From the first sentence of her narrative, in Chapter I, the governess calls attention to her own sharp swings in mood and attitude, a focus that makes her seem sensitive, emotional, nervous, and introspective but not necessarily reliable. Her perceptions of things at Bly are clearly shaped by her emotions and her imagination, and often her judgments seem excessively hasty or intense. Her reaction to Flora, in particular, seems excessive, as she describes Flora in such idealized terms (“radiant,” “beatific”) that we get little sense of Flora as a real child. The governess feels affection for Mrs. Grose, but her feelings often change quickly, though briefly, to suspeicion. The governess reports hearing footsteps and crying outside her room, and she gets the sense that Mrs. Grose is too glad to see her, both of which provide foreshadowing and create the sense that something is going on that we have yet to learn about. However, the governess’s sensitivity and volatility also create a feeling of uncertainty about whether we can trust her point of view. This question is one of the central problems of The Turn of the Screw, and it develops and deepens rather than resolves.

[. . . ] I had the fancy of our being almost as lost as a handful of passengers in a great drifting ship. Well, I was, strangely, at the helm!

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