The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James
The Turn of the Screw Innocence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I held [Mrs. Grose] tighter. "You like them with the spirit to be naughty?" Then, keeping pace with her answer, "So do I!'' I eagerly brought out. "But not to the degree to contaminate – "
"To contaminate?" – my big word left her at a loss. I explained it. "To corrupt."
She stared, taking my meaning in; but it produced in her an odd laugh. "Are you afraid he'll corrupt you?" (2.16-18)
There's a fine line to walk between just plain naughty and actually bad – we're not sure which side of the line little Miles falls on.
I was a little late on the scene, and I felt, as he stood wistfully looking out for me before the door of the inn at which the coach had put him down, that I had seen him, on the instant, without and within, in the great glow of freshness, the same positive fragrance of purity, in which I had, from the first moment, seen his little sister. He was incredibly beautiful, and Mrs. Grose had put her finger on it: everything but a sort of passion of tenderness for him was swept away by his presence. What I then and there took him to my heart for was something divine that I have never found to the same degree in any child – his indescribable little air of knowing nothing in the world but love. It would have been impossible to carry a bad name with a greater sweetness of innocence, and by the time I had got back to Bly with him I remained merely bewildered – so far, that is, as I was not outraged – by the sense of the horrible letter locked up in my room, in a drawer. (3.1)
Miles's innocence apparently announces itself in his physical presence; there's something almost magical about the way in which his appearance convinces the Governess that he's a good kid.
[Miles] made the whole charge absurd. My conclusion bloomed there with the real rose-flush of his innocence: he was only too fine and fair for the little horrid unclean school-world, and he had paid a price for it. (4.3)
Miles's angelic appearance wins over the Governess right away – so much so that she is swayed into thinking that the school must have been wrong in sending him away. There's something eerie about how fully she's entranced by Miles's beauty and his aura of purity; it's almost as though he has brainwashed her into thinking that he's better than the rest of the world.