The Turn of the Screw


Henry James

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The Turn of the Screw: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

The narrative continues to describe the time following the governess’s conversation with Mrs. Grose. The governess decides to continue on with her duties, to plow ahead despite her recent fears and doubts; 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 kind of secrecy or foul play.
This an important instance of the ambiguities introduced by the supernatural: the governess’s renewed trust in Flora leads her to admit she may have been the only one to see Miss Jessel. This sudden shift implies that perhaps Miss Jessel wasn’t there at all.
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Literary Devices
Later, the governess questions Mrs. Grose, hoping to draw out of her when, if ever, Mrs. Grose had thought Miles had been badly behaved. The governess’s aggressive questioning causes Mrs. Grose to say that Miles had been secretive about the time he had spent with Quint. The governess continues to prod, and she infers from Mrs. Grose’s frazzled description of Miles’s secrecy that Miles had withheld information he’d gathered about the relationship between Miss Jessel and Quint. The chapter concludes with Mrs. Grose asking the governess not to assume Miles is a liar, and the governess says she’ll wait for firsthand evidence to decide either way.
The conclusion that the governess draws from the story her aggressive examination of Mrs. Grose yields—that Miles actively lied about his time with Quint—may not be what Mrs. Grose had intended to disclose about Miles’s “bad” behavior, but rather the result of the governess’s intimidating and intense questioning. On the other hand, Mrs. Grose may be trying to conceal some truth she knows about Miles, in which case the governess’s interpretation may be justified. Both options seem equally possible.
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