Writings in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw

Writings in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw

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Writings in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw


Leon Edel, in his biography of Henry James, tells of an instance after Alice James’ death when Henry James discovered a collection of letters he had written to her.  James, aware that researchers would be all too interested in the details revealed in the correspondences to his sister, destroyed them.  Writers who gain notoriety within their own lifetime become aware that every written word will be inspected. James knew that documents relating to an author can be important to prove intention in the author’s work, as well as to look at personal relationships, friendships, or simply to acquire the details of a specific event.  He was fully informed that letters can reveal as much or as little as he chose to let them.  This knowledge explains why he used papers, diaries, notes, documents, plans, letters, manuscripts, wills, messages, decrees, telegrams, and other written communications as tools to advance his stories. For ease of reading, I will call these, collectively,  "writings." The frequency with which James utilizes these writings is surprising.  A few examples of these in his texts are: the telegrams from In the Cage, the messages and papers in The Aspern Papers, the letters (obviously) from A Bundle of Letters,  and the diary from The Visits.  Evaluation of these writings, within James’s literature has, until now, been ignored.  Within The Turn of the Screw, especially, writings tell a story about their own lives and deaths, about their readers, intended and unintended, and give clues to James’s own intentions and the intentions of the authors of the writings.

    Many valid questions about these letters have been left unanswered by previous scholarship on this work.  For example, what do these writings in The Turn of the Screw reveal about the traumas at Bly?  What can they tell us about the past, about the ghosts, and about their unnatural deaths?  How does James use the story as a letter to his readers with other letters inside it, to characters in the text?  What can they reveal about their authors, and ours?  What do they say about their readers?  How do these letters hide each other, and the secret of their own importance?

    Turn’s similitude to The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe is explicit.  Poe and James use the same device: they hide secrets, in a letter, by placing that letter in an obvious place.

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  Poe’s character, Dupin, asks about this mechanism, "Do you not see he has taken it for granted that all men proceed to conceal a letter.. nooks for concealment are adapted only for ordinary occasions, and would be adopted only by ordinary intellects" (16). Poe nor James were of ordinary intellect, and neither were content to obscure esotericisms of their writing, but were happier to situate them in the apparent space and still know they might not be discovered.  For James, he put the secrets in the vague diary of the main narrator, while Poe hid them in a letter, folded (words on the outside) openly in the pigeonholes of a piece of furniture. Both should be the first place we look, but do not.  In The Purloined Letter, a minister of the French government switches a letter, which holds secrets valuable to the monarch, from right under her nose.  The Prefect of the Parisian police goes to a detective of local fame named Dupin to find the letter. The minister has had it for a year and a half, but the police’s searches cannot locate the letter.  The Prefect details his clandestine searches of the minister’s residence, including under the roof shingles, in the tables, under the carpets, and every page of every book in the apartment.  Dupin takes it upon himself to find the letter, and a opposition of the minds between the minister and Dupin ensues.  Dupin analogizes his search to street signs, saying:

...like the over-largely lettered signs and placards of the street, escape      observation by dint of being excessively obvious; and here the physical oversight is precisely analogous with the moral inapprehension by which the intellect suffers to pass unnoticed those considerations which are too obtrusively and too palpably self-evident. But this is a point, it appears, somewhat above or beneath the understanding of the Prefect.  He never once thought it probable, or possible, that the Minister had deposited the letter immediately beneath the nose of the whole world, by way of best preventing any portion of that world from perceiving it.
But the more I reflected upon the daring , dashing, and discriminating ingenuity of D----; upon the fact that the document must always have been at hand, if he intended to use it to good purpose; and upon the decisive evidence, obtained by the Prefect, that it was not hidden within the limits of that dignitary’s ordinary search - the more satisfied I became that to conceal this letter, the Minister had resorted to the comprehensive and sagacious expedient of not attempting to conceal it at all. (20)

