The Turn of the Screw

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Flora Character Analysis

The eight year-old girl for whom the governess is responsible, Flora is a beautiful and pleasant young girl. At first, the governess speaks highly of Flora’s charmingly childish grace and innocence. Eventually, though, the governess begins to suspect that Flora meets secretly with Miss Jessel, and she thinks that Flora’s outward displays of innocence and beauty intentionally conceal a dark inner life.

Flora Quotes in The Turn of the Screw

The The Turn of the Screw quotes below are all either spoken by Flora or refer to Flora. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Supernatural Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of The Turn of the Screw published in 2007.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The little girl who accompanied Mrs. Grose appeared to me on the spot a creature so charming as to make it a great fortune to have to do with her. She was the most beautiful child I had ever seen…

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose, Flora
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

On the way to Bly the governess had been feeling nervous about her new position, but as soon as she arrives her anxieties are soothed by the beauty of the house and of Flora. In this passage she describes Flora as "the most beautiful child" she has ever seen, adding that anyone who knows her is lucky. This observation reveals the governess' initial belief that outward beauty corresponds to internal innocence; however, the coming events will come to challenge this view. The fact that she describes Flora not just as beautiful but as the most beautiful child she has ever seen adds to the sense that there might be something unnatural (or indeed supernatural!) about Flora's charm. 

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Chapter 5 Quotes

"The children?"
"I can't leave them now."
"You're afraid—?"
I spoke boldly. "I'm afraid of HIM."
Mrs. Grose's large face showed me, at this, for the first time, the faraway faint glimmer of a consciousness more acute: I somehow made out in it the delayed dawn of an idea I myself had not given her and that was as yet quite obscure to me.

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles, Flora, Peter Quint
Page Number: 311
Explanation and Analysis:

The governess has described the man she has seen to Mrs. Grose, who is rather dismissive and says they should head to church. The governess protests, saying that she can't leave the children because she is afraid of the man. Mrs. Grose then seems to display a hint of recognition, indicating to that Mrs. Grose may know more than she has so far revealed (and indeed more than the governess knows). This mysterious sense of recognition advances the governess's coming suspicion that, despite the fact that the governess trusts and confides in Mrs. Grose, Mrs. Grose may be keeping secrets from her. Meanwhile, the governess's unwillingness to leave the children confirms her feeling of duty to protect them and her paranoia that the man she has seen intends to harm them. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

Suddenly, in these circumstances, I became aware that, on the other side of the Sea of Azof, we had an interested spectator…My heart had stood still for an instant with the wonder and terror of the question whether she too would see; and I held my breath while I waited for what a cry from her, what some sudden innocent sign either of interest or of alarm, would tell me. I waited, but nothing came…

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Flora, Miss Jessel
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

The governess is outside by the lake with Flora, and she suddenly sees another person in the distance. This person is different from the ghost of Peter Quint, though it has appeared at a distance and is watching the governess and Flora in the exact same manner as Quint. Although the governess is terrified, it seems that Flora hasn't noticed the person; the governess waits for Flora's reaction, but Flora continues to act as if nothing is there. 

This passage represents another example of the difficulty of assessing whether the ghosts are products of the governess' imagination or not. On the on hand, the fact that only the governess can see the ghosts seems to clearly indicate that they are all inside her head. At the same time, if the ghosts are real and have indeed "corrupted" Miles and Flora, it makes sense that Miles and Flora act as if they are not there. Once again, James ensures that evidence for one interpretation can just as easily be taken as evidence in favor of the other. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

"They know—it's too monstrous: they know, they know!"
"And what on earth—?" I felt her incredulity as she held me.
"Why, all that we know—and heaven knows what else besides!" Then, as she released me, I made it out to her, made it out perhaps only now with full coherency even to myself. "Two hours ago, in the garden"—I could scarce articulate—"Flora saw!"
Mrs. Grose took it as she might have taken a blow in the stomach. "She has told you?" she panted.
"Not a word—that's the horror. She kept it to herself!”

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles, Flora
Page Number: 320-321
Explanation and Analysis:

Having waited in vain for Flora to acknowledge the appearance of the ghost by the lake, the governess later tells Mrs. Grose what happened, emphasizing that she now believes that Miles and Flora do see the ghosts but pretend that nothing is there. Indeed, the governess suggests that Miles and Flora perhaps understand the situation far better than Mrs. Grose and she herself do (as indicated by the phrase "and heaven knows what else besides!"). The governess is horrified that Flora pretends not to see them, as this suggests that the ghosts have some kind of influence over the children. 

