Chapter III features the first supernatural event, the governess’s first sighting of the ghost of Peter Quint—though neither we nor the governess realize he’s a ghost until the end of Chapter V. To put this scene in perspective, it is important to know that one of the most debated questions of The Turn of the Screw is whether the ghosts are real or whether the governess hallucinates them—and if she hallucinates them, why she does so. The reasons for suspecting the governess of hallucinating come later in the story, when the governess behaves more erratically and her understanding of the situation seems more questionable. At this point in the story, we don’t have much reason to question what the governess sees. In fact, we are likely to continue thinking that the ghosts are real and resist the idea that the governess is insane precisely because it seems impossible that the governess could have imagined the ghost, since she sees Peter Quint before she has even heard of him.

However, Peter Quint’s appearance is not quite as random as it seems. In Chapter II, Mrs. Grose inadvertently alludes to Peter Quint without mentioning his name, saying that he liked his girls young and pretty, and the governess picks up on this slip, asking whom Mrs. Grose means, since it is obviously not the master. This exchange could be seen as simple foreshadowing, but perhaps also as the planting of the idea in the governess’s mind that a strange and sexually predatory man is somehow associated with Bly. Another fact worth noting about Quint is that before the governess sees him, she is fantasizing about running into someone—perhaps her employer—during her walk. If we decide to look for evidence that Quint is a hallucination rather than a ghost, the fact that Quint’s appearance is so closely tied to the governess’s desire for the master might serve as the basis for a psychological interpretation. The governess’s mind may have produced Quint both as a substitute object of sexual desire and as a further pretext for heroism that will please her employer.