The Turn Of The Screw is definitely the most macabre of James’ stories. It’s good versus evil; living versus dead. It shows the power of trust and belief. The characters are so tangible; you almost think that you could go to Bly and help. Of course, you might just end up running away in terror.
The way James describes the emotions of the characters is amazing. You feel the fear, bravery, anger and possible insanity of the whole situation. Is the Governess crazy? Does she really see ghosts? The way she exactly describes Quint to Mrs. Grose makes the reader think, yes she does see him. She sees Miss Jessel too. The Governess must protect her young charges, Miles and Flora, from these malicious spirits.
If these ghosts are real, do Miles and Flora want to be protected? From there behaviour throughout the stories, it seems not. They want to play with the spirits of their former friends. The children also seem to be absurdly perfect. The have the pretty smiles and the gorgeous hair and the endearing eyes. They are almost ghost like. Their visage has something supernatural about it, casting a spell on the servants who live in the house with them. The Governess also finds herself under their spell. Though, it seems, she sometimes breaks free and becomes suspicious of their every word and action. Especially after she sees Flora’s behaviour at the pond, with Miss Jessel looking on.
Though I think they are brilliantly created, I’m not sure about how I feel towards these characters. Mrs. Grose seems to believe the Governess’s tale of spirits too easily. Yet, without her belief, it would make the Governess appear to be losing her mind. Mrs. Grose gives her validation. Perhaps, Mrs. Grose is just a simple woman believing the words of an educated lady. The Master is oddly distant. It is fine not to care about his niece and nephew, but to refuse contact with the house all together? The house does belong to him. What does that mean? Did he play a part in the deaths of Quint and Jessel? Maybe the unworldly beauty of Miles and Flora are too much for him. He needs to stay away from their unnatural splendor. The Governess also bothers me. She just seems too sure of herself.
I had to read the end a few times. I read over the last page three times before I fully grasped what happened. I knew I read it right the first time, but I thought I had misunderstood. Is what happened to Miles caused by the spirit leaving him and taking his own spirit away? Or did the Governess do something to him in her effort to win Miles from Quint? Was it one of those, if I can’t have you, no one can, kind of moments? It is still difficult to believe that was the end of the story. It was certainly a dramatic finale to a harrowing tale. It also seems quite fitting as to the story’s flow. I suppose I was hoping for a happier ending. Of course, after Daisy Miller and The Altar Of The Dead what else was I expecting?