This is the very same tactic that James uses to hide information needed to his readers and characters.  The governess would react quite differently to her situations if she had known what Miles had done at school, and why.  She would have accepted less visits from the ghosts, especially Peter Quint.  But all was not revealed to her in the letter from the headmaster, nor the forward from the master.  Neither  Mrs. Grose nor the master are up front with her about what is going on at Bly, but all she needs to do is ask, and they would probably explain to her.  Her intelligence is only "ordinary, " and she cannot ask the obvious questions as if they were the name of a country so large and so spread out across a map that could only see the counties of an unknown nation.  Therefore, she cannot outsmart the ghosts and her fellow characters the way Dupin does.  Dupin visits the minister himself, and surveys the rooms.

At length my eyes, in going the circuit of the room, fell upon a trumpery fillagree card-rack of pasteboard, that hung dangling by a dirty blue ribbon from a little brass knob just beneath the middle of the mantle-piece.  In this rack, which had three or four compartments, were five or six visiting cards and a solitary letter.  This last was much soiled and crumpled.  It was almost torn in two, across the middle - as if a design, in the first instance, to tear it up as worthless, had been altered, or stayed, in the second.  It had a large black seal, bearing the D---- cipher very conspicuously, and was addressed, in a diminutive female hand, to D----, the minister, himself.  It was thrust carelessly, and even, as it seemed contemptuously, into one of the upper divisions of the rack.
    No sooner had I glanced at this letter, than I concluded it to be that of which I was in search.  To be sure, it was, to all appearance radically different form the one of which the Prefect had read us so minute a description.  Here the seal was large and black, with the D---- cipher; there it was small and red, with the ducal arms of the S---- family.  Here, the address, to the Minister, was diminutive and feminine; there the superscription, to a certain royal personage, was markedly bold and decided; the size alone formed a point of correspondence. (21)

Likewise, the hand of the manuscript in The Turn of the Screw and its relevance to the story is extensive.  James mentions the beauty of her writing twice, which may seem a trivial amount for most authors, but James is by far not ordinary.  Our governess has not even been named, so even stopping to mention her handwriting must be significant.  The first mention of the governess’s pen is on the occasion of Douglas announcing the existence of the manuscript:

 "And the record is yours?  You took the thing down?"
     "Nothing but the impression.  I took that here" – he tapped his heart.  "I’ve never lost it."
     "Then your manuscript---?"
 "Is in faded ink and in the most beautiful hand."  He hung fire again. "A     woman’s…" (Turn 23)

The other mention of the elegance of the governess’s writing is the last line of James’s first installment to Collier’s and also the last words before Douglas begins to speak and the governess takes over.  James finishes this prelude with, "he had begun to read with a fine clearness that was like a rendering to the ear of the beauty of the author’s hand" (Turn 27).  This is unmistakably a consequential position, and the delicate word choice concurs to tells of the extra work bestowed by James.  The same is true for Poe and his Dupin, who notices not only the hand of the stolen letter, but the condition:

But, then, the radicalness of these differences, which was excessive; the dirt, the soiled and  torn condition of the paper, so inconsistent with the true methodical habits of D----, and so suggestive of a design to delude a beholder into an idea of the worthlessness of the document; these things, together with the hyperobtrusive situation of this document, full in the view of every visiter… In scrutinizing the edges of the paper, I observed them to be more chafed than necessary.  They presented the broken appearance which is manifested when a stiff paper, having been once folded and pressed with a folder, is refolded in a reversed direction, in the same creases or edges which had formed the original fold.  This discovery was sufficient.  It was clear to me that the letter had been turned, as a glove, inside out, redirected, and resealed. (22)

