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MonkeyNotes-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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Chapter 17

Summary

The governess sits down to write the letter but is unable to do so because her mind is restless. She sits listening to the lashing rain outside and later walks out of her room. When she nears Miles’ room, she becomes aware that the boy is still awake. Miles welcomes her and makes her feel comfortable and then tells her that he was thinking about her attitude towards him and Flora. When the governess questions him about his school, he evades giving a reply and only insists that, he wants to go back to school to be in the company of boys of his own age. He wants her to call back their uncle and tell him about his problem. The governess assures him that she will do everything for his well being. Then she asks him about the past at Bly and he becomes silent. To divert the attention of the governess and frighten her, he lets out a shriek after putting off the candle.


Notes

The governess tries her best to salvage her reputation and project herself as a devoted governess in front of her employer. This is the reason why she keeps postponing, writing the letter. That night too, she sits down to write the letter but her mind wavers. She wants to talk to Miles before calling her employer and wants to resolve the problem herself.

The children always turn the screws on her. When she enters Bly, she is apprehensive about the attitude of the children. However, when she meets them, she is pleasantly surprised. They welcome her with open arms and soon establish a rapport with her. Later, after her conversation with Miles and her disappearance from the church, she expects them to question her about her behavior, but they refrain from talking about the matter. And now, when she expects Miles to behave indifferently towards her, he welcomes her heartily and talks to her like a friend. The governess is thus at a loss at understanding the psyche of the children.

Henry James shows Miles transforming from an innocent child to an awkward adolescent. Soon after he arrives at Bly from school, he presents himself as a lovable child and an obedient student, who is in awe of his teacher and tries to win her favor. Later, he plays a trick on her with a view to assert his rights. This action sets the stage for his transformation. Months later, when he walks with her to the church, he shows himself as a teenager, who is aware of his individuality and desires his freedom. He makes her realize his need to be in the company of boys of his age. Therefore he reveals his intention to free himself from her hold.

The behavior of Miles, towards the end of the chapter, is strange. When the governess tries to probe into his past and his association with the employees at Bly, he withdraws himself from the conversation. To divert her attention, he frightens her by putting off the candle in the room and then shrieking aloud. This scene raises a few questions in the mind of the readers. What is Miles trying to avoid? Why does he try to refrain from talking about the past at Bly?

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