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The Turn of the Screw
Henry James


A STEP BEYOND

TESTS AND ANSWERS

TEST

_____ 1. In The Turn of the Screw, Mrs Grose serves as the

    A. central intelligence
    B. pivotal character
    C. confidant
_____ 2. The governess tells Mrs. Grose that she was "carried away" by
    A. Flora's uncle
    B. her fascination with ghost stories
    C. Peter Quint
_____ 3. When the children were with Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, they may have been
    A. pampered
    B. sexually abused
    C. exposed to some horror that remains unnamed
_____ 4. Miles was probably dismissed from school for
    A. stealing letters
    B. using bad language
    C. cheating
_____ 5. The ghost of Miss Jessel is seen by
    A. Flora
    B. the governess
    C. Mrs. Grose
_____ 6. An important motivation for the governess's actions throughout the novel is her
    A. infatuation with her employer
    B. jealousy toward Quint and Miss Jessel
    C. competition with Flora for Miles's affection
_____ 7. When she left Bly, the young woman
    A. continued to work as a governess, but for another family
    B. retired
    C. returned to live with her father, the parson
_____ 8. When the governess meets the ghost of Peter Quint on the stairs, Quint says,
    A. "Where is Miles?"
    B. "Get out of my way."
    C. nothing
_____ 9. The tower, the lake, and Flora's toy boat are to some readers examples of
    A. Henry James's realism
    B. sexual symbols
    C. foreshadowing
_____ 10. The governess is surprised to see that Flora is looking out the window at
    A. Peter Quint
    B. Miss Jessel
    C. Miles

11. Discuss James's use of the confidant in The Turn of the Screw.

12. Discuss the theme of Evil versus Good in The Turn of the Screw.

ANSWERS

  1. C
  2. A
  3. C
  4. B
  5. B
  6. A
  7. A
  8. C
  9. B
  10. C

11. In the works of Henry James, the confidant is a secondary character who serves as a sounding board for the ideas of the character who is the central intelligence (the figure through whose eyes you see the story). By using a confidant, James is able to present perceptions and ideas as they're revealed out loud, much as they would be in a movie or play.

In The Turn of the Screw, the confidant is Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper at Bly. It's in her conversations with Mrs. Grose that the governess expands her theories of the evil that threatens Bly. As you proceed through the work, notice how in many ways Mrs. Grose is perfectly suited to this role. Her lack of education makes her subservient to the governess. But her common sense leads her to ask the kind of questions many readers ask: how can the governess be sure there really are ghosts at Bly? How does she know the ghosts are after the children? In a sense, Mrs. Grose serves as your stand-in. It's all the more important then, when she at last agrees with the governess that the ghosts exist and that they threaten Miles and Flora.

12. The battle between evil and good lies at the heart of The Turn of the Screw, whether you believe that the ghosts are real or that they are imaginary; whether you believe that the battle is being fought out in the open or within the governess's mind. In either case, James contrasts good and evil vividly throughout the tale to heighten the sense of battle.

First, he depicts a locale and characters that on the surface seem to represent only good. The story opens on Christmas Eve. It takes place in a rural setting, Bly, that in some ways resembles Eden in its beauty. The main character is the daughter of a parson, in charge of two children who are frequently compared to angels.

Into this situation, James introduces suggestions of evil. The children's uncle is cold and uncaring. The governess worries that one of her charges may be a corrupting influence, then learns that he has been mysteriously expelled from school. There are suggestions of wrongdoing by two former employees at Bly, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, both of whom met with mysterious deaths. The governess begins to see ghosts that to her are the embodiment of evil; then she sees these ghosts corrupt the angelic children with whose lives she had been entrusted. Throughout the work, James leaves it to you to decide the specific nature of the evil. What exactly was the relationship among Peter Quint, Miss Jessel, Flora, and Miles? James never says; he leaves you to your worst imaginings.

[Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw Contents]


TERM PAPER IDEAS AND OTHER TOPICS FOR WRITING

  • ON THE TALE
    1. In what way is this story "unsurpassed for ugliness, horror, and pain"?
    2. Is The Turn of the Screw a ghost story or a psychological tale?
    3. If you have also read Daisy Miller, explain how James's concerns as a novelist changed in the twenty years between the publication of Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw.
  • ON CHARACTERS
    1. Virginia Woolf said that Henry James's ghosts "have their origin within us." Explain.
    2. Discuss the question of reliability with respect to the governess. Give examples of her unreliability in the story. Must you believe in her to believe in the ghosts?
    3. What evidence is there that the governess was infatuated with her employer? Why is this significant to the story?
  • ON THEMES
    1. Discuss the theme of sexual repression in The Turn of the Screw.
    2. Why is ambiguity an important element in this story?
  • ON POINT OF VIEW
    1. Try to imagine the story from the point of view of Flora and Miles. How might they have told the story differently? How might their telling of it have changed its nature?
    2. What characteristics and circumstances make Mrs. Grose an ideal confidant for the governess?

REFERENCE
THE STORY


ECC [Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw Contents] [PinkMonkey.com]

© Copyright 1986 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
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