Ripping, tearing, soiling, and then keeping a letter that did not have a broken seal was his first oversight.  Why would he have such a battered letter hanging under his mantle, unopened?  The other major problem was the seal: it was his own, yet the letter was addressed to him.  Unless he usually wrote letters to himself in a delicate handwriting, he has just given himself away to Dupin, who only had one obstacle left: how to retrieve the letter without the minister realizing it? Dupin swipes the letter using the same method the minister used: replacing it with a look-alike, in his presence.  Dupin uses the classic diversion tactic to distract the minister while he switched the letters.  "…a loud report, as if a pistol, was heard immediately beneath the windows of the hotel… D---- rushed to a casement, threw it open, and looked out.  In the meantime, I stepped to the card-rack, took the letter, put it in my pocket, and replaced it by a fac-simile (so far as regards externals) which I had carefully prepared" ( 22).  Dupin reveals that the shot was fired into the air, without a bullet, by a "pretended lunatic" in his employ.
Jacques Lacan has an engaging Derrida spin on The Purloined Letter.  He begins by dividing characters into three categories:

The first is a glance that sees nothing: the King and the police.  The second, a glance which sees that the first sees nothing and delude itself as to the secrecy of what it hides: the Queen, then the minister.  The third sees that the first two glances leave what should be hidden exposed to whomever would seize it: the Minister, and finally Dupin. (32)

The same categories can be applied to James’s characters: the first group of those who look but do not see: the master and Flora.  The second, a group of those who see but do not understand what they see (and know that the first group does not see): Mrs. Grose and Miles.  Finally, the third group of those who look, see, and comprehend: the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint, and the governess.  The characters are as well organized into this hierarchy as the story.

The Turn of the Screw is arranged like a set of Russian nesting dolls: one doll is twisted apart at the middle, and James’s readers only find a smaller doll inside: we take this doll apart only to find an even smaller doll inside that one.  When we finally reach the smallest doll, we open it expecting to find a treasure, and find the largest doll once again.   In this case, the largest doll is the entirety of The Turn of the Screw itself, and the next smaller doll is the setting of the first chapter.  It is Christmas eve in a mansion outside London in the 1890’s.  Several men and a few women sit listening to ghost stories, a traditional holiday pastime.  Our narrator tells us about Douglas, who in the spirit of one-upping a companion, sends for a manuscript that tells of several encounters with ghosts. Douglas prefaces his oratory with a prologue explaining how he attained this writing.  The woman who wrote the story in her own hand was later the governess of his younger sister, and when he was home visiting from Trinity College one summer, she gave the manuscript to him.   Almost 20 years had elapsed since the events at Bly1, and she finally felt she could write about it for the first time, bringing them, once again, to life for Douglas.  Douglas feels he cannot tell the story as well as the governess had, so Douglas sends a key and a letter to his servant in London, telling him to retrieve the manuscript from his locked desk drawer and to send it back with the next available post.  Although this is only briefly mentioned, this one of the most important writings because it is the impetus of the action of the frame.  The brevity with which this letter to his servant is mentioned does not diminish its validity.  It says that the traumas that transpired at Bly so long before were still very meaningful to Douglas.  The fact that he had the manuscript locked up in his personal desk also shows his privacy regarding these events, which he has taken into himself like he later takes on the governess herself as he reads her words aloud. Twenty more years went by since Bly, and Douglas becomes the narrator as he reads the manuscript of the woman he still loves to the dwindling group of listeners. Douglas becomes a host for the governess’s "ghost," as his voice becomes hers.  He begins to live the past that she had lived, and he hosts her as she becomes our narrator for the rest of the text.

    The next doll beyond the frame is the narration by an unnamed woman in a diary-style confessional. Her manuscript, a letter of sorts to Douglas, tells us everything we know about the other inhabitants at Bly and at Harley street.  It also confesses everything discernible about her mental state and the history of Bly.  It is hidden by James as merely a container of the story, because she never tells us how she feels about any of the incredible events surrounding her.  Her story begins as she arrives at Harley Street in order to answer an appeal for a governess.  Her prospective employer attracts her romantic attentions. He lives in a fashionable part of town and judges her quickly.  He hires her without asking for references and sends the 20 year-old Hampshire girl to Bly, his estate in Essex.

