The Turn of the Screw

Henry James

Chapters IX, X, XI, XII, and XIII

Summary Chapters IX, X, XI, XII, and XIII

Summary: Chapter IX

Days pass without incident. The governess keeps the children under her constant supervision. She finds herself embracing her pupils more frequently and with sharper passion, and she wonders if they are aware of her suspicions. Likewise, the two children become increasingly fond of their governess and seek to please her as much and as often as possible. The governess questions whether an ulterior motive exists in their newly amplified affection.

The lull is broken one night when the governess is startled from her nighttime reading. After quietly rising from her bed, she leaves the room and moves to the top of the staircase. Suddenly her candle goes out, and she witnesses an apparition of Quint halfway up the stairway. They stare each other down intensely, the governess refusing to back down. She is convinced by the dead silence that the vision is “unnatural.” She watches as the figure disappears.

Summary: Chapter X

A moment later, the governess returns to her room to find that Flora is not in her bed, but the bed’s curtains have been pulled forward. The governess is distraught but soon notices a movement behind the window blind. From under it Flora emerges with a grave expression. Flora reproaches the governess, asking where she has been. The governess explains her absence, then questions Flora, who says she could sense the governess had left and thought someone was walking out in the grounds. According to Flora, no one was outside. The governess is certain Flora is lying and questions her further about the drawn bed curtains. Flora claims she hadn’t wanted to frighten the governess, who could have returned at any moment.

Henceforth, the governess stays up most nights. One evening she finds the apparition of Miss Jessel with her head in her hands at the bottom of the stairs. The vision vanishes immediately. A number of evenings pass without event. The night that she finally decides it is safe to sleep at her normal hour, she awakens after midnight to find her light out. Certain Flora has extinguished it, she gets out of bed and finds her student at the window. The governess decides Flora must be communicating with the ghost of Miss Jessel and, careful not to disturb her, ventures out to find a room with a window that looks on the same scene. There, from her window, the governess sees Miles out on the lawn.

Summary: Chapter XI

The next day, as the children stroll together on the lawn under supervision, the governess informs Mrs. Grose of Miles’s misconduct. The governess tells Mrs. Grose what passed between her and Miles after she had found him outside in the moonlight. When she had appeared on the lawn, he had promptly come to her, and she had led him inside without a word. The governess had then questioned Miles as to what he had been doing. Smiling, Miles had explained that he had wanted her to think him capable of being “bad.” Then he had kissed her and gone into further detail about his plan. According to Miles, he had arranged things with Flora to disturb the governess, so she would then get up to find out what was going on. He had been delighted that she had fallen for it and expressed pride in being “bad enough.” The two had ended their conversation with an embrace.

Summary: Chapter XII

Mrs. Grose is nonplussed by the governess’s account, and so the governess explains her conclusion that the children have been meeting consistently with Quint and Miss Jessel. She goes so far as to claim that as the children stroll, they are “talking horrors” and plotting their next meeting with their two ghostly friends. The governess, piecing things together, says that the children have not been good but empty, and their lives belong to Quint and Miss Jessel. Furthermore, the governess surmises, Quint and Miss Jessel “want to get” the children to destroy them and keep up their diabolical work. Mrs. Grose suggests that the governess write to her employer, asking him to take the children away. The governess rejects that idea, saying he will think her mad. Mrs. Grose throws out an alternative plan for the governess to make her employer come to her. At this, the governess foresees his amusement and derision at what he will perceive to be her loneliness. She threatens to leave if Mrs. Grose appeals to the children’s uncle on her behalf.