The Turn of the Screw

"The Malevolent Governess and the Benevolent Ghosts": A Subversive Reading of The Turn of the Screw

This paper postulates a subversive reading of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. The novella ostensibly relates the tale of a governess who struggles to shield her charges from supernatural malevolence. Yet I suggest that it is actually the story of a governess who abuses her charges in an attempt to take control of Bly. The ghosts, conversely, are benevolent companions to the children.

My thesis is loosely based on Sami Ludwig's article, "Metaphors, Cognition and Behavior: The Reality of Sexual Puns in The Turn of the Screw," in which Ludwig argues that Miles and the governess are having an affair. Ludwig claims that when Miles tells the governess, on their way to church - "You know, my dear, for a fellow to be with a lady always-" (53) – he is subtly suggesting that their relationship become sexual, thereby instigating their affair. Ludwig points to the feelings of helplessness and fear that Miles' suggestion arouses in the governess, claiming that her precarious position, as a woman who is neither a family member, nor a servant, renders her helpless to flatly refuse. She therefore reacts with confusion, dodging the boy's innuendos and hurrying towards the church. Ludwig subsequently...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 972 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7757 literature essays, 2170 sample college application essays, 323 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in