    The governess arrives wondering why he did not emphasize to her what a beautiful place she was to be in charge of.  Upon meeting eight-year-old Flora, she speculates similarly why he did not speak of her angelic beauty and innocence. The governess also begins to wonder about other things, especially the past of the children:

Just as a narrative in letter form is passed from reader to reader, the children are passed from parents to parents.  When their natural parents die, apparently in India, the children go to their grandparents, who also die in India two years later.  Then the children come to England where they are put under the care of Quint and Jessel [by order of their uncle], who soon die.  The narrator notices this pattern as Douglas has and wonders whether caring for these children might have been life threatening. That the children, when they appear, prove silent on the subjects of death and the dead and especially the return of the dead, suggests that this parallel is significant. (Heller 41)

The governess finds it strange that they never discuss their pasts, their friends, their parents, their schooling, yet are so interested in her own.  The governess gets along well with the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, who becomes her companion and guide.  Only hours before 10-year-old Miles arrives home for his summer vacation, a letter from the headmaster of his boarding school is forwarded to the governess by Miles’s uncle,  informing her that Miles has been expelled for reasons that the headmaster does not explain, and Miles cannot return the following semester. The master forwards the letter to the governess before she is even settled in, which implies that the master has had difficulty with problems at the estate before and did not want to deal with anything relating to the children, even though he could surely estimate that the expulsion of Miles from his boarding school was within that letter.  This alludes to the possibility that Miles has had a bumpier history with the school (and the ghosts) than Mrs. Grose lets on.  The headmaster’s over-discretion veils the actions completed by Miles as well as the weight of the communication. Especially with the governess as an unintended reader (by the headmaster) but as intended from the original intended reader, the master on Harley Street, perhaps the letter should have been forwarded to her with more than a note, saying, "’This, I recognise, is from the head-master, and the head-master’s an awful bore. Read him, please; deal with him; but mind you don’t report.  Not a word. I’m off!’" (Turn 31)  This is the beginning of the action for her: all before this in her narrative is merely prologue. "For the governess,the story - that is, the conflict - originates in a letter addressed to the uncle but read by her, which announces Mile’s expulsion from school.  This letter reveals the possibility of a secret at Bly" (Heller 39). The Headmaster’s letter never says what Miles did to be expelled from his school, and he never notified Miles that he would not be returning, forcing the governess to be the bearer of bad news. Meanwhile, Miles was totally unnotified about his punishment, unaware that his uncle, the master, had been contacted.  Should he have been a reader, intended or not?  Perhaps not.  It is possible that he knew he would be expelled, maybe even trying to do so.  Why was he expelled? Author Dorothea Krook voices the opinion that Miles was expelled because

of erotic exchanges of some kind, between Quint and Miles in particular, which if not actively homosexual at any rate expressed itself in ‘talk’--intimate and sustained talk--about these matters.  In that case, these principally were the ‘things’ that Quint told Miles, and Miles in turn told the boys at school—those he ‘liked’, as he tells the governess… And if these were the things Miles said or did at school, his doing so [and being expelled for it] would be consistent with the known practices at English preparatory schools, especially at the time when James was writing (112-3).

The view that Miles’s actions were related to mistreatment by Quint are common, and as socially unacceptable as they were (and are), it is no wonder James did not feel it appropriate for his headmaster to  discuss the conditions of Miles’s expulsion in the letter.  No conclusion is ever reached, and the governess is left wondering, as are we, what Miles has done to be expelled throughout the rest of her narrative, and afterward.

