Study Guide

The Turn of the Screw Chapter 2

By Henry James

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Chapter 2

  • This rather surreal sense of command hits home two days later, as the Governess, with Flora in tow, goes to pick up Miles. She is unsettled by a letter she received from the children's uncle (who reminds her not to contact him with their troubles), with an enclosed letter from Miles's school.
  • The letter basically says that Miles can't ever return to school, for reasons undisclosed. Though Mrs. Grose is illiterate and can't read the letter herself, the Governess interrogates Mrs. Grose about the boy; Mrs. Grose is appalled by the suggestion that Miles could be harmful to anyone. She passionately tells the Governess to withhold any judgment until she sees Miles in person.
  • This eggs on the Governess's curiosity about the boy – she, in fact, can't wait to see him.
  • Mrs. Grose suggests that Miles is as likely to be bad as Flora is; that is to say, it's impossible for him to misbehave. The Governess, won over anew by Flora's incredible cuteness, feels bad for even thinking poorly of either of the children.
  • Despite her defense of Miles, the Governess notices Mrs. Grose being a little cagey as the day goes on. She confronts the poor housekeeper once more and asks if she has ever seen Miles to be bad at all.
  • Mrs. Grose gets sassy and says that Miles is certainly naughty at times – after all, according to her, all boys should be a little bad sometimes.
  • The Governess, attempting to delve further into this, suggests that she feels this way too, as long as the child in question doesn't corrupt others. Mrs. Grose laughs this off, asking if the Governess is afraid that Miles will corrupt her (creepy).
  • On the day of Miles's arrival, the Governess makes one last attempt to find out more. She goes about it by asking about the former governess this time.
  • There's a weird little confusion that goes on in this conversation with Mrs. Grose; the Governess suggests that the uncle in London prefers his employees to be young and pretty, while Mrs. Grose implies unintentionally that some other "he" likes everyone that way. Who, we wonder, is the "he" she's talking about? Mrs. Grose quickly claims that she's talking about the master (the children's uncle), but it's not entirely clear.
  • The previous governess apparently never mentioned anything odd about Miles. This raises some suspicion in our narrator, and she inquires about how "careful" (2.23) this last governess was. Mrs. Grose replies that she was careful about some things, but not about others…we wonder what that means.
  • The housekeeper refuses to say anything more about the previous governess. We just learn that she "went off" (2.25) before she died, but Mrs. Grose doesn't know how or why she died in the end.

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