A Symbiotic Relationship


            In “The Turn of the Screw,” the governess’s devotion to the children stems from her wish for a fulfilled life. Leaving everything she knows, the woman chooses to work in a household where she has limited interactions with others apart from the staff and children. She never complains, instead finding solace in the two children who keep her company. She thinks to herself, “They had nothing but me, and I—well, I had them” (41). Henry James achieves a decidedly optimistic tone through the use of the dash which breaks the woman’s stream of consciousness. She garners a strong attachment to the children because they are the only ones being impacted by her actions. For this, the governess feels the utmost devotion towards the young and impressionable Flora and Miles. Italicizing the word them also shows the governess’s belief that she benefits from the children as much as they do from her teachings. Being able to express her motherly nature fuels the governess’s desire for a meaningful life. In addition, the allusion to Amelia by Henry Fielding suggests the governess wants a husband and children of her own (58). Avidly reading this literature about a woman who is “rewarded by marriage and love,” the governess focuses all of her energy and loyalty on the children since she is currently unmarried (134). Mirroring that of many in society, Henry James’s portrayal of the governess’s yearning to be needed and helpful makes “The Turn of the Screw” a novella that will connect with many who long to leave an impact.        

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