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À vis the uncle as she cannot bring herself to write

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à-vis the uncle, as she cannot bring herself to write a letter to him advising him of the strange turn things seem to have taken at Bly.'* In echoing her own position, the governess's mistake also draws attention to her own "menial" status, which the condescending reference to the housemaid's ef- fortful letter writing disavows. In fact, during this encounter, positions are reversed, as the governess's "vile predecessor" stands and is transformed, in her perception, from housemaid into her superior Like Quint earlier. Miss Jessel fixes the governess with a "look" "long enough to appear to say that her right to sit at my table was as good as mine to sit at hers," so that the governess experiences "the extraordinary chill of a feeling that it was I who was the intruder" (81). In making his protagonist a governess, James refers not only to the historical actuality of a particular plight besetting the distressed gentle- woman of the earlier nineteenth century but also to literary convention, as the governess was a stock figure whose desperate situation was drama- tized in many early and mid-century "governess novels." In this popular gerue, the governess's problematic social status as a gentlewoman forced to earn a living was frequently resolved through a conclusion in which the governess receives an unexpected fortune and marries a lord (often her former employer)." While governess novels are now generally forgot- ten, their legacy lives on in the popular imagination due to the enduring status of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which reworked the conventions of the genre by incorporating Gothic settings and events. As several critics have argued, James's story of haunting is itself "powerfully haunted" by Jane Eyre, "borrowing openly its gothic aspect, influenced more covertly by its themes of class and femalehood."^" Some critics have pointed to The Turn's mid-century setting as a further resonance with Jane Eyre, with Linda Kaufman going so far as to precisely date the narrative events to 1847, the date of the publication of Bronte's novel.^' But in fact the chro- nology of the novella is not so easily configured; uncertainty extends to this aspect of the narrative as well.^^ In terms of its representation of
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462 Guy Davidson sociohistorical data, the novella conveys a vague sense of "mid-nineteenth centuriness" that is more an effect of its self-conscious ñctionality than it is a serious attempt to evoke the past. The Turn frequently acknowledges its literary antecedents in implicit and explicit allusions. After seeing Quint for the first time atop one of the house's towers, the governess wonders whether there "was ... a 'secret' at Bly—a mystery of Udolpho or an insane, an unmentionable relative kept in unsuspected confinement?" (26). This passage, with its overt reference to Anne Radcliffe and its implicit reference to Bronte, typifies the govern- ess's tendency to understand her experience in literary terms as well as the novella's intertextuality or even its metafictionality. The novella is stud-
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