    Upon seeing a man on a tower one evening, and then the same man later peering into the dining room window, she describes the man to Mrs. Grose: he had short, curly, red hair and a long and pale face, with short red whiskers.  This man is immediately recognized by the housekeeper as Peter Quint, the former chauffeur of the master while he lived at Bly.  After the master moved to Harley Street, Quint had been in charge of the estate and everyone working there.  Mrs. Grose says he was "too free" with everyone and spent much of his time befriending Miles. The only problem was that he died mysteriously long before the governess first sees him  All we know about Quint’s death is told to the governess by Mrs. Grose, who says that he died far from Bly one cold night when he slipped on ice in a drunken state.  But we also know that he had a skull-crushing blow to the front of his head.  This, although officially an accident, is in actuality, an unnatural death at best.  His haunting of Bly leads us to assume that his death has something to do with previous events or people there.  Did Mrs. Grose, Miss Jessel, or even Miles kill him?  All three had motive: it seems Peter Quint may have sexually abused any or all of them, and this seems to be why he is haunting the estate.  Soon after, the governess and her youngest charge see a woman dressed in black across a narrow pond from her.  Flora pretends not to see the woman.  Mrs. Grose assumes this apparition must be Miss Jessel, the governess who preceded our narrator, and who left in shame after she was impregnated by Peter Quint.  Miss Jessel apparently died an unnatural and mysterious death as well, possibly suicide in the pond at Bly upon discovering her pregnancy by a man of a lower class than herself.  She was shamed into disappearing, but her ghost cannot leave Bly for the same reasons Peter Quint’s ghost cannot leave.  She appears by the pond, and meets Flora there, which is what leads readers to this conclusion.   Another reason she may be haunting Bly is to be around Peter Quint, her former lover, through the children.
Just as the governess adjusts to living at Bly, now with two children and two ghosts to care for, rather than only the one child she expected, the governess mentions that she gets a letter with bad news from home.  She kills this letter when she does not share it’s contents with us, but it must be an important clue to the significance of this and other writings.  This the only writing that does not seriously advance the plot, but it established the mental demeanor of the governess (in lieu of her telling us how she feels, a slightly less reliably form) and what sort of time she is having caring for the children, as well as how dedicated she is to her job.  Even a "mention" in James is not trivial, nothing in James’s work ever is.  So her hesitation to leave her job to help her family, and her refusal to break her promise to the master and disturb him with news of events occurring around her remain sacred, even above her family.

    The governess begins to suspect that Miles is communicating with Quint, and Flora with Miss Jessel.  She, upon suspiciously checking the house, encounters Peter Quint on the stairs on his way towards Miles’ bedroom.  He turns and leaves her on the stairs, where she sees Miss Jessel sitting and weeping only a few nights later.  These two encounters are different than the other encounters because the ghosts are not hiding behind something, because they do not expect to see the governess.  The encounters after this involve the children, and the governess suspects even more strongly that the children are visited by the ghosts, and that the spirits reveal themselves to the otherwise virtuous children, possibly even using the children to continue their relationship in death as they did in life: the ghosts use the children as liaisons and to set up trysts.  One evening the governess catches Flora looking out the window, so the governess rushes to another window, and sees Miles standing in the garden, looking at the top of the tower where Quint first appeared to the governess. She cannot see what Miles must view from where she is, so she appeals to Flora and Miles for an explanation, but they give only excuses. As things become worse with the ghosts and children, Mrs. Grose attempts to convince the governess to write to the master, their employer at Harley Street.  The governess hesitates to do this because she swore not to disturb him with the affairs of Bly.


    On the way to church one fall day, Miles asks when he will return to school, and the governess has no choice but to offer to find him another one.  He evades telling her what he did to be expelled from the original school and demands to either be sent away again or to see the governess’ employer, his uncle.  The governess returns to Bly alone, but happens upon Miss Jessel in the schoolroom, writing a letter2. She screams at the ghost, and after a few seconds, it disappears. Her heart gives in to her head, and she decides to write to her employer asking him to come to Bly, without describing the recent problems of the castle.  This letter is promptly laid on a hall table for the messenger to take, so when the letter has later disappeared, the governess assumes the letter has been sent.  Mrs. Grose surmises otherwise, and then when there is no response, they both suspect Miles of stealing the letter.

