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MonkeyNotes-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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Chapter 20

Summary

As soon as the governess utters the name of Jessel, Flora is startled. Looking at the little girl, Mrs. Grose lets out a shriek. At that instant, the governess notices the apparition of Jessel on the other side of the bank. She is happy that she is justified in accusing Flora. However, when she asks Mrs. Grose to look towards the ghost, the housekeeper looks distraught, as she sees nothing there. Even Flora denies seeing anyone and accuses the governess of being cruel. She now looks frightened and asks the housekeeper to take her back home. Mrs. Grose agrees to take the little girl back home, as she too feels that the governess was imagining things. The governess feels dejected, as she is afraid that she has lost her hold over the child. Thus, she sits there through the night, brooding over her plight. By the time she enters the house, it is dawn. When she goes up to her room, she notices that Flora’s things have been removed from the room. She learns that the girl has moved into the quarters of the housekeeper. Looking forlorn, she settles down near the fireplace where Miles joins her.


Notes

As the story progresses, the mystery also deepens. When the governess asks Flora about Jessel, the little girl is panic stricken. The reaction of the girl can be interpreted in two ways. Either the girl is guilty of seeing the ghost or she is afraid to hear the name of a dead woman. The second reaction seems more reasonable for a girl of eight, though the governess believes that the girl is in communion with the ghost. Later, when the governess points towards the ghost, Flora says that she cannot see anything. Again her reaction is justifiable because even Mrs. Grose denies seeing the ghost. However, the governess believes that the girl is lying and therefore the little girl is damned. Every thing is hazy and the readers might feel at a loss in understanding the situation.

The chapter is filled with irony. Whatever the governess sees or feels, is not seen or felt by others. She sees the ghost but Flora and the housekeeper do not see it. It could be that her mind is obsessed with evil spirits, and hence, she imagines seeing the ghost. Mrs. Grose calls it a figment of the lady’s imagination, while Flora accuses her teacher of being cruel. It is a pity to see the governess desperately trying to point out the corrupting influence on the children, and the fact that no one believes her. She tries to project herself as the savior of Flora, but the girl fears her and considers her as her enemy.

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