Downfall of the Governess in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James Essay

Downfall of the Governess in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James Essay

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Downfall of the Governess in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James


In the governess's insane pseudo-reality and through her chilling behavior, she managed to bring downfall to Flora and Miles, the children of Bly. With compulsively obsessive actions, irrational assumptions, and demented hallucinations, the governess perceived ghosts bearing evil intentions were attempting to corrupt and destroy the children she had taken the role of care for. In reality, the governess herself brought tragedy to the children through her own selfishness and insanity.

From the first interactions with the young children, the governess's infatuation with their uncle, her employer, eventually proved to be her own failure in every fashion. In talk with the head maid, Ms. Grose, the governess explained her meeting with her employer and how she had fallen in love with him on their first meeting. Ms. Grose then began to explain that that was the nature of the her employer, to draw a women he could entrust his estate to, and that the governess was not the only one so taken by him to leave the infatuated governess without further communication.

In restless sleep and longing for contact with those outside of Bly-- particularly her employer-- the governess placed hope in chance meetings of random individuals. In her walk in the yard, the governess began to wish for the sight of her employer who she was still madly in love with. The governess's desire to see him and receive his reassuring approval conceived the ghost of what was later revealed to be Peter Quint she believed she had seen. Later in her climax of interaction with her ghosts, the governess is afraid that the master will come home, for she is fearful of what he will think of her.
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...d in the governess's eyes. After feeling she had lost Flora to the ghost, when in reality the governess had scared the child to death, Miles still shown to be a ray of hope for the demented governess. She refused to leave him alone and began to become angry and suspicious of his corruption when he would ask of his desire for schooling.

In the governess's last attempt to consume the children for herself, she sends Ms. Grose away with the sickly Flora and keeps Miles with her at Bly. After her last vision of Quint and with Miles dilapidated in her ineludable arms, the governess frightens Miles so that he collapses and dies, by the governess's conniving will, and to her own bane. Although the governess seemed to have good intentions, her root of mind was self-serving and deceptive.

Works Cited:

James, Henry. "The Turn of the Screw." Esch and Warren 1-85.


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