    The ghosts aren’t seen by the governess for a while, and she and Mrs. Grose hope that the close proximity of recent encounters have scared them away.  Because of this, when Miles plays the piano and sings for the governess one day, she is not suspicious. But when she realizes Flora and Miles have conspired to separate them selves from human supervision, she must chose which child to rescue from his or her ghost. Flora has meanwhile taken a row boat across the pond, and the governess knows that the young girl is visiting with Miss Jessel, and that while she and Mrs. Grose are out looking for her, Peter Quint and Miles are visiting in the schoolroom.  The women catch up with the girl and her pet ghost on the other side of the pond, and Flora denies seeing Miss Jessel, who now appears to the governess on the far side of the lake, but does not appear to Mrs. Grose.  This sequence of events impels the governess to send Flora away with Mrs. Grose under the guise that Flora is sick.  Miles and the governess are left alone at Bly, but not for long.

    It is not until this point, at the very end of the governess’s narration, that she can question Miles about this suspected action. The letter is not important, except it signifies the governess backing out of her promise to her crush and employer.  What matters is that Miles as an unintended reader has effectively killed the letter by keeping it from its planned reader, his uncle. The line of the story is changed by a letter most drastically, and for the last time, with this purloining. Therefore, her master can offer her no assistance saving Miles, and consequently, Miles unknowingly will kill himself.

    Upon questioning Miles about the stolen letter to her employer,  Quint appears in the window behind Miles, who then admits to stealing and destroying the letter. He admits that he took the letter only to see what was written about himself.  When he found nothing of his interest, he had to burn the letter to destroy evidence of his tampering with it. Just as Miles tells the truth about the dead letter to the governess, Peter Quint appears behind Miles.  The governess begins screaming and holding Miles to protect him from Quint. It is not long before the ghost disappears as Miles dies.

    The last Russian doll is twisted apart to find nothing.  James does not return us to Douglas and the narrator at the house outside London for an epilogue.  So to answer our questions about the largest doll, the entire text, and the smallest doll, the governess’s manuscript, we must reconsider to the only other doll we can.  The frame of The Turn of the Screw is focused on the manuscript: who wrote it, who has it, and who is going to get it.  The manuscript is the first writing we see within the novella itself.  "The narrative originates for us readers as a manuscript, a sort of letter addressed to Douglas" (Heller 39).  The manuscript can show us the governess as a witness to the events at Bly, or we can see her as part of them.  If the latter is true, Douglas is put into the most firsthand position possible, experiencing the encounters through her eyes.  Lacan questions how James can say exactly what happened, in the governess’s opinion, yet still leave us wondering, "How’d he do that?"

…the witness’s fidelity is the cowl which blinds and lays to rest all criticism of his testimony.
 What could be more convincing, moreover, than the gesture of laying one’s cards face up on the table? So much so that we are momentarily persuaded that the magician has in fact demonstrated, as he promised, how his trick was performed, whereas he has only renewed it in still purer  form: at which point we fathom the measure of the supremacy of the signifier in the subject… Is not the magician repeating his trick before our eyes, without deceiving us this time about divulging his secret, but pressing his wager to the point of really explaining it to us without seeing a thing? That would be the summit of the illusionist’s art: through one of his fictive creations to truly delude us. (36-7)

While they wait for the manuscript to arrive in the post, Douglas promises the manuscript to the narrator of the frame.  As we receive it in the end, "The prologue narrator finally presents it [the manuscript] to us.  This chain of communications, by pointing at but not revealing a silent secret, suggests what other aspects of the prologue and the tale as a whole will confirm: there is an invisible impulse that seems to originate with the dead…"(Heller 39).  The manuscript clearly represents the traumas incurred at Bly, as passing them on seems to be an act of letting go, of moving on.  And like Miles, the people that let go of these ordeals soon die, "dispossessed" of them.