Once again, it is very difficult to know whether or not to trust the governess here. She insists that she knows Flora saw the ghost, but again, this knowledge seems to be purely intuitive and not based on any evidence (it actually contradicts the evidence, as Flora didn't seem to see the ghost). This passage also significantly disrupts assumptions about the binaries between innocence and corruption and between truth and secrecy. The governess's revelation shifts the presumption that the children are innocent, honest, and ignorant, while she and Mrs. Grose––as the adults and authority figures––possess disturbing knowledge that they must keep secret from the children. According to the governess's new beliefs, it is in fact the children who are keeping horrifying secrets from the adults, who remain innocently clueless about what is really going on. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

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. I couldn't abjure for merely wanting to, but I could repeat to Mrs. Grose—as I did there, over and over, in the small hours—that with their voices in the air, their pressure on one's heart, and their fragrant faces against one's cheek, everything fell to the ground but their incapacity and their beauty.

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose, Miles, Flora
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

The governess has been questioning Mrs. Grose about Miles' relationship with Quint, trying to figure out if Miles is really as innocent and honest as he appears; Mrs. Grose has responded by admitting that Miles has been secretive about his time with Quint. The governess, disturbed, resolves not to assume Miles is lying, and once again contemplates the children's beauty and charm as evidence that they must be innocent. 

This passage is typically ambiguous. On one level, it seems to suggest that the governess' obsession with the children's apparent innocence is naïve. She seems almost to fetishize their adorable looks, losing the ability to think rationally in the rapturous, sensual description of "their pressure on one's heart, and their fragrant faces against one's cheek." At the same time, it could be just as likely that Mrs. Grose is keeping secrets as opposed to Miles, and the governess's enduring commitment to protecting the children perhaps reveals her noble, loyal character. 

Finally, the phrase "their pressure on one's heart" disturbingly foreshadows the final scene in the story, when the governess describes Miles's death by saying that "his little heart... had stopped."

Chapter 10 Quotes

You were looking for me out of the window?" I said. "You thought I might be walking in the grounds?"
"Well, you know, I thought someone was"—she never blanched as she smiled out that at me.
Oh, how I looked at her now! "And did you see anyone?"
"Ah, NO!" she returned, almost with the full privilege of childish inconsequence, resentfully, though with a long sweetness in her little drawl of the negative.
At that moment, in the state of my nerves, I absolutely believed she lied…

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Flora (speaker)
Related Symbols: Windows
Page Number: 336
Explanation and Analysis:

During the night the governess has caught Flora hiding behind the window blind, and when asked what she was doing there, Flora responded that she was looking for the governess through the window. The governess, suspicious, asks if Flora saw anyone, and Flora responds in a sweet yet resentful "drawl," "Ah, NO!", leading the governess to believe she is lying. This is the first moment when the governess truly suspects either of the children of being anything less than purely innocent and honest (although at this point she still maintains a favorable view of Miles, eerily echoing Peter Quint's favoritism of the boy over Flora).

Note the difficulty in determining the tone of what Flora is saying here. The words she uses––"Ah, NO!"––are simple, and could be said in any number of ways. The governess at once describes her expression as privileged, "negative," and resentful––all suggesting that she is speaking with a kind of sneer, and is perhaps lying––while at the same time using the words "childish inconsequence," "sweetness," and a "little drawl," which suggest innocence. The ambiguity here makes it impossible to know for sure if Flora is lying, and also indicates that the binary between innocence and dishonesty is perhaps not as simple as we might presume. 

Chapter 12 Quotes

"Why, of the very things that have delighted, fascinated, and yet, at bottom, as I now so strangely see, mystified and troubled me. Their more than earthly beauty, their absolutely unnatural goodness. It's a game," I went on; "it's a policy and a fraud!"
"On the part of little darlings—?"
"As yet mere lovely babies? Yes, mad as that seems!" The very act of bringing it out really helped me to trace it—follow it all up and piece it all together. "They haven't been good—they've only been absent. It has been easy to live with them, because they're simply leading a life of their own. They're not mine—they're not ours. They're his and they're hers!"
"Quint's and that woman's?"
"Quint's and that woman's. They want to get to them."

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles, Flora, Peter Quint, Miss Jessel
Page Number: 344
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the governess confesses a major change of opinion to Mrs. Grose: she now believes that the children have been deliberately trying to seem innocent when in fact they have been corrupted by Quint and Miss Jessel. She says that this explains their extraordinary, "unnatural" sweetness and obedience, and she concludes that the children do not belong to the governess and Mrs. Grose, but to the two ghosts. This is a pivotal moment in the novel, the point when the governess's own innocence––manifested through her naïve insistence on the innocence of the children––suddenly falls away and she fully accepts her suspicion and paranoia. 

This passage also makes clear that it is impossible for the governess to imagine that the children are independent, autonomous beings. She says that she thought they were good because they were obedient, but in fact they have just been "absent.. leading a life of their own." She then goes on to tell Mrs. Grose that the children are "not ours. They're his and they're hers!" This shows not only that, when it comes to the children, the governess imagines goodness as being the same as obedience, but also that she believes the children must either belong to her or to someone else––they cannot simply exist as their own people.

