The Turn of the Screw


Henry James

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The Turn of the Screw: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

The governess reflects on the days following her conversation with Mrs. Grose. Her time spent with the children returned again to the calm and carefree atmosphere she had experienced with them before. The children begin to seem “preternaturally fond of her”, and she finds herself yet again wondering how it could be possible that Miles had been expelled from his school. Despite all this, though, she wonders whether or not the children are being excessively kind in order to conceal some secret they share and are trying to keep from her.
This moment in the story is another example of the quick return to normalcy that follows the governess’s intense suspicions and doubts about the children’s innocence, but it also highlights how sometimes even in these periods of relative calm, the governess tends to perceive some insidious truth concealed by the appearance of innocence. In this way, the governess starts to see innocence as a kind of proof of corruption beneath.
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After this period of reflection, the narrative moves forward to the night of the governess’s 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 around Flora’s bed is closed, and assumes she is safe. Shortly after exiting her room, she sees Quint standing on a landing on the stairs below. He fixes his eyes on her exactly as he had before, and this time she is certain that he is dangerous. She stands her ground, unafraid, and the silence between them is disturbingly unnatural. She says that were the moment any longer, she may have doubted “whether or not even I were in life.”
The governess’s reaction to her encounter with Quint—her fearlessness—challenges the idea that she sees these figures out of some kind of fear-induced paranoia. Her courageous encounter with the supernatural is significant: she no longer dreads the supernatural presences, and she now sees them as a kind of obstacle, a challenge to overcome. Her final comment suggests that she sees herself as existing almost on the same plane as these ghosts: the ghosts attempting to corrupt the children, and the governess attempting to save their innocence.
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