The Turn of the Screw | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Turn of the Screw | Chapter 19 | Summary



Mrs. Grose and the governess go straight to the lake, to the spot where Flora previously saw a spirit. The governess always thought Flora would come back there alone to talk to the ghost of Miss Jessel. The women are relieved not to find Flora drowned in the water, but they can't find her anywhere else.

They wonder if Flora has taken out the boat. The governess thinks it's possible if Flora's possessed by the physical strength of Miss Jessel. The women walk all the way around the lake and finally find Flora by the grass. They find the boat, too, moved across the lake. Mrs. Grose gives the child a hug. Flora gives the governess a meaningful look over Mrs. Grose's shoulder.

Flora asks where Miles is. The governess says she'll answer her if Flora answers a question in return—where is Miss Jessel?


The plot has been building slowly to its climax. In the last four chapters the exposition will pay off in a rapid sequence of action.

The governess now accepts the improbable and surreal as truth. For instance, how would a small eight-year-old girl like Flora be able to move the boat across the lake on her own? She must be under the influence of an evil spirit and borrowing the spirit's strength. The governess has "lived too long among wonders" not to believe anything.

Flora's question about Miles illuminates the governess's ideas of the world being "like the glitter of a drawn blade." It's a reminder of the children's secret and powerful alliance with one another, and of their otherworldly alliance with ghosts and evil. The governess's metaphors are theatrical and invoke weaponry here; she believes she's engaging in spiritual warfare.

But still the meaningful silences between the characters are all taking place in the governess's narrative. To another observer Flora may have simply run off unattended, and naturally ask about the welfare of her brother. Mrs. Grose, who wants to keep the child's innocence intact as long as possible, "blazed" with silent suspense. The figures of speech continue to indicate fire and destruction.

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