The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James
The Turn of the Screw Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I got hold of this; then, instinctively, instead of returning as I had come, went to the window. It was confusedly present to me that I ought to place myself where he had stood. I did so; I applied my face to the pane and looked, as he had looked, into the room. As if, at this moment, to show me exactly what his range had been, Mrs. Grose, as I had done for himself just before, came in from the hall. With this I had the full image of a repetition of what had already occurred. She saw me as I had seen my own visitant; she pulled up short as I had done; I gave her something of the shock that I had received. She turned white, and this made me ask myself if I had blanched as much. She stared, in short, and retreated on just my lines, and I knew she had then passed out and come round to me and that I should presently meet her. I remained where I was, and while I waited I thought of more things than one. But there's only one I take space to mention. I wondered why she should be scared. (4.6)
This role reversal is really fascinating – the replacement of Quint with the Governess is the first thing that makes us wonder what her deal really is. The line "I wondered why she should be scared" implies that perhaps the Governess has horrifying qualities of her own that she's not yet aware of.
"Another person – this time; but a figure of quite as unmistakable horror and evil: a woman in black, pale and dreadful – with such an air also, and such a face! – on the other side of the lake. I was there with the child – quiet for the hour; and in the midst of it she came." (7.3)
Miss Jessel apparently just exudes "evil" – we're not sure how or why the Governess feels this way, though. This is just part of our narrator's desire to pin things down as either good or evil, even when they don't comfortably fit in these categories.
The apparition had reached the landing halfway up and was therefore on the spot nearest the window, where at sight of me, it stopped short and fixed me exactly as it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden. He knew me as well as I knew him; and so, in the cold, faint twilight, with a glimmer in the high glass and another on the polish of the oak stair below, we faced each other in our common intensity. He was absolutely, on this occasion, a living, detestable, dangerous presence. But that was not the wonder of wonders; I reserve this distinction for quite another circumstance: the circumstance that dread had unmistakably quitted me and that there was nothing in me there that didn't meet and measure him. (9.5)
In this struggle between good and evil (or at least, between two parties vaguely representing the latter), the Governess and Quint are equally matched – and this equality adds to the rather ambiguous nature of the Governess's character.