The Turn of the Screw | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Turn of the Screw | Chapter 7 | Summary



When the governess and Flora return to the house, the governess tells Mrs. Grose the children know all about the ghosts and Flora's seen one of them. The governess describes "a woman in black, pale and dreadful" at the lake. The governess presumably saw her when she turned around and "faced what [she] had to face." She's convinced the woman is the previous governess, Miss Jessel.

Mrs. Grose is doubtful. The governess tells her to ask Flora, but then takes her request back—Flora will never talk about what she's seen. The governess is more afraid of not seeing another ghost; she fears what she doesn't know. Mrs. Grose asks how she's so sure Flora has seen Miss Jessel. The governess says the ghost "fixed" Flora with a glance. Flora knows Miss Jessel is coming for her.

The governess urges Mrs. Grose to tell her the whole story about Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. Mrs. Grose says the two were "infamous." They had an affair, which became a scandal due to Miss Jessel's higher social rank and Peter Quint's reputation as a "hound," or sexually promiscuous man. He took sexual liberties with all Bly's female staff members. Mrs. Grose implies Miss Jessel's "real reason for leaving" was the affair and its fallout. The governess loses hope of saving Miles and Flora from the ghosts' power and weeps in Mrs. Grose's arms.


The governess is realizing it's easier to deal with a known threat than an unknown one. Her response when Mrs. Grose asks her where the ghosts come from—"From where they come from!"—indicates she thinks some horrors are too unspeakable to define aloud.

Still convinced of the innocence of the children, Mrs. Grose doesn't see how Flora can know more than the adults in the house. Is she right to be skeptical? The governess, already suspicious of Miss Jessel's unexplained death, may be haunted by the idea of her predecessor and simply want to name the threat. She may be jealous of any attention the uncle gave the former governess.

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