This essay sample essay on Response Paper Example offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion are provided below.
Being a non-believer in ghosts myself I fall into the critical camp of the ghosts being figments of the narrator’s imagination in A Turn of the Screw. I base this critical perspective in the fact that the ghosts were selectively seen by her and that her creation of this ghostly psychosis could be rooted to her fear of inadequacy in tending for the children.
The beginning of the actual story creates a narrative voice that may be firm but is also easily convinced to take a job she is unqualified for and is unsure of due to the charms of the Master of Bly and his willingness to take anyone for the job who is willing and attractive. She was young, untried, nervous: it was a vision of serious duties and little company, of great loneliness… on a second interview she faced the music, she engaged” (121).
On top of all this there is seedy history in the Bly house; the last governess is dead and so is Quint, the master’s handy man, and the two of them were having an “infamous” affair (152). “Oh of their rank, their condition… She was a lady… And he so dreadfully below… I’ve never seen one like him. He did what he wished,” as Mrs. Grose described the affair (152). As the story is slowly unfolded to the narrator by Mrs.
Grose, it turns out that Miss Jessel died mysterious while on leave and Quint likewise speciously found dead on the side road.
Of course being of lower ranks and risking the possibility of shame on the house, none of the servants speak openly of this tragic happening. But this is not the only circumstance of controversy that arises while she is the charge of Bly. In taking this charge she of course is faced with her first decision when she receives information of Miles’ expulsion from school. With Mrs. Grose speaking so highly of Miles, the narrator is unsure of how to approach this information. As we later find out, Miles was expelled for talking dirty to the ladies. “Well-I said things… t was only to-I don’t remember their names… only a few.
Those I liked… they must have repeated them. To those they liked… it was too bad” (216-7). When considering Miles’ male role models, Quint and in brief periods his uncle, no wonder he likes to talk dirty to girls. Quint was having a roll in the hay with the previous governess and his uncle is a notorious bachelor who only hires attractive governesses. The narrator is confronted with the contradictive impression she is given of Miles by Mrs. Grose versus the information of the child’s expulsion.
Rather than logically getting as much more information as possible by asking the school what he did to deserve the expulsion the narrator goes to Mrs. Grose for advice. She has been instructed to never disturb the Master with any issues but doesn’t have the experience to know how to deal with them. Mrs. Grose being of lower rank, making it hard for her to speak ill of the children, and having a lack of education herself believes in the child’s innocence. She believes this even though she hasn’t seen him for some time and is in charge of Flora and not him.
So she feels she is too low in rank to say anything bad about the kid, and doesn’t know him well enough to say anything of substance anyway. Mrs. Grose is like the little ignorant grandmother who thinks these kids can do no wrong. And beyond that what kid, who just got expelled for talking dirty, would march home and bring it up to his new governess? Miles is ten-years-old, he doesn’t want to get in trouble, but he is also a spoiled little boy who has no formal guardians having lost his father and grandparents, lost his one (bad) male role model, has an uncle who wants nothing to do with him, and is taken care by a rotation of governesses.
How normal could this kid be? So he acts out. He goes out of the house late one night and has his sister wake up the governess to figuratively give her the finger. “When I am bad I am bad,” Miles says when he is discovered by the narrator (169). Then when he tries to be sent back to school he tries to threaten the narrator by tattling on her to his uncle. He doesn’t want to be told what to do: being cute and nice hasn’t gotten him what he wants, being “bad” hasn’t either, now he is going to threaten.
The narrator is left with a lack of information and is forced to fill in the blanks herself. When Mrs. Grose is gradually telling the story of Quint and Miss Jessel, each time the narrator gets another detail it makes the story worse. This creates the paranoia in the narrator the not having information means all that is unsaid must be because it is bad, not because she is dealing with children and people who are lower in rank than her and don’t feel able to speak liberally to her about seedy matters.
When she decides that the children are conspiring with the ghosts, she suddenly begins to see that they are misbehaving. Suddenly anything they do that is bad is associated with ghostly circumstances: Flora stealing the boat and going on the lake, Miles sneaking out, Miles sassing her in the graveyard, et al. All of these circumstances come with a ghostly sighting. There are two times I believe the narrator may have actually seen someone and not just imagined it. The first two sightings of Quint, I believe she actually saw a peeping Tom or the like.
