Escaping The Governess In The Turn Of The Screw

2424 words - 10 pages

Escaping the Governess in The Turn of the Screw


At the end of The Turn of the Screw, great ambiguity exists surrounding Miles's death because serious questions remain about the credibility of the Governess who was the original author of the story. The ambiguity lies with the question of whom Miles was saved from at the end of the novel: the Governess or Quint. At the end of the novel the Governess holds Miles dead body in her arms and says, "...he has lost you for ever... We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped" (***). The "he" in "he has lost you for ever" could refer to Quint or the Governess. Additionally, the phrase "heart dispossessed" implies that some being lost possession of Mile's heart upon his death. Hence, someone was attempting to possess or had possessed Mile's heart during his life. At the end of the novel, there are only two beings in addition to Miles present: the Governess and possibly Quint. The Governess wants to believe that Quint is real and she is a maternal figure trying to save Miles from Quint's grasp, who may have introduced Miles to sexual information. The truth, however, is that Quint only exists in the mind of the sexually deprived Governess who creates Quint to help herself cope with her longings for relations with the master, who might be represented by Miles. Moreover, since the social position of the Governess forces her to live away from all men, her motherly feelings towards Miles blur together with her longings for the master. Upon critical examination it can be concluded that upon his death Miles is not saved from Quint, but from the erotic longings of the Governess.


The Governess characterizes Quint, who is only her hallucination, as a danger to Miles to strengthen her fantasy of motherhood. If Quint were real, he would be without question a threat to Miles's well being, because he was a corrupting influence in life. Quint spent an excessive amount of time with Miles. He transcended his social class barriers and had undue sexual interest in everyone; when the Governess asks Mrs. Grose if the Master prefers young and pretty governesses, she assents: "Oh he did... it was the way he liked everyone!" She had no sooner spoken indeed than she caught herself up. "I mean that's his way-the master's" (**). It can be ascertained that the original character she refers to is Quint, who "liked everyone." The word "liked" suggests sexual interest. Looking at Quint's position in life, one would assume his social class would prevent him from involvement with people of a higher social class. However, this was not a barrier for Quint. "I've never seen one like him (Quint). He did what he wished... with them all" (**). This proves that Quint had almost unlimited freedom. By itself, this would not necessarily create dubiety about Quint's interest in Miles, but he also liked to spend an excessive amount of time with Miles. "For a period of months Quint and the...

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