Study Guide

The Turn of the Screw Innocence

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What exactly does "innocent" mean, anyway? Does it just mean free from guilt, or does it imply something a little broader – free from knowledge, perhaps? In The Turn of the Screw, Henry James asks his readers to ponder this question…though he never really provides an answer. However, along the way, he provides a lot of ambiguous food for thought for us to mull over; mostly they're just more questions on top of questions, which is sort of this story's general modus operandi.

Questions About Innocence

  1. How innocent do you think the two children are at the end of the story? What evidence do you have either way?
  2. Could Miles and Flora still be "good" kids even if they are aware of the nature of Quint and Jessel's relationship?
  3. Do you think Miles deserves the punishments he receives throughout the story?

Chew on This

As defined in the story, innocence can be equated with ignorance.

The only truly "innocent" character in the story is Mrs. Grose; this innocence is associated with her total lack of imagination.

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