Chapter 13 Quotes

What it was most impossible to get rid of was the cruel idea that, whatever I had seen, Miles and Flora saw more—things terrible and unguessable and that sprang from dreadful passages of intercourse in the past. Such things naturally left on the surface, for the time, a chill which we vociferously denied that we felt…

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Miles, Flora
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

The governess has been tormented by her conviction that Miles and Flora know she has also seen the ghosts, and almost raises the issue with them several times before deciding against it. In this passage she reflects on how disturbing it is to know that Miles and Flora have been corrupted and have seen "terrible and unguessable" things that even she does not know about. However, she also admits that the three of them still continue to act as if everything is fine.

Her words reflect the theme of deception and of the tension between exterior innocence and the dark, disturbing secrets that lie beneath. The governess's statement that "whatever I have seen, Miles and Flora saw more" represents a reversal in the natural position of adults and children, a narrative device typically used in gothic ghost stories that leads to ominous consequences. 

Chapter 18 Quotes

“She's with her?"
"She's with her!" I declared. "We must find them."
My hand was on my friend's arm, but she failed for the moment, confronted with such an account of the matter, to respond to my pressure. She communed, on the contrary, on the spot, with her uneasiness. "And where's Master Miles?"
"Oh, he’s with Quint. They're in the schoolroom."
"Lord, miss!" My view, I was myself aware—and therefore I suppose my tone—had never yet reached so calm an assurance.
"The trick's played," I went on; "they’ve successfully worked their plan. He found the most divine little way to keep me quiet while she went off."
"'Divine'?" Mrs. Grose bewilderedly echoed.

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles, Flora, Peter Quint, Miss Jessel
Page Number: 368
Explanation and Analysis:

Miles has been playing the piano for the governess, during which time Flora disappeared. The governess, having realized this, goes to Mrs. Grose and insists that they find Flora, who the governess is convinced is with Miss Jessel. When Mrs. Grose asks where Miles is, the governess tells her he must be with Quint and that the piano playing was a "trick" to distract her while Flora ran off with Miss Jessel. It is clear at this point that, like the children, Mrs. Grose is alarmed at the governess's behavior. Whether we interpret the ghosts as real or not, it is clear that the governess's belief in their influence over the children is leading her into a frenzy, which in turn isolates her from those around her.

Even at this crazed and climactic moment, the governess still seems fixated on the binary between innocence and corruption. She calls Miles's piano playing a "divine little way to keep me quiet." The use of the word "divine"––emphasized by Mrs. Grose's bewildered repetition––shows that the governess retains her obsession with the children's unearthly purity, even while she is accusing them of conspiring against her. 

Chapter 20 Quotes

Miss Jessel stood before us on the opposite bank exactly as she had stood the other time, and I remember, strangely, as the first feeling now produced in me, my thrill of joy at having brought on a proof. She was there, and I was justified; she was there, and I was neither cruel nor mad. She was there for poor scared Mrs. Grose, but she was there most for Flora…

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose, Flora, Miss Jessel
Page Number: 373
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Grose and the governess have found Flora outside by the lake, and as they stand there the governess spots Miss Jessel again, in the same position as when the governess saw her for the first time. Note that this is the first occasion that one of the ghosts has appeared in the presence of another adult, and the governess feels overjoyed at the "proof" that they are real. While this might seem like a perverse emotional reaction, it reveals that the governess' feelings of isolation and self-doubt have begun to scare her even more than the existence of the ghosts in the first place. Regardless of whether the reader believes that the ghosts are real, in this part of the novel James suggests that psychological torment and the possibility of madness can be far more frightening than supernatural horror.

Of course, the governess's immediate feeling of relief is ironic, as after this passage Mrs. Grose reveals that she did not see the ghost of Miss Jessel. Once again, this can be interpreted in a number of ways; either as proof that the ghosts are the governess's hallucinations, or that they deliberately conceal themselves from Mrs. Grose in order to make the governess seem mad, or that they appear to particular people at particular times for some other reason. Indeed, the governess herself emphasizes the idea that the ghosts do not simply appear but reveal themselves to individuals with her statement that, "She was there for poor scared Mrs. Grose, but she was there most for Flora." 

"I don't know what you mean. I see nobody. I see nothing. I never have. I think you're cruel. I don't like you!" Then, after this deliverance, which might have been that of a vulgarly pert little girl in the street, she hugged Mrs. Grose more closely and buried in her skirts the dreadful little face. In this position she produced an almost furious wail. "Take me away, take me away—oh, take me away from her!"

