Study Guide

The Turn of the Screw Chapter 7

By Henry James

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Chapter 7

  • After this eerie scene plays out, the Governess rushes to see Mrs. Grose. She's certain that the children know about the ghostly visitors.
  • The Governess is convinced that Flora saw the strange figure by the pond and – horror of horrors – didn't say anything about it.
  • Finally, we get a description of the figure by the water – this time, it was a woman, dressed in black, who is apparently just as evil and terrible as Quint. She just appeared out of nowhere across the lake, but according to the Governess, there was the awful feeling that she was actually standing really close.
  • The Governess is also certain that she knows who this mystery woman is – she claims that it's the former governess, Miss Jessel.
  • Mrs. Grose questions this last call, and wants to know how the Governess can be sure; after all, she never met her predecessor. However, the Governess gets all in a tizzy about how Flora knows that it's Miss Jessel, and that, if confronted, Flora would lie about it.
  • A new fear dawns on the Governess – what is she not seeing? Are the ghosts appearing to the children when she's not around?
  • Mrs. Grose, ever the optimist, tries to convince the Governess of Flora's innocence, claiming that she might not know that the ghostly Miss Jessel is bad.
  • Mrs. Grose asks how the Governess knew that the woman she saw was Miss Jessel (we'd like to know, too).
  • The Governess gives a rather vague description that could, in fact, be any number of women: she was wearing a rather shabby mourning dress, she was extremely beautiful, yet she was "infamous" (7.16). Also notable was the piercing gaze with which she looked at Flora, as though she was determined to do something…no doubt something bad.
  • This description is enough for Mrs. Grose, who finally comes out and tells the whole story of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, who had some kind of illicit relationship. The latter was a lady, but as we already know, Quint was no gentleman. This difference in their social classes made their relationship even more scandalous.
  • Again, Mrs. Grose reiterates Quint's presumptuous nature, saying menacingly that he "did what he wished" (7.20) with everyone.
  • The Governess suggests that the relationship wasn't only Quint's fault, and that Miss Jessel must have wanted it, too. Mrs. Grose admits that she did, but shows some sympathy – she even says that it was a good thing that Miss Jessel escaped from Bly (and died). She claims that the relationship with Quint and its subsequent fallout was the reason that Miss Jessel left.
  • Here, the Governess breaks down into tears; she fears that it's too late to save the children, and that they're lost already.

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