    One question seems to linger in the minds of James’s readers: Is she crazy?  She could be imagining the ghosts.  Mrs. Grose never sees them and Flora denies seeing Miss Jessel.  Even in the closing scene, Miles wants to see Peter Quint, but cannot.  Answering the question of the governess’s sanity is, by far, the most controversial and most written-about theme of the story.  Some scholars (called non-apparitionists, in Jamesian circles) look at Turn as a psychoanalytic evaluation of a woman’s mental heath, questioning the reality of the ghosts. The Turn of the Screw is

… as appropriate as any other narrative for bringing it [truth] to light - at the risk of having the fable’s coherence put to the test in the process.  Aside from that reservation, a fictive tale even has the advantage of manifesting symbolic necessity more purely to the extent that we may believe its conception arbitrary. (Lacan 29)

One of the most well known non-apparitionist standpoints is presented by Cranfill and Clark.  They call her "manic-depressive" (31) and say that  "this story is inseparable from his [James] subtle treatment of the governess’ devious, probably diseased, and certainly terrifying mental processes" (35).  To explain how the governess could describe Miss Jessel and especially Peter Quint to Mrs. Grose so exactly, the non-apparitionists argue that the governess could have seen a picture of them3.  However, this is an unlikely excuse, because we know that portraits were not widely available, and were much too expensive at that time for people of Miss Jessel’s class, and especially of the even lower class held by Peter Quint, who the governess describes with more detail than anyone or anything else in the entire manuscript.  Henry James scholar and author Edward Wagenknect’s words are very appropriate to describe current scholarly perception of the non-apparitionists:

In general I think it fair to say that writers who accept the ghosts interpret the "Screw" in terms of Jamesian technique and practice, whereas non-apparitionists and Freudians go at it as if they were analyzing actual people instead of characters of fiction. (105)

The apparitionists, on the other hand, believe as James very clearly intended his readers to believe, that the ghosts were entirely genuine and authentic. Most convincingly, when the governess begins screaming to the ghost, "No more, no more, no more!" at the end of her story, Miles responds, saying "Is she here?" (James’s italics) referring to Miss Jessel.  Therefore, we know that Miss Jessel’s ghost has possibly appeared to Miles, and, certainly has appeared to Flora, who has told her big brother about these visits.  The governess looks back at Miles quizzically, wondering who the "she" he is yelling about is.  The governess is stunned when he replies to her look, "Miss Jessel, Miss Jessel!"  This is certain and absolute proof that the encounters were not contained within the mind of the governess.  It is only moments beyond this transaction that Miles is dead, after calling Quint’s name and calling him a devil for the molestation inflicted upon himself, or calling the governess a devil out of frustration for her not understanding him and his inability to see Quint this time.  The governess then realizes what Miles has known all along: the ghosts may appear selectively to anyone they choose.

    The writings in The Turn of the Screw talk about previous traumas at Bly,  disclose the past of Bly and the people living there, and reveal crucial information about their authors and about Henry James’s knowledge of the device of the letter.  They also impart knowledge about the people that should read them and the difference between those who actually do examine those writings.  James masks their importance by fashioning them to assume normal letter configuration, but knowing James, that is how readers know that these writings are so crucial to comprehension and grasp of the tale.


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---.  Foreword. Trans. Barbara Johnson. The Wolf Man’s Magic Word: A Cryptonomy. By Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. Trans. Nicolas Rand. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986. xi-xlvii.
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Felman, Shoshana. "The grasp with which I recovered him":  A Child is Killed in The Turn of the Screw.  Boston: St. Martin’s, 1992.

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Norrman, Ralf.  The Insecure World of Henry James’s Fiction: Intensity and Ambiguity. New York: St. Martin’s, 1982. 169-174.

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