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MonkeyNotes-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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Chapter 14

Summary

One bright morning, as they all walk towards the church, the governess wonders why the children have tolerated her for so long. Being young, they must have longed for freedom and enjoyment but had given in to her wishes and obeyed her orders. They have not protested against the regime that she has set for them. As if to challenge her thoughts, Miles voices his views. He refers indirectly to her hold over them and expresses a desire to be free to go around with the boys of his age. He thus requests her to send him back to school. The governess, taken aback at his request, is at a loss to explain to him about the decision of the school authorities to dismiss him. Seeing her helpless and indecisive, Miles asks her to call his uncle to resolve this problem. He volunteers to write a letter to his uncle.


Notes

The governess seems to sense trouble after being in harmony with the children for so long. She starts feeling guilty about her hold over the children and wonders why they have not protested against her authority. She compares herself to a jailer who had trapped the children in a prison house. Just at that moment, in answer to her thoughts, Miles puts forth his views. He expresses the need to go back to school and be in the company of boys of his own age. He appears to be stifled with the restrictions at Bly and longs for freedom and enjoyment. Like other adolescents of his age, he feels the need to experience life on his own terms.

Miles is mature for his age and talks like an adult. He, very honestly and courageously, expresses his thoughts and desires to the governess. As a lonely child, he talks about his longing to be with the boys of his own age. He needs attention and companionship and feels that he can get them only in school. He presents his point of view forthrightly and convincingly. His honesty and sensitivity astounds the governess. She is neither able to answer his questions, nor explain the circumstances for keeping him at home. In comparison to Miles, she appears immature and diffident. She is unable to reciprocate his feelings. Instead of understanding the plight of the boy, she feels disturbed by his reaction to the situation. And when Miles suggests that she call back his uncle to tackle the issue, she feels trapped.

The suspense about Miles’ character and his conduct in school continues. From the manner, in which Miles talks about going back to school, it appears that he is unaware of the letter sent by the head master of his school. Miles appears to be innocent and helpless. It is hard to believe that such a boy could have behaved badly in school to earn the wrath of the teachers. Could the school authorities have made a mistake about Miles? Could Miles have forgotten about his conduct in school? Or was Miles pretending to be good after behaving badly in school? At this juncture it is difficult to understand Miles or pass judgements on him. One has to read on to know more about him.

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