The Screw Symbolism

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The Turn of the Screw, a novella by Henry James first published in 1898, is the story of a young governess in charge of two children at a secluded estate, Bly, in Essex, England in the 1840s. Bly, being so sequestered in the countryside, as well as being large and spacious, provides James with the ideal setting to relay a frightening horror story. The novella begins with a frame story involving a house party where guests share ghost stories, most importantly involving ghosts visiting children, and ending with a character named Douglas beginning to tell a chilling tale that was given to him by the late governess of his sister. The narrator of his story is an unnamed governess in charge of two orphaned children, who quickly becomes convinced…show more content…
After frightening Flora away from Bly, who was accompanied by Mrs. Grose, the governess is left alone with the young boy Miles, who has been causing a lot of mischief around the home. In the middle of their conversation, the governess sees Quint peering through the windows of the house, yet Miles does not see him (116). The governess becomes enraged, leading Miles to ask “Is she here?”, which arguably is his moment of admittance and recognition of Miss Jessel’s ghostly presence (122). The governess replies that it is not Miss Jessel but instead the “coward horror”, causing Miles to look in the direction of Quint (122). This scene escalates quickly and is left very vague, allowing for different interpretations of who they are referring to in their conversation. One interpretation is that when Miles looks to where the governess is looking, he says “Is it he?” followed by “Peter Quint - you devil! Where?” suggesting that he is admitting Quint’s ghost’s existence (122-123). Soon after this, the governess points to Quint only to realize that Miles’ “little heart, dispossessed, had stopped” (123). From the perspective that this novella is a story of the governess going insane, it is hard to accept their interpretation of this scene as one purely constructed by the governess’ imagination. It is also hard to believe that she had the ability to kill Miles, given how fond she was of the children and how hard she was trying to protect them. Therefore, the ending of this novella stands as support for this tale being a traditional spooky story of ghostly
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