Study Guide

The Turn of the Screw Chapter 17

By Henry James

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Chapter 17

  • That evening, after Flora falls asleep, the Governess sits up listening to the rain and trying to write something. She can't concentrate, and goes across to listen at Miles's door.
  • Being the intensely aware child that he is, Miles can tell that someone's at the door. He calls out for that someone to come in; the Governess enters rather sheepishly.
  • Miles wasn't sleeping; instead, he says he was awake, thinking about their situation, and about his rather abnormal education.
  • The Governess reassures the boy that he will go back to school, but that they will first find him another one. She asks about the previous school, wondering aloud why he has never talked about his previous life at all.
  • The boy doesn't precisely answer the Governess's questions; he instead gets a little frustrated and tells her that his uncle must come down to settle things with her. He claims now that he doesn't want to return to the old school, but wants a new place.
  • Miles refuses to tell the Governess anything more about his former life. He allows her to kiss him and try to extract more information from him, but he won't give in. He reiterates something he asked her for that morning outside church – he wants for her to leave him alone.
  • The Governess tells Miles that she's begun her letter to his uncle. He asks her to finish it – but she only asks once more what happened before he returned to Bly.
  • The Governess loses some of her control and swoops down upon the boy, telling him that she wants to "save" him (17.25) – this statement receives a response right away, with a sudden blast of cold air and a violent disturbance in the room.
  • At this, Miles shrieks either in joy or in fear – we're not sure which – and the Governess, shaken, looks around the room and notices that the windows are securely shut and the curtains undisturbed. Where did that cold blast come from?
  • She sees that the candle's blown out somehow – and Miles says that he extinguished it.

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