The Turn of the Screw By Henry James Summary and Analysis Sections 13-15

Summary

In the ensuing days, the governess often thinks that her pupils are conspiring against her, and she wonders when they would openly admit that they know about Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. Sometimes she wants to cry out: "They're here, they're here, you little wretches . . . and you can't deny it now." But her charges do deny it with all of their sweetness and obedience.

For many days, the governess spends as much time as possible in the presence of the children. As she tells Mrs. Grose, she feels safe as long as she also has the gift of seeing the ghosts. She believes that she must constantly observe, since it has not yet been definitely proved that the children have really seen the ghosts. But at the same time, she is unable to reject the idea that whatever she saw, "Miles and Flora saw more."

Often in the classroom, Flora and Miles write letters to their uncle requesting him to come for a visit, but the governess never allows these to be sent. She explains that the letters are "charming literary exercises."

While walking to church one Sunday, Miles surprises the governess by asking when he will be allowed to go back to school. He does not consider it good for a little boy to be always in the company of a lady, even though that lady is ideal. He wants to know what his uncle has done about his return to school and thinks that he should write to his uncle soon if something is not done.

The manner in which little Miles insists upon returning to school shocks the governess so much that she is not able to attend the church services. Instead, she returns to Bly. Upon entering the schoolroom, she finds herself in the presence of Miss Jessel, who is seated at the governess' desk as though she has more right to be there than did the present governess. Drawing upon all of her strength, the governess addresses the intruder directly, saying: "You terrible, miserable woman." In an instant, she has "cleared the air" and she is alone in the room with the sense that she must stay at Bly and fight against this evil influence.

Analysis

In Section 13, the governess strikes a note of contradiction. She first admits that it's not yet definitely proved that the children are aware of the ghosts, and then a moment later, expresses the fear that Miles and Flora see more (that is, more of the ghosts and more of the hidden meaning) than she does.

The subject of the uncle's appearance is further developed in these sections. First, there are the letters the children write but which are never sent. Then comes Miles' demand that his uncle be consulted about his schooling. As much as the governess wants her employer to be pleased with her and to come to Bly, she is still frightened of the possibility that he actually will appear.

It is, therefore, while under the pressure of Miles' demand and the subconscious desire to see her employer that the governess once again sees the ghost of Miss Jessel. This time, the ghost appropriately appears in the schoolroom, which suggests there is a connection between Miles' demand for more schooling and the appearance of Miss Jessel in the schoolroom.

Again the reader should note that the apparition appears to the governess when the house is completely deserted. Thus, she is again the only one who sees the ghost. Furthermore, she sees it when her mind is most troubled by difficult problems that she must solve or else break her agreement with her employer.

The conversation between Miles and the governess about his schooling rings with enough ambiguity to allow the governess to think that little boy is being extremely astute and that he is implying deeper and more threatening meaning. Yet a careful reading of the conversation shows that there is nothing more ambiguous than the actual desire of a young boy to return to normal schooling.

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