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The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw


by Henry James

The Governess Timeline and Summary

  • The Governess, rather overwhelmed by her interview with the gentleman at Harley Street, accepts the Bly job offer.
  • She travels to Bly, and is pleasantly surprised by the impressive house and its surroundings.
  • The Governess is also pleased with Mrs. Grose and Flora; she's particularly impressed by the little girl's angelic looks.
  • The Governess thinks she hears some creepy activity in the house that night, but ignores it.
  • Things go well for the first few days; the Governess tries to get to know Flora better, and can't wait to see what Miles is like.
  • The Governess receives a letter from Miles's school, via his uncle, who's uninterested. The letter requests that Miles never return.
  • Mrs. Grose tries to convince the Governess that Miles could never possibly be bad enough to be expelled from school – this makes the Governess even more curious about the boy.
  • The Governess tries to learn more about her predecessor, but hits a conversational brick wall with Mrs. Grose.
  • When Miles arrives, the Governess is immediately won over by his adorable little face and his air of purity.
  • Everything goes swimmingly for a while – the Governess loves her pupils and her job.
  • One day, while walking and daydreaming of meeting a man, she does encounter a man – but not one that she wants to meet. She sees a mysterious figure on top of one of the house's towers, gazing at her malevolently.
  • The Governess is nervous that perhaps Bly has some terrible secret.
  • Despite this unsettling encounter, the Governess cheers up in the company of her pupils.
  • One Sunday, the Governess has a second encounter with the evil mystery man – this time, he's looking in the window of the dining room at her, but she has the feeling that he's looking for someone else.
  • She goes outside to investigate the stranger. While she's out there, Mrs. Grose sees her from inside, and is terrified.
  • It emerges that the man the Governess has seen is Peter Quint – and that he's dead.
  • The Governess finally gets some background info on what went on at Bly before her arrival; she's proud to defend her two charges against the evil influence of Quint.
  • The Governess takes it upon herself to block the children from any harm – she starts to watch them obsessively.
  • One day, playing by the lake, another mysterious figure appears – this time it's a woman, who appears to be equally evil.
  • The Governess thinks that Flora has seen the ghostly woman, but has pretended not to. She spills the beans to Mrs. Grose, seeking advice.
  • The Governess is sure she knows who this second spirit is – Miss Jessel, her predecessor.
  • Now that Flora has been implicated in the Governess's mind, she's worried about what happens when she's not watching the children – are they communing with the ghosts?
  • The Governess breaks down and cries, worrying that it's too late to save the children.
  • Mrs. Grose and the Governess attempt to keep their cool and solve this ghostly problem.
  • The Governess doesn't worry about herself, and instead claims that she's only worried about keeping the children safe.
  • The Governess does some further research, pumping Mrs. Grose for information. She finds out that Miles and Quint spent a lot of time together, despite the fact that Mrs. Grose didn't approve, and that Miss Jessel thought it was all fine and dandy.
  • The Governess says that she's not accusing anyone of anything, and that she has to keep watching the children.
  • She waits it out for a little while; she and the children are unusually cheerful and affectionate with each other. She's afraid that she might give away some of her suspicions to them.
  • One night, the Governess has a feeling that something's disturbing the house; she leaves her room and goes out into the hall, where she encounters Quint on the staircase. She's not scared this time – they simply regard each other silently. Quint disappears.
  • Returning to her room, the Governess discovers that Flora is out of bed; it turns out she's looking out the window, and is hidden behind a curtain. The Governess puts the child back to bed, but secretly wonders what she was up to.
  • After this episode, the Governess patrols the hallways at night, perhaps hoping to encounter the ghost again. She doesn't see Quint, but she does see the specter of Miss Jessel on the same staircase.
  • On the eleventh night after the Quint sighting, the Governess discovers that Flora has left her bed again, and is looking at something out the same window. The Governess sneaks out of their room, seeking a window that looks out onto whatever Flora's gazing at.
  • On her way, she stops and eavesdrops at Miles's door for a moment – it's totally silent.
  • Upon finding another window, the Governess looks out and sees a figure, who's looking up at someone else on top of the tower. The figure on the lawn is not Miss Jessel, as expected – it's Miles!
  • The Governess relates the story to Mrs. Grose the next day, and we find out what happened next – she went out to fetch Miles, and he came willingly. His reason for going out in the night was apparently to prove that he can be bad. Hmm…
  • The Governess is even more convinced that the children are communing with Quint and Jessel. She's sure that the ghosts intend to lure the children to their deaths somehow.
  • Mrs. Grose suggests that the Governess write to the children's uncle to tell him about what's happening, which she refuses to do – after all, she promised him that she would never contact him, and she doesn't want to let him down. She threatens to leave if the housekeeper summons him.
  • Another month passes without any supernatural activity; tensions are rising with the Governess and her charges, though, and she constantly has to keep herself from bringing up the two dead servants. She privately rehearses what she would say if she were to confront the kids.
  • Miles confronts the Governess about his return to school – he feels like he's missing out on life by staying at Bly, and forcefully says that he wants to be with people like him.
  • The Governess, shaken by this scene with Miles, decides that she has to leave Bly – immediately. She runs home to pack her things. In a moment of indecision, she collapses on the stairs exactly where she saw Miss Jessel.
  • In the schoolroom, the Governess sees Miss Jessel once more. This time, the ghost makes her feel like an intruder in her own classroom. She angrily confronts the ghost, who makes no reply, and simply disappears.
  • The Governess decides to stay at Bly.
  • The Governess tells Mrs. Grose about her encounter with Miss Jessel, but adds more on – she claims that the two of them spoke, and that the ghost told the Governess that she suffers the torments of damnation.
  • The Governess resolves to tell the children's uncle about everything.
  • The Governess and Miles have an awkward, rather sketchy encounter in Miles's room late one night – she attempts to learn more about his school days, but he refuses to tell her.
  • Desperate, the Governess begs Miles to let her save him. There's immediately a seemingly supernatural response in the room; it's battered by cold winds, despite the fact that the window is closed.
  • The candle is extinguished – Miles says that he blew it out.
  • The Governess writes the letter to the children's uncle, but doesn't post it.
  • While Miles distracts the Governess, Flora disappears; the two women go in search of her.
  • The women find Flora at the lake. The Governess finally comes out and confronts Flora, asking where Miss Jessel is. She then sees the ghost of Miss Jessel across the water and alerts Flora and Mrs. Grose – both of them deny seeing it. Flora freaks out and denies that she ever saw anything, and wants to get away from the Governess.
  • When she returns to the house, Flora is nowhere to be seen, but Miles comes to keep her company.
  • The Governess is certain that Flora is lying. She tells Mrs. Grose to take Flora to London to see her uncle, while she herself will try and win Miles over.
  • According to Mrs. Grose, the Governess's letter never made it to town – she thinks that Miles stole it.
  • Miles and the Governess have an awkward dinner together, after which she confronts him about the letter.
  • The Governess sees Peter Quint's terrible face outside the window once more, and she struggles to keep Miles from seeing him.
  • Miles admits to having taken the letter – furthermore, we finally find out that he was asked to leave school because he "said things" (we're not sure what, and he won't say) to other students.
  • In desperation, the Governess yells out to Quint. Miles, in a rush of emotion, asks if Miss Jessel is there.
  • The Governess cries out that it's not Miss Jessel, it's another. Miles guesses that it's Peter Quint.
  • The Governess clutches at the boy, trying to tell him that Quint doesn't matter anymore, since he belongs to her now.
  • Miles looks to the window, but sees nothing. In relief, the Governess clutches him to her, but realizes that the boy has died.