The Turn of the Screw
How we cite our quotes:
It made me, the sound of the words, in which it seemed to me that I caught for the very first time a small faint quaver of consenting consciousness – it made me drop on my knees beside the bed and seize once more the chance of possessing him. "Dear little Miles, dear little Miles, if you knew how I want to help you! It's only that, it's nothing but that, and I'd rather die than give you a pain or do you a wrong – I'd rather die than hurt a hair of you. Dear little Miles" – oh, I brought it out now even if I should go too far – "I just want you to help me to save you!" But I knew in a moment after this that I had gone too far. (17.25)
Anyone as tightly wound as the Governess is bound to explode sometime. Here, we see the first of her explosions – her outburst towards Miles demonstrates her desire not simply to save him, as she suggests to him, but instead to possess him, a much more violent (and interestingly, rather Quint-ian) idea.
It was Flora who, gazing all over me in candid wonder, was the first. She was struck with our bareheaded aspect. "Why, where are your things?"
"Where yours are, my dear!" I promptly returned.
She had already got back her gaiety, and appeared to take this as an answer quite sufficient, "And where's Miles?" she went on.
There was something in the small valor of it that quite finished me: these three words from her were, in a flash like the glitter of a drawn blade, the jostle of the cup that my hand, for weeks and weeks, had held high and full to the brim and that now, even before speaking, I felt overflow in a deluge. "I'll tell you if you'll tell me – –" I heard myself say, then heard the tremor in which it broke.
Mrs. Grose's suspense blazed at me, but it was too late now, and I brought the thing out handsomely. "Where, my pet, is Miss Jessel?" (19.6-9)
… And here we have explosion number two from the Governess. After hiding her suspicions for most of the summer, she finally goes through with the dramatic accusation she envisioned earlier, even though Mrs. Grose silently implores her not to, proving that we simply can't contain things internally forever.
While this was done Miles stood again with his hands in his little pockets and his back to me – stood and looked out of the wide window through which, that other day, I had seen what pulled me up. We continued silent while the maid was with us – as silent, it whimsically occurred to me, as some young couple who, on their wedding journey, at the inn, feel shy in the presence of the waiter. He turned round only when the waiter had left us. "Well – so we're alone!" (22.5)
OK, ick. The sexual tension between the boy and his teacher is unbearably uncomfortable – yet, like all hints of sexuality in this text, it goes unmentioned, which makes it even less comfortable for readers. Miles's statement, "We're alone!" paired with the bridal imagery, makes us wonder unpleasantly what's going through the Governess's mind, that even she might not recognize.