The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw is a short novel or a novella written by American writer Henry James. Originally published in 1898, it is ostensibly a ghost story that has lent itself well to operatic and film adaptation. Due to its ambiguous content and narrative skill, The Turn of the Screw became a favorite text of New Criticism. The account has lent itself to dozens of different interpretations, often mutually exclusive, including those of a Freudian nature. Many critics have tried to determine what exactly is the nature of evil within the story.
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The story begins with an unnamed narrator describing a house party at which ghost stories are being told. The guests agree that a story in which a ghost visits a child is especially eerie. An older guest, named Douglas, indicates that he knows a story in which ghosts visit two children.
Who wrote the manuscript that Douglas mentions?
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Use the DEFINE feature to read the definition of reticence. Write a sentence using reticence correctly in context.
According to Douglas, the young woman who wrote the manuscript answered an advertisement for a position as a governess. The employer was a rich, attractive bachelor. The young woman accepted the position because of her attraction to her employer.
What stipulation does the man make to the young woman?
Based on the details in the text, Flora is ___________________.
The governess thinks that Flora is an exceptionally beautiful and charming little girl. From her room, the governess thinks she hears the footsteps and crying of a child in the distance, but dismisses them. She is optimistic about the opportunity to teach and shape Flora.
From which point of view is this story written?
Point of view is the mode of narration that an author uses to let the reader “hear” and “see” what takes place in a story. Watch the video to learn more about point of view. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does the governess continue to question Mrs. Grose about Miles's behavior?
A few hours before leaving to meet Miles, the governess approaches Mrs. Grose, questioning her about the previous governess. Mrs. Grose describes her as young and pretty. Why do you suppose the governess is so interested in knowing about the previous governess?
What action does the governess plan to take in response to the letter about Miles's expulsion from school?
A more practical governess might follow up with the school, make persistent inquiries, obtain actual facts, and try to resolve the situation of Miles's expulsion. But this governess decides to do nothing. Why do you suppose Mrs. Grose agrees to stand by her in this decision?
During her private hour one evening, the governess takes a walk around the grounds. When she comes back in view of the house, she sees a strange man standing atop one of the house’s towers looking at her. Do you suppose the man is real or someone she just imagines?
How does the governess feel when she sees the man on the tower roof?
The governess is beginning to wonder if Bly might hold some sort of mystery. For days, the governess reflects on her encounter with the intruder. Do you think she will have the boldness to ask Mrs. Grose if Bly holds any secrets? Why or why not?
Why does the governess believe that the accusations against Miles for his conduct are absurd?
Make a prediction as to who you think the intruder has come to the house for.
The governess sees the same intruder from the tower, staring intensely at her from outside the dining room window. When the governess runs outside to confront the man, he vanishes. She turns to the window to stand where he had stood. How do you think Mrs. Grose will feel if she sees the governess looking in the window?
Based on the conversation between Mrs. Grose and the governess, do you think that Mrs. Grose has seen the stranger before? Why or why not?
Why does the governess believe the man is a horror?
The governess describes Quint as “tall, active, erect” and “remarkably” handsome, making it clear that she finds him attractive. However, she also perceives him as aggressive and terrifying.
Based on the details in the text, what do you infer about Quint?
A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, that includes a ghost, or suggests the possibility of ghosts or a character's belief in them. The "ghost" may appear of its own accord or be summoned by magic. Linked to the ghost is the idea of "hauntings," where a supernatural entity is tied to a place, object or person. It is a form of supernatural fiction and is categorized in the genre of horror. (This annotation contains an image)
Mrs. Grose reveals that Quint has been “too free” with Miles. What does she mean?
Why does Mrs. Grose say she did not tell the master about Quint?
Which of the following emotions does the writer want readers to feel this section of text?
The governess watches Flora play on the bank of the lake when she becomes aware of a third presence. Who is this third person who is watching?
Why is the governess so upset when she tells Mrs. Grose what happened at the lake?
Who do you think the ghostly woman is? Could she possibly be related to Mr. Quint?
What frightens the governess about the ghost of Miss Jessel?
Use the DEFINE feature to read the definition of infamous. Create a sentence using infamous correctly in context.
Why is the governess unwilling to leave the ghost matter alone?
The governess and Mrs. Grose determine to keep their wits about them. That night they talk in the governess’s room until the governess is convinced that Mrs. Grose believes her.
The governess is quick to interpret the situation between the ghosts and the children in a sexual way. She insists that Miles and Flora understand the true nature of Quint and Jessel’s relationship and that they are helping to cover it up. She sees the situation as much worse than does Mrs. Grose, perceiving herself as bolder and more willing to face the truth than Mrs. Grose.
How does the governess differ from Mrs. Grose in the way she wants to handle this situation?
Why does the governess do this? What is her reason for holding the children close to her?
Days pass without incident. The governess keeps the children under her constant supervision. She finds herself embracing her pupils more frequently and with sharper passion. She wonders if they are aware of her suspicions.
What causes the governess to stop reading and leave her room?
