept back.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little seesaw of the right throbs and the wrong.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

“What saved me, as I now see, was that it turned to something else altogether. It didn’t last as suspense – it was superseded by horrible proofs.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I had not gone to bed; I sat reading by a couple of candles. There was a roomful of old books at Bly—last-century fiction, some of it, which, to the extent of a distinctly deprecated renown, but never to so much as that of a stray specimen, had reached the sequestered home and appealed to the unavowed curiosity of my youth.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“It was not that I didn’t wait, on this occasion, for more, for I was rooted as deeply as I was shaken. Was there a “secret” at Bly—a mystery of Udolpho or an insane, an unmentionable relative kept in unsuspected confinement?”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“THEY have the manners to be silent, and you, trusted as you are, the baseness to speak!”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

“If Quint—on your remonstrance at the time you speak of—was a base menial, one of the things Miles said to you, I find myself guessing, was that you were another.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I take up my own pen again – the pen of all my old unforgettable efforts and sacred struggles. To myself – today – I need say no more. Large and full and high the future still opens. It is now indeed that I may do the work of my life. And I will.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“Make (the reader) think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications. My values are positively all blanks, save so far as an excited horror, a promoted pity, a created expertness… proceed to read into them more or less fantastic figures.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I was a screen– I was their protector. The more I saw, the less they would.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“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.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

“…he uttered the cry of a creature hurled over an abyss…”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I seemed to float not into clearness, but into a darker obscure, and within a minute there had come to me out of my very pity the appalling alarm of his perhaps being innocent. It was for the instant confounding and bottomless, for if he were innocent, what then on earth was I?”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the 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!”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“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.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“He was there or was not there: not there if I didn’t see him.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

“—his indescribable little air of knowing nothing in the world but love.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“There was nothing in the room the next minute but the sunshine and a sense that I must stay.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I could only get on at all by taking “nature” into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“It’s beyond everything. Nothing at all that I know touches it.” “For sheer terror?” I remember asking. He seemed to say it was not so simple as that; to be really at a loss how to qualify it. He passed his hand over his eyes, made a little wincing grimace. “For dreadful — dreadfulness!” “Oh, how delicious!” cried one of the women.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“It may be, of course, above all, that what suddenly broke into this gives the previous time a charm of stillness—that hush in which something gathers or crouches. The change was actually like the spring of a beast.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

“The terrace and the whole place, the lawn and the garden beyond it, all I could see of the park, were empty with a great emptiness.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“I call it relief, though it was only the relief that a snap brings to a strain or the burst of a thunderstorm to a day of suffocation. It was at least change, and it came with a rush.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
“She absolutely declined to be puzzled; she turned her eyes to the flame of the candle as if the question were as irrelevant, or at any rate as impersonal, as Mrs. Marcet or nine-times-nine.”
― Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

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