The Turn of the Screw | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Turn of the Screw | Chapter 10 | Summary



The governess waits for a while at the top of the staircase and then goes back to her room. She notices Flora's bed is empty. She runs into Flora's room, fearing the worst when Flora emerges from behind the window blind. Flora asks the governess where she's been—the little girl was looking for her out the window. The governess asks if Flora saw anyone else. Flora says no. Her tone makes the governess convinced Flora is both lying and aware the governess knows the truth.

Rather than confront the child, her first instinct, the governess asks why Flora pulled the curtain over the bed to make it look like she was still there. Flora says she didn't want to scare her.

The governess has many more sleepless nights after that. She never sees Peter Quint in the house again, but she does see Miss Jessel on a staircase. Miss Jessel is dressed in black with her back to the governess, bowed in sadness. On another night the governess's candle goes out, and she thinks Flora's blown the candle out. She looks into Flora's room and sees her at the window again. The governess feels sure Flora is communicating with the same ghost who appeared at the lake. Then the governess decides to check on Miles.

She searches for the empty room where Miles is most likely to be—the room in the right-hand tower, where she first saw Peter Quint. From the tower the governess can see a person standing on the lawn, who's looking in the governess's direction at someone above her. She recognizes the person on the lawn as Miles.


The governess wants the children to collaborate with her to face the ghosts. Mrs. Grose still doesn't see the threat she sees, so she isn't much help. Flora, because she's a girl and younger than Miles, is more likely to be an ally. The governess almost invites her to "live with it together and learn perhaps, in the strangeness of our fate, where we are and what it means," but can't bring herself to make the request.

Instead she senses Flora already has an agenda. Flora was the first to call the governess naughty, although she was the one misbehaving. When Flora blows out the candle she's "hidden, protected, absorbed" by darkness. The darkness is another hint the children are beginning to slip into the world of the ghosts. The governess can see by the moonlight, but she doesn't understand what she's seeing. In an effort to regain control, she takes the place of Peter Quint, standing in the watchtower where she originally saw Quint and looking below. She would have "confidently hurried to meet" Quint had she seen him, making good on her promise to protect the children.

But while Quint faced her in the stairwell, Miss Jessel turns her back. She's the ghost with an "attitude of woe," dressed in black, facing deep pain—perhaps the ghost the governess is more sympathetic to, as another mirror in which the governess sees herself. Will she succeed at her job, or will her fate be similar to Miss Jessel's?

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