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Flora (speaker), Mrs. Grose
Page Number: 375
Explanation and Analysis:

After Mrs. Grose has admitted that she does not see Miss Jessel, Flora agrees, saying she has "never" seen anyone or anything and accusing the governess of being cruel. She then demands that Mrs. Grose take her away. Flora's words alarm the governess, not only because they are so directly accusatory but because they also challenge the governess's presumptions about the binaries of innocence and evil.

Throughout the novel, the governess has been fixated on the idea that the children are innocent and pure, that Quint and Miss Jessel are evil, and that she––the governess––is the children's protector and is therefore good. However, this exchange majorly subverts these beliefs, suggesting that if Quint and Miss Jessel don't exist, then it is the governess herself who is having a cruel, corrupting effect on the children. Note that this subversion is also evident in the way the governess describes Flora here, no longer using words associated with magical innocence and beauty, but instead calling her "vulgarly pert" and "dreadful." The fact that the governess's opinion reverses so suddenly suggests that the appearance of innocence can be highly unstable and misleading. 

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Flora Character Timeline in The Turn of the Screw

The timeline below shows where the character Flora appears in The Turn of the Screw. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
...his younger brother, their father. Facing difficulty taking care of the children (named Miles and Flora), this wealthy uncle sent them to his country home, an estate called Bly, where they... (full context)
Chapter 1
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...the governess herself rode in on. The governess says she would like to go, with Flora, to the carriage’s pick-up point, so that she may welcome Miles and introduce herself to... (full context)
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
The Governess spends her second day at Bly getting to know Flora. They play outside for some time and eventually the governess asks Flora to take her... (full context)
Chapter 6
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A later scene is described in which the governess and Flora venture together outside. While watching Flora play beside a lake, the governess spots another visitor... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...visitors but are not telling her about their encounters with them. She is convinced that Flora saw the ghost by the lake, but that for some reason she stayed quiet about... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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...she still considers herself the sole protector of these children. The governess eventually meets with Flora again, and Flora’s tenderness causes her to feel guilty at having suspected her of any... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...third encounter with Quint. One night, while reading in her room—a room she shares with Flora—she perceives in the hallway outside something “undefinably astir” in the house. She sees the curtain... (full context)
Chapter 10
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Suspicious of Flora now, the governess stays up at night trying to catch the girl sneaking out of... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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Storytelling Theme Icon
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...when she realizes a light she left burning had been blown out. She notices that Flora left her bed to look out the window again, and she assumes the girl blew... (full context)
Chapter 13
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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Secrecy Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
...were going through her head in the months following her realization that the Miles and Flora were conspiring against her. She believes the children know that she had seen Quint and... (full context)
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
Miles and Flora eventually mention to the governess their concern that they had not heard from their uncle... (full context)
Chapter 14
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
...governess tells Miles that few people seem to be of his own sort, except perhaps Flora, which greatly offends Miles. Miles then asks whether or not his uncle is aware that... (full context)
Chapter 15
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
...shook up by her interaction with Miles, the governess returns to Bly, leaving Mrs. Grose, Flora, and Miles behind at the church. Upon entering the home, the governess notices a stranger... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Flora, Mrs. Grose, and Miles return home from church, and the governess is surprised to see... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...is so immersed in the music he’s making that, she realizes, she loses track of Flora. The governess asks Miles if he knows where Flora has gone, and he politely says... (full context)
Storytelling Theme Icon
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The governess, panicked, runs to find Mrs. Grose, who also does not know where Flora has gone off to. The governess says that Flora must be out with Miss Jessel,... (full context)
Chapter 19
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When they arrive at the spot, Flora is nowhere to be found. The governess then notices that the boat that is usually... (full context)
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The two then go around the lake to see if they can find Flora. When they get to the other side of the lake, they see the boat, exactly... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Still standing by the lake after having found Flora, the governess sees Miss Jessel staring at them from the opposite bank. The governess grasps... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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The governess finds Flora’s behavior appalling. She accuses Flora of being under Miss Jessel’s influence, and she says that... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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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... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...the day by the lake. Mrs. Grose enters the governess’s room early to speak about Flora’s condition. Flora, she says, has fallen ill, and she seems to Mrs. Grose to have... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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...then says that she will not leave Bly, and she insists that Mrs. Grose take Flora to her uncle. She says that Flora needs to be away from Quint and Miss... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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Mrs. Grose returns to the subject of Flora. She says that even though she hasn’t seen Miss Jessel herself, she nonetheless senses Miss... (full context)
Chapter 22
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With Mrs. Grose and Flora now gone from Bly, the governess prepares herself for her time alone with Miles. She... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
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Miles does not bring up the ghosts, but only asks if Flora has fallen ill. The governess says that Bly disagreed with Flora, and after she says... (full context)