The Turn of the Screw

Miles Character Analysis

The ten year-old boy for whom the governess isresponsible,Miles is a precocious and charming “young gentleman”. When the governess arrived at Bly, she received a letter saying that Miles had been expelled from his school, though the note does not give a reason for this expulsion. The governess’s relationship with Miles is colored by this suspicious past, because it implies that there is a kind of devious or even evil side of him which she cannot reconcile with what she perceives to be his immaculate behavior. The governess further assumes that Miles meets regularly with the ghost of Peter Quint, or that he is at least under his influence.

Miles Quotes in The Turn of the Screw

The The Turn of the Screw quotes below are all either spoken by Miles or refer to Miles. 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 2 Quotes

"I take what you said to me at noon as a declaration that you’ve never known him to be bad."
She threw back her head; she had clearly, by this time, and very honestly, adopted an attitude. "Oh, never known him—I don't pretend that!"
I was upset again. "Then you have known him—?"
"Yes indeed, miss, thank God!"
On reflection I accepted this. "You mean that a boy who never is—?"
"Is no boy for me!"
I held her tighter. "You like them with the spirit to be naughty?" Then, keeping pace with her answer, "So do I!" I eagerly brought out. "But not to the degree to contaminate—"
"To contaminate?"—my big word left her at a loss. I explained it. "To corrupt."
She stared, taking my meaning in; but it produced in her an odd laugh. "Are you afraid he'll corrupt you?"

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

It would have been impossible to carry a bad name with a greater sweetness of innocence, and by the time I had got back to Bly with him I remained merely bewildered—so far, that is, as I was not outraged—by the sense of the horrible letter locked up in my room, in a drawer. As soon as I could compass a private word with Mrs. Grose I declared to her that it was grotesque.
She promptly understood me. "You mean the cruel charge—?"
"It doesn't live an instant. My dear woman, LOOK at him!"

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

"He was looking for someone else, you say—someone who was not you?"
"He was looking for little Miles." A portentous clearness now possessed me. "That’s whom he was looking for."
"But how do you know?"
"I know, I know, I know!" My exaltation grew. "And you know, my dear!"

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles, Peter Quint
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

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"Oh, it wasn't him!" Mrs. Grose with emphasis declared. "It was Quint's own fancy. To play with him, I mean—to spoil him." She paused a moment; then she added: "Quint was much too free."
This gave me, straight from my vision of his face—such a face!—a sudden sickness of disgust. "Too free with my boy?"
"Too free with everyone!"

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Mrs. Grose (speaker), Miles, Peter Quint
Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

He was gentleness itself, and while I wagged my head at him he stood there more than ever a little fairy prince. It was his brightness indeed that gave me a respite. Would it be so great if he were really going to tell me? "Well," he said at last, "just exactly in order that you should do this."
"Do what?"
"Think me—for a change—bad!" I shall never forget the sweetness and gaiety with which he brought out the word, nor how, on top of it, he bent forward and kissed me. It was practically the end of everything.

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Miles (speaker)
Page Number: 342
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

I call it a revolution because I now see how, with the word he spoke, the curtain rose on the last act of my dreadful drama, and the catastrophe was precipitated. "Look here, my dear, you know," he charmingly said, "when in the world, please, am I going back to school?"
Transcribed here the speech sounds harmless enough, particularly as uttered in the sweet, high, casual pipe with which, at all interlocutors, but above all at his eternal governess, he threw off intonations as if he were tossing roses.

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Miles (speaker)
Page Number: 352
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

"Dear little Miles, dear little Miles, if you KNEW how I want to help you! It's only that, it's nothing but that, and I'd rather die than give you a pain or do you a wrong—I'd rather die than hurt a hair of you. Dear little Miles"—oh, I brought it out now even if I should go too far—"I just want you to help me to save you!"

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Miles
Page Number: 365
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 23 Quotes

This inference grew in a few minutes to sharp intensity and seemed bound up with the direct perception that it was positively he who was. The frames and squares of the great window were a kind of image, for him, of a kind of failure. I felt that I saw him, at any rate, shut in or shut out. He was admirable, but not comfortable: I took it in with a throb of hope. Wasn't he looking, through the haunted pane, for something he couldn't see?

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Miles
Related Symbols: Windows
Page Number: 387
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 24 Quotes

"It's he?"
I was so determined to have all my proof that I flashed into ice to challenge him. "Whom do you mean by 'he'?"
"Peter Quint—you devil!" His face gave again, round the room, its convulsed supplication. "Where?"
…"What does he matter now, my own?—what will he EVER matter? I have you," I launched at the beast, "but he has lost you forever!" Then, for the demonstration of my work, "There, there!" I said to Miles.
But he had already jerked straight round, stared, glared again, and seen but the quiet day. With the stroke of the loss I was so proud of he uttered the cry of a creature hurled over an abyss…We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.

