The Turn of the Screw

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The Turn of the Screw Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Still standing by the lake after having found Flora, the governess sees Miss Jessel staring at them from the opposite bank. The governess grasps Mrs. Grose’s arm and directs her attention to where she sees Miss Jessel standing. The governess is convinced that Mrs. Grose sees Miss Jessel, too, and she takes comfort in this belief. Flora shoots the governess an accusatory glare, though, instead of looking out at Miss Jessel, and to this the governess passionately yells at Flora to look at Miss Jessel instead of continuing to stare at her. And much to the governess’s disappointment, Mrs. Grose says she does not in fact see Miss Jessel.
This is the first time Mrs. Grose has been with the governess while the governess was seeing either Quint or Miss Jessel. That meant that the governess's visions earlier were uncorroborated. But now Mrs. Grose directly contradicts those visions. The governess’s claims to have seen these ghosts are thus now at their least believable. In this scene, at least, the ghosts appear only to her, or are entirely of her own invention.
Themes
The Supernatural Theme Icon
The governess accosts Mrs. Grose, saying that she must be able to see Miss Jessel. Mrs. Grose tells the governess that nothing is there, and that she thinks the governess has never seen anything at all, because—as she and Flora know—Miss Jessel is dead. Mrs. Grose calls the whole thing a “mistake and a worry and a joke.” At this, the governess looks to Flora, whose childish beauty and innocence has vanished, revealing to the governess only a cold stare. Flora denies ever having seen Miss Jessel, and asks Mrs. Grose to take her away from the governess.
Mrs. Grose’s claim that the governess’s visions have never been real introduces an important element of skepticism here. Her claim calls into question not just the reality of the ghosts but also the relationship between the governess and Mrs. Grose, as now it seems that Mrs. Grose has secretly questioned these visions throughout. Flora, meanwhile, seems to see the governess as a threat to her, when the governess sees herself as Flora's protector (perhaps even from Flora herself).
Themes
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
The governess finds Flora’s behavior appalling. She accuses Flora of being under Miss Jessel’s influence, and she says that she feels like she has lost Flora to Miss Jessel. Mrs. Grose frantically takes Flora away from the scene, saying nothing. The governess sits and reflects on her loss of Flora, despairing at the situation for some time. She comments on how much control Flora seemed to have had over the situation. She then walks around the lake, and notices the boat is gone.
The governess now sees in Flora nothing but a threateningly cold attitude, an unwillingness to accept the governess’s protection. We still do not know—we never know—whether the governess’s actions are justified. But her anger at Flora and Mrs. Grose seems particularly intense in this instance. And it's perfectly also possible that Flora's cold behavior results from her own sense that the governess is crazy and a threat to her.
Themes
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
Back at Bly, the governess heads to her room and notices that Flora’s belongings have all been removed from the room they had shared. Later that evening, she sits by the fire in the schoolroom in silence, and feels a “mortal coldness.” Miles enters the room, and she says she senses he wanted to be with her. The two sit together in silence.
The governess’s relationship with Flora is now over. She has not succeeded in "saving her" or in persuading her to confide in her about Miss Jessel. Her attention now turns to Miles, whom she hopes she still has a chance at saving from what she perceives to be the influence of the ghosts.
Themes
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
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