When the governess sees Quint on the stairs, they stare each other down intensely. The governess refuses to back down. She is convinced by the dead silence that the vision is “unnatural.” What does this reveal about the relationship between the governess and the ghosts?
When the governess questions Flora about seeing someone outside, Flora denies that anyone was there. The governess is certain Flora is lying. Do you think Flora is as innocent as she seems? Why or why not?
What is the governess's initial response in handling the problem? Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
How does the author create a greater element of suspense?
The governess decides Flora must be communicating with the ghost of Miss Jessel and wants to catch her in the act. She ventures out to find a room with a window that looks on the same scene. There, from her window, the governess sees Miles out on the lawn. What do you suppose Miles is doing outside? Do you think he and Flora are playing the governess for a fool?
Do you think Miles will tell the governess the truth? Why or why not?
Why does Miles say he goes out to the lawn?
The governess comes to the conclusion that the children have been meeting with Quint and Miss Jessel. Who does the governess believe the children belong to? How might this affect her desire to protect them?
What does the governess say she and Mrs. Grose must do?
Why does the governess NOT want to contact the master and ask him for help?
The governess believes her employer would be amused if he thought she was lonely. She threatens to leave if Mrs. Grose appeals to the children’s uncle on her behalf.
The governess believes that ___________.
The governess shuts herself up in a room to rehearse how she will discuss the topic of Quint and Miss Jessel with the children. Why does the governess find this topic so difficult to discuss with Miles and Flora?
Use the DEFINE feature to read the definition of gaoler. What does the governess compare herself to?
Similes and metaphors compare two distinct objects and draw similarity between them. Similes make the comparison using "like" or "as" while metaphors do not. Watch the video to learn more about simile and metaphor. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Miles mean by saying, "I want my own sort"?
Why does Miles ask the governess whether his uncle agrees with her on the school matter? What do you think her response will be?
The governess turns away from church, feeling defeated by Miles and taken back by the sudden revelation that he possesses a “consciousness and a plan."
What does the governess contemplate in this section of text? Cite textual evidence to support your answer.
The governess manages to get Mrs. Grose alone so that she can inquire as to whether the children “bribed her to silence.” Why does the governess suspect that the children asked Mrs. Grose to keep quiet?
What does the governess mean by it's "all out" between her and Miles?
Who does the governess blame for the situation with the children?
Mrs. Grose offers to write to the children's uncle. The governess responds with sarcasm, asking her colleague if she wants to write out their fantastical story. Why does Mrs. Grose ask the governess to write the letter?
What do you think Miles wants to get away from?
Why does Miles want the governess to "settle things" with his uncle?
Why does Miles want freedom from the governess’s scrutiny and control?
On this particular morning, how do Miles and Flora act for the governess during their lessons?
Whom does the governess believe Flora is with?
The governess reasons that Miles is with Quint in the schoolroom. She then declares that “the trick’s played." Why does the governess believe that Miles distracted her? What did he distract her from?
The governess is convinced that Flora has fled to where she had seen the image of Miss Jessel. What does the governess believe Flora used to flee in?
Why does the governess refer to Flora as "an old, old woman"?
The governess grasps Mrs. Grose’s arm and points out Miss Jessel on the opposite bank. She is delighted at having “brought on a proof" that Miss Jessel exists. Why does the governess feel that she needs "proof" that Miss Jessel exists?
What is Flora's reaction to the governess when she points out that Miss Jessel exists?
The details in the text suggest that Mrs. Grose ______________________.
What is unusual about Miles's behavior when the governess returns to the house?
How does the governess feel as she returns home from the lake?
Why does the governess believe Flora is going to ruin her reputation with the uncle?
What has caused Flora's feelings toward the governess to change?
Why does the governess want to be justified in her accusations of the children and the ghosts? Why is this so important to her?
Mrs. Grose reveals that ________________.
Why does Mrs. Grose think that Miles was expelled from school for stealing letters?
The governess dines with Miles, who asks about his sister’s illness. Why does the governess reassure him that Flora will soon get well?
Summarize what the governess tells Miles about his sister, Flora.
The governess asks Miles if he has enjoyed his day of freedom. Miles turns the question on her, asking if she has enjoyed it. He says that, if they stay on at Bly together, she will be more alone than he. What reason does the governess give for staying on at Bly?
For what reason does Miles believe the governess has stayed at Bly?
The governess is suddenly distracted by Peter Quint looking in through the window. She springs up and draws Miles close, keeping his back to the window. Why do you think she shields Miles from seeing Peter Quint?
What is the most likely reason the governess shields Miles from Peter Quint? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
Do you suppose that the governess is satisfied with Miles's answer to her? Why or why not?
How does the governess feel about Miles in this section of text?
The conclusion of The Turn of the Screw seems to resolve the question of the governess’s reliability. When Miles blurts out “Peter Quint, you devil!” he seems to acknowledge his awareness of the ghost. He also seems anxious and terrified to see Quint himself. What does this reveal about the governess's speculation throughout the story? Do you think her accusations are valid?