Related Characters: The Governess (speaker), Miles (speaker), Peter Quint
Page Number: 395
Explanation and Analysis:

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Miles Character Timeline in The Turn of the Screw

The timeline below shows where the character Miles 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
...death of 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,... (full context)
Chapter 1
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Mrs. Grose informs the governess that Miles will arrive in a couple days by the same carriage the governess herself rode in... (full context)
Chapter 2
Secrecy Theme Icon
...Bly she had received from the children’s uncle a letter forwarded from the head-master at Miles’s school. He hadn’t yet opened the letter, and requested that the governess not bring up... (full context)
Secrecy Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
The governess confides in Mrs. Grose about the announcement of Miles’s expulsion, and she seeks from Mrs. Grose an explanation. Mrs. Grose comes to Miles’s defense,... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
The next day is the day of Miles’s arrival. Before leaving to meet Miles, the governess asks Mrs. Grose what happened to the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
The governess picks up Miles and when she sees him she is impressed by what she calls his “incredible beauty.”... (full context)
Chapter 4
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
...(though she does not explain what those surprises are in any detail). She mentions that Miles’s behavior is so consistently kind that the cause of his expulsion from school is pushed... (full context)
Chapter 6
Secrecy Theme Icon
...end of the conversation, the governess mentions that she believes Quint had been looking for Miles. Hearing this, Mrs. Grose mentions that Quint had been “too free” with everyone at Bly,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Storytelling Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 9
Exterior vs. Interior Theme Icon
Secrecy Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 11
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The day after seeing Miles out on the lawn, the governess speaks privately with Mrs. Grose about what had happened.... (full context)
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The governess then describes what she says to Mrs. Grose about her encounter with Miles. After seeing him out on the lawn, the governess went outside to the terrace. Miles... (full context)
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In response to the governess’s question about why Miles had been outside, Miles said that he wanted her to think of him as “bad.”... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...thoughts that 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... (full context)
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Miles and Flora eventually mention to the governess their concern that they had not heard from... (full context)
Chapter 14
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The governess moves on to describe a particularly important interaction she has with Miles. While walking to church one day, Miles asks the governess when he’ll be going back... (full context)
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Miles says he brought up the subject because he no longer wants to be around women... (full context)
Chapter 15
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After her conversation with Miles, the governess stays outside the church and reflects upon their conversation. She thinks that he... (full context)
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Because she is so shook up by her interaction with Miles, the governess returns to Bly, leaving Mrs. Grose, Flora, and Miles behind at the church.... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Flora, Mrs. Grose, and Miles return home from church, and the governess is surprised to see that no one mentions... (full context)
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...is concerned, though, that their uncle will hold it against her not having dealt with Miles’s expulsion from school, which they each admit is still a mystery—indeed, neither can hold it... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...begins to write her letter to the children’s uncle. She cannot write, so she visits Miles in his room, and after waiting outside to see if he is asleep, she hears... (full context)
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The two discuss Miles’s school. The governess is concerned for him, and throughout the conversation she says how painful... (full context)
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Because she is so disturbed by Miles’s unwillingness to confide in her, the governess falls to her knees at the boy’s bedside... (full context)
Chapter 18
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The narrative continues on the day following the governess’s late-night interaction with Miles. After the governess has finished her lessons with the children—during which they had been extremely... (full context)
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Later, Miles asks if the governess would like to listen to him play the piano. She reflects... (full context)
Chapter 19
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The governess and Mrs. Grose leave Miles behind to go find Flora outside. The governess decides to head to the lake, because... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...herself. The governess says she will stay behind and try to earn the trust of Miles, with whom she senses she is growing a closer bond. (full context)
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...Mrs. Grose says that she has a suspicion, which she had hoped to withhold, that Miles had stolen the letter intended for his uncle. She says further that this must be... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...and Flora now gone from Bly, the governess prepares herself for her time alone with Miles. She is aware the maids and other staff at Bly know about what has happened,... (full context)
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Miles does not bring up the ghosts, but only asks if Flora has fallen ill. The... (full context)
Chapter 23
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The narrative continues to describe the first evening Miles and the governess spend alone at Bly. While in the room outside of which the... (full context)
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The governess asks Miles if he likes staying at Bly. He says that he does, and he hopes that... (full context)
Chapter 24
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After the governess asks Miles whether or not he had stolen the letter she’d meant to have sent to his... (full context)
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Miles then confesses that he had stolen the letter. He says he took it to see... (full context)
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The governess then asks what Miles found when he read the letter. He says he found nothing, and that he burned... (full context)
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Suddenly, Quint reappears at the window. The governess latches onto Miles, and yells at Quint. Miles then asks “Is she here?” and the governess infers that... (full context)