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MonkeyNotes-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel is set in a small town called Bly, in the South East of England and far away from London. One knows this since the governess mentions that she spent “long hours of bumping, swinging coach” before reaching her destination. In a country house of this town, Miles and Flora live with their house-keeper, Mrs. Grose. As the governess reaches the country estate she remembers it as “a most pleasant impression the broad, clear front, its open windows and fresh curtains and the pair of maids looking out.” She recollects “the lawn and the bright flowers and the crunch of my wheels on the gravel and the clustered tree tops over which the rooks circled and cawed in the golden sky.” The country house is set in the abundance of nature and lures its inhabitants to step out and view its beauty.

The house is big and evokes a mystic aura for the governess. As she explores the house with Flora, she passes through “empty chambers and dull corridors, on crooked stair cases --- and even on the summit of an old machicolated square tower.” To the imaginative mind of the governess, the house creates, “the view of a castle of romance inhabited by a rosy sprite, such a place as would somehow, for diversion of the young idea, take all color out of story books and fairy tales.” However, she surmises that “it was a big, ugly, antique, but convenient house, embodying a few features of a building still older, half replaced and half utilized.” In this house the governess spends almost all her time with the children and the housekeeper.


On Sundays, Mrs. Grose, the governess and the children visit a church near the house. On one such Sunday, while walking with the governess, Miles reveals his intention of rejoining school and asks his teacher to do something about it.

There is a lake near the house and is the, ‘sea of Azof.’ The governess and her pupils go to this place for diversion. On the sides of the lake are “old trees, the thick shrubbery,” that provides a pleasant shade for the visitors. It is here that the governess notices the figure of Miss Jessel, on the other side of the lake. On another occasion, she reaches the other side of the lake along with Mrs. Grose to find Flora. The house at Bly is thus situated ideally and can be conveniently reached from other parts of the town.

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