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MonkeyNotes-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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Chapter 6

Summary

The apparition at the window troubles the governess and the housekeeper. When the governess declares that it is Miles that the ghost was looking for, Mrs. Grose is shocked but not surprised. In the past, Peter Quint had looked after the children and thus he used to exercise his influence on them. He was an evil man who possessed many vices. He had taken liberties even with those who were higher in status to him, that is, the former governess of Bly. Mrs. Grose had been aware of his vices but she had not complained about him to the master, as her employer hated people telling tales.

The governess is responsible for the security of the children, and therefore takes great care to protect them from the evil influence of the ghost. One day, she takes Flora out to play and Miles stays behind, relaxing on a cushion, to read a book. They stop near the lake and Flora gets engrossed in playing. Just then the governess observes a figure on the other side of the lake. The image appears distinct to her eyes and she is afraid that Flora might see it. However, the child is unaware of the apparition and is busy fixing wooden blocks, with her back to the lake.


Notes

The governess is portrayed as a romantic young lady, who believes in chivalry and heroism. Hence, when she becomes aware of the evil influence of the ghost of Peter Quint, she vows to protect the children against it. She imagines herself to be the angel trying to protect innocent children. She exaggerates their dependence on her. In her words: “We were cut off, really, together; we were united in our danger. They had nothing but me, and I - well, I had them. It was in fact a magnificent chance.” The governess wants to play the part of a godmother to the children and expects appreciation for her efforts from her employer. At the back of her mind she hopes that, her handsome master would accept her and reward her for her services.

It is ironical that the more the governess thinks of guarding the children against evil, the more they are exposed to it. After the governess vows to protect them, she sees the apparition of a stranger across the lake. Flora is with her and she is afraid that the child might see it. However, belying her fears, the child continues with her play, unaware of the presence of evil. Through this incident, James has tried to expose the guile of elders and the innocence of children. The governess keeps thinking of evil influences and thus encounters another apparition but the child, engrossed in her world of dreams, is unaware of the evil surrounding her.

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