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Full title The Turn of the Screw
Author Henry James
Type of work Novella
Genre Gothic novel; satire
Time and place written 1898, England
Date of first publication 1898
Publisher Collier’s Weekly
Narrator The governess narrates virtually the whole tale in
retrospect, as she writes it down in a manuscript. The prologue
is told by an anonymous narrator who seems educated and of the upper
Point of view The governess speaks in the first person, as she puts
into writing her account of the strange occurrences she experienced
Tone The governess narrates with an attitude of intimate
confidentiality that is biased and possibly unreliable.
Setting (time) 1840s
Setting (place) Bly, a country home in Essex, England
Protagonist The governess
Major conflict The governess struggles to unlock the mysteries of
Bly and protect her two pupils against what she believes to be supernatural
Rising action The governess has a number of encounters with two different
ghosts whom she believes seek to corrupt her unnaturally perfect
students, who may be communicating with the ghosts behind her back.
Climax The governess points to the image of Miss Jessel as
proof that the specter exists, but Mrs. Grose and Flora claim to
see nothing, which implies that the governess is insane.
Falling action Flora becomes ill from fear of the governess and departs
Bly with Mrs. Grose, leaving the governess alone with Miles to contend
with the ghost she believes haunts him.
Themes The corruption of the innocent; the destructiveness
of heroism; forbidden subjects
Motifs Vision; a ship lost at sea; silence
Symbols Light; the written word
Foreshadowing During her first day at Bly, the governess thinks she
hears a child’s cry in the distance. The governess imagines herself
at the helm of a ship lost at sea. The governess experiences stillness
ahead of each supernatural encounter.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Turn of the Screw!