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MonkeyNotes-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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Chapter 23

Summary

Now that Miles and the governess are alone without the intrusion of ‘others,’ they become conscious of each other’s presence. Miles conducts himself admirably, though he appears uneasy and keeps looking out of the window, as if to spot something. He tells the governess that he is happy to enjoy his freedom at Bly. The governess informs him that she had stayed back in order to make him reveal everything. Miles feels cornered and tries to get out of the situation by telling the governess that he has to meet Luke immediately. The governess lets him go but only after asking him whether he has picked up her letter from the table.


Notes

Henry James prepares the ground for the confrontation scene. The governess and Miles are left alone to deal with the situation. The governess initiates the dialogue hesitantly, when she feels that Miles is feeling comfortable in her presence. When the governess informs him that she had stayed back with the intention of eliciting information from him, the boy immediately expresses his desire to go out, as he has to meet Luke immediately. This is a tactic to escape interrogation by his teacher. However, he promises to provide all the information later. As of now, he feels the need to get out of the situation and prepare himself for the ordeal. The governess gives him permission to go out but only after he answers her one question. Has he taken the letter from the table? James thus builds up the scene for the climax. There is suspense in the air. Will Miles answer her question? Is he guilty of theft? If so, what will be the reaction of the governess?

For his age, Miles conducts himself with dignity. He tries to ease the tense situation by indulging in small talk. He treats her respectfully, though he does not like her questioning him. He does not get angry when she asks him to provide information about his past. Instead, he makes a very fair request, that she should give him some time to reveal everything. His embarrassment and his desire to escape out of the awkward situation are natural.

The chapter ends on a note of confrontation. Miles tries to avoid the questioning of his teacher by excusing himself to meet Luke. The governess gives him permission to do so but only after he answers her one question. She asks him to answer truthfully, whether he has taken the letter from the table. Miles has therefore been caught red-handed. The curious readers have to wait in order to find out whether Miles accepts his mistake or tells a lie.

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