The Turn of the Screw
Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
She thought a minute. "Was he a gentleman?"
I found I had no need to think. "No." She gazed in deeper wonder. "No."
"Then nobody about the place? Nobody from the village?"
"Nobody – nobody. I didn't tell you, but I made sure."
She breathed a vague relief: this was, oddly, so much to the good. It only went indeed a little way, "But if he isn't a gentleman –"
"What is he? He's a horror."
"He's – God help me if I know what he is!" (5.9-11)
Interesting – apparently, the only options for social status are either a "gentleman" or a "horror" in this context. Does that make all people of a lower social status "horrors?"
"Oh, it wasn't him!" Mrs. Grose with emphasis declared. "It was Quint's own fancy. To play with him, I mean – to spoil him," She paused a moment; then she added: "Quint was much too free."
This gave me, straight from my vision of his face – such a face! – a sudden sickness of disgust. "Too free with my boy?"
"Too free with everyone!" (6.8-9)
It becomes clear that the real source of Quint's evil was his inability to stick to the limitations of his class – Mrs. Grose, who certainly knows her place and stays there adamantly, doesn't approve of the liberties he took with all the members of the household when he was in charge, playing lord of the manor.
So, for a little, we faced it once more together; and I found absolutely a degree of help in seeing it now so straight. "I appreciate," I said, "the great decency of your not having hitherto spoken; but the time has certainly come to give me the whole thing." She appeared to assent to this, but still only in silence; seeing which I went on: "I must have it now. Of what did she die? Come, there was something between them."
"There was everything."
"In spite of the difference – ?"
"Oh, of their rank, their condition" – she brought it woefully out. "She was a lady."
I turned it over; I again saw. "Yes – she was a lady."
"And he so dreadfully below," said Mrs. Grose.
I felt that I doubtless needn't press too hard, in such company, on the place of a servant in the scale; but there was nothing to prevent an acceptance of my companion's own measure of my predecessor's abasement. There was a way to deal with that, and I dealt; the more readily for my full vision – on the evidence – of our employer's late clever, good-looking "own" man; impudent, assured, spoiled, depraved. "The fellow was a hound."
Mrs. Grose considered as if it were perhaps a little a case for a sense of shades. "I've never seen one like him. He did what he wished."
"With them all." (7.18-20)
Again, Mrs. Grose ominously indicates that Quint was, as she says earlier, "too free" with everyone – particularly Miss Jessel. Their cross-class romantic relationship is one of the central disturbances of this story; the Governess, who, whether she likes it or not, identifies in a way with Miss Jessel, is both revolted and fascinated by the "abasement" of the previous governess.