Analysis of “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

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The “Turn of the Screw” is a story about a young and inexperienced governess, who is tasked with the job of taking care of two young children whose parents have just died. The story is horrific because there are many incidences of ghosts haunting the governess, in an attempt to corrupt the children. An interesting about the storyline is the fact that the governess insists on living in the ghost-ridden house despite all the troubles. This leads to the Miles, the boy child, dying in the end.

The events of this governess are narrated in forms of journals, and as readers, we are not sure of the story’s intentions or morality. At the same time, there is a lot to learn from the story, especially about the governess (Ashley, 2014, n.p.). For instance, at one time, the governess’ colleague decided to flee from the ghost-ridden house with the girl. However, the governess stays and convinces Miles to remain.

During their stay, the author unveils the sexual tension between the governess and Miles, who is very young. Even though nothing serious happens between them, the reader is still confused. In a way, the author wants readers to make their conclusions, and he surely succeeds in this. There is so much confusion.  

Confusion, Exposed Naivety, and Corruption of Innocence  

In agreeing to comments by Flynn (2016, n.p.), the biggest question in this story is whether the governess’ distress is a basis of her reality, or is it that her imaginations are running wild due to her loss of sanity. For instance, she does not understand why ghosts keep appearing in the house. She ponders and wonders why the ghosts do not perturb the children. The girl is even seen ”talking” to one of the ghosts.

The story shows us the governess’ inexperience whereby she does not know how to handle such situations. Perhaps, her first assignment and task would have been better had she consulted the children’s uncle or Mile’s teacher. Better yet, she should have worked with her colleague and even follow her when she left. Therefore, she remains to blame for Mile’s death, despite trying her best to protect him.

The governess’ greatest fear was the potential corruption of the children’s innocence. For instance, Ashley (2014, n.p.) brings about the use of the word ”corruption” which mainly acts as a euphemism, whereby the governess has no clear meaning to, thus keeping the readers further confused. Ironically, the governess seems to corrupt Mile’s innocence. When the boy calls her ”my dear,” the governess condones the behaviors, which might be seen as hypocrisy on her part, or simply a sign of lack of experience on how to take care of children.  


From the many angles and perspectives portrayed by the author, the story made it possible for readers to come up with their conclusions. The author was successful in giving some form of teaching while offering confusion at the same time. The story is not only subtle but characterizes various forms of cleverness. The story lacks any form of ”conclusion” that readers usually look forward to, thus making it an intriguing read (Flynn, 2016, n.p.).    

Therefore, it is safe to mention that the story is not only brilliance literature but also a great way to engage readers and leave them wanting for more. It does not matter whichever conclusion a reader has; the story was meant to be inconclusive.


Ashley, T. (2014). The Turn of the Screw review – compelling, challenging and creepy. [online] The Guardian. Available at:

Flynn, G. (2016). Gillian Flynn on Emma Thompson Reading ‘The Turn of the Screw’. [online] Available at:

November 24, 2023




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