It is strange how being new to the town and very secluded that the narrator is absolutely positive that the man she sees couldn’t possibly be anyone from the town or anywhere else. “I caught at a dozen possibilities, none of which made a difference for the better, that I could see, in there having been in the house-and for how long, above all? -a person of whom I was in ignorance” (134). She must not be doing her job well if there is someone in the house that she doesn’t know. This is where the cycle starts.
If she fails and she can’t take care of these children, it is her fault and her fault only. The only problem is that rather than creating a normal scapegoat, she goes batty and decides the children are possessed by the trampy governess and handyman. Rather than figuring out who this guy is she doesn’t tell anyone about him. Then when she sees him again the only person she tells is Mrs. Grose, the uneducated and lower ranking housemaid. From the briefest description Mrs. Grose connects this man that the narrator has seen ever so logically (sarcasm) to a dead guy.
Then the governess of course makes the logical leap that Quint was looking for Miles and she must protect Miles against this evil spirit. So not only has she created this paranoid, scapegoat of a delusion, she has also given herself a mission to protect, something she apparent things sh knows how to do. When the first sighting of the woman happens, the narrator has already decided that something creepy is going on and like her first sighting of Quint, it is from a great distance and she decides, based on no evidence, that this woman is the old governess.
On top of this she claims that Flora is hiding the sighting of this woman from, it couldn’t possibly be that the woman wasn’t or that Flora didn’t see anyone there at all. She makes this same claim when Flora is discovered after sneaking out and taking the boat. Even though Flora makes no clear gesture, acknowledgement, or even look towards the woman that the narrator sees on the other side of the lake, the narrator believes this is because Flora is hiding something.
This cycles back to the lack of information the narrator started with when she first took the job, rather than having to fill in the rest of the story, she is now choosing to fill in the story herself. She is looking for evidence and finding it; she is fulfilling the plot line in her head by seeing specious activity in the children. Rather than taking this as a sign that the children are acting like normal children; it must mean they are possessed by these ghosts, because they couldn’t possibly act out and misbehave under her care.
When Flora is discovered at the lake the narrator claims that she gives her a look that says, “I’ll be hanged if I’ll speak,” but the girl doesn’t actually say this, it is all in the narrator’s head (196). When the children are walking around with Miles reading to Flora the narrator claims, “He’s not reading to her, they’re talking of them-they’re talking of horrors,” again, she hasn’t actually heard them, but is fulfilling the crazy story in her head. The fact of the matter is he may just be teaching her to talk dirty, since he is such a foul-mouth, and thus why they are keeping away from the adults and not speaking loudly.
Then when Flora is sick, which she could have merely gotten sick from being outside without proper attire, which was pointed out numerous times, she says some of the bad words her brother could have taught her to Mrs. Grose who reports back to the narrator. “From that child-horrors! There! On my honour, Miss, she says things-! ” But the narrator never finds out what the girl said. She makes sure that it was bad and about herself, and places it in the plot line (204). “It so justifies me! ” she says in response (204).
But, not only does this mean that she is justified in her claims of the children being possessed (because children of course never say bad words unless being possessed), it also could justify her if the children try to claim that she didn’t take care of them properly. Flora speaking vulgarly of her could be used by the narrator to say that the children merely didn’t like her and were out to get her. Now the final scene, from the narrator’s diluted perspective, it is her saving poor Miles from this evil possession.
Now, from the perspective of a ten-year-old boy, it is no wonder he died of fright. Miles is confronted after having his sister sent away by his governess. He confesses to stealing the letter and then is accused of stealing at school. He looks out the window in embarrassment because he has to then confess that it wasn’t stealing but for speaking so extremely vulgarly to girls he liked that he was expelled. “Stuff and nonsense! ” claims the narrator to this confession, because it doesn’t fit into her crazed plot line (216).
She asks him what he said and he of course is too embarrassed to tell her. The governess looks out the window in a deranged manner. That morning at breakfast with his sister I am sure shared with him the shock of the governess claiming to see Miss Jessel across the lake from her. Miles in response to the governess screaming at someone out the window that is not there asks, “Is she here? “(217). His governess yells that she sees Miss Jessel and then that it’s not Miss Jessel but someone else: Quint, the man that the boy adored and who by his knowledge is dead.
But he had already jerked straight round, stared, glared again, and seen but the quiet day… the grasp with which I recovered him might have been that of catching him in his fall… We were alone with the quiet day and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped” (217). There is nothing there, no one else sees, not Mrs. Grose or Flora at the lake, nor Miles when tragically confronted with the idea that a dead man is standing him. All that is seen is “the quiet day” (217).