Study Guide

The Turn of the Screw Gender

By Henry James

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The world of The Turn of the Screw is dominated by women, whose lives in turn are dominated by men, whether they know it or not. Gender plays a huge role in the development of the rather warped network of relationships that James crafts here; though sexuality is never, ever openly discussed, you can be sure that James meant for his readers to ponder the various permutations of desire and power that arise out of gender struggles.

Part of the difficulty is the question of how much a woman can truly control a man – or even a male child. Even in our more equitable era, it's easy to see the issues that James gets at here.

Questions About Gender

  1. Miles is the only truly vocal male character – what is the significance of this?
  2. What might Miles have meant by his passionate statement that he wants to be with people "of his own sort?"
  3. How do Flora's and Miles's genders play out in the Governess's individual relationships to them?
  4. Is Miles forgiven for more simply because he is a boy?

Chew on This

James emphasizes the simultaneously ridiculous and eerie precocity of Miles's character to depict him as a man in a house full of women.

The idea of Miles's possession by the spirits is more menacing than Flora's because he is male, and therefore ultimately more capable of harm.

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