The Turn of the Screw


Henry James

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The Turn of the Screw: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

The narrative continues to describe the first evening Miles and the governess spend alone at Bly. While in the room outside of which the governess had once seen Quint, the governess sits on the couch, and Miles stares out the window. The governess has a revelation: she claims that Miles is looking longingly out the window because he is searching for something he cannot see. He cannot see the ghosts she has seen the whole time.
This sudden reversal is important. The governess now clearly sees Miles only as an innocent boy, one who can only feel but not truly see the damaging presence of Quint and Miss Jessel.
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The governess asks Miles if he likes staying at Bly. He says that he does, and he hopes that she feels the same. She says that she does like it, and that there is nothing in the world she wouldn’t do for him. The governess then builds up the courage and gall to ask Miles to tell her what is on his mind, and he says he will, but that he first has to go out. He says he has to go see Luke. The governess is disappointed, knowing now that he wants to deceiver her again, so she asks him directly if he had stolen the letter she’d hoped Luke would take to Miles’s uncle.
The governess asserts herself here as Miles’s protector and savior, but she is disappointed to see that her openness is not reciprocated. She seems finally to have realized that in order really to draw out of him what is on his mind, she needs to admit to him that she knows he is not perfectly innocent. In order to save him, she has to confront him as someone who honestly needs saving.
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