Illustration from the front cover of The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Novels, published by Signet Classics in the United States in 1962.

The Turn of the Screw is a horror novella by the American-born British writer Henry James. It first appeared in print as a twelve part serial in issues of the American magazine Collier's Weekly that are dated between January 27 and April 16, 1898. A slightly modified version of the complete story appears in the book The Two Magics that was first published almost simultaneously in London and New York in October 1898.

The story concerns an unnamed young woman who has taken up her first job as a governess. She is charged with looking after two orphans, a 10 year-old boy named Miles and his 8 year-old sister Flora, who live in a large English country house called Bly. The legal guardian of the children is their uncle, a man who lives in London and who shows hardly any interest in them. The children's previous governess had died suddenly. In spite of the fact that Miles has been expelled from his boarding school for bad behavior, the governess finds both the boy and his sister incredibly well behaved, beautiful and charming. She genuinely enjoys teaching them and spending time with them. The governess also quickly befriends the housekeeper at Bly, a middle-aged, working class woman named Mrs. Grose who is unable to read or write. Before sunset one summer evening, the governess sees the figure of a man at the top of one of the house's tall towers. A few days later, she sees the face of the same man looking in through the dining room window. From the description that the governess gives of the man, Mrs. Grose says that it sounds like Peter Quint, a former servant at Bly and a very wicked man who is now dead. Mrs. Grose goes on to explain that the children's absent uncle, who did not really know what kind of man Peter Quint was, placed him in charge of looking after Miles and Flora. Quint was in a romantic relationship with the children's previous governess, a woman named Miss Jessel who was also thoroughly wicked.[1] The governess becomes convinced that the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are haunting Bly and that they pose a serious threat to the children. At first, she enjoys taking on the role of the children's heroic protector. She later comes to the conclusion that Miles and Flora have been communicating with the ghosts all along and keeping that a secret from her. Although she fears that the children may already be lost to her, the governess still hopes to save them. She believes that getting the children to admit to the existence of the ghosts of Quint and Jessel will be the first step towards their salvation.

Although The Turn of the Screw can be read simply as a ghost story, it is open to other interpretations. Some scholars have argued that the ghosts in the story are supposed to be real. Others have argued that The Turn of the Screw is really an account of how a young woman descends into madness under the delusion that she is living in a haunted house and that she needs to protect her charges from powerful ghosts. Both of those possibilities make for an equally frightening story. Much of the enduring popularity of The Turn of the Screw is due to the fact that readers are left to make up their own minds as to whether or not the ghosts in the story exist.

There have been several adaptations of The Turn of the Screw to other media. The best known and most highly regarded of those are Benjamin Britten's 1954 opera The Turn of the Screw and the 1961 horror movie The Innocents.



Douglas reads the story to his friends. 1898 illustration by Eric Pape.

A group of friends gather together at an English country house at Christmastime and begin telling each other ghost stories. Many of the listeners are impressed by a story which involves a small boy. A man named Douglas says, "if the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children?" The majority of the listeners think that a ghost story with two children in it should be twice as good and want to hear it. Douglas says that he cannot tell the story, he will have to read it. He has a manuscript of the story in a locked drawer in his London home. He will arrange to have the manuscript mailed to him, although that will take a few days. In response to some of the listeners' questions, Douglas explains that he got the manuscript some forty years earlier. It was written by a woman who is now dead. The woman was the governess of Douglas' younger sister. He met the woman when he came home from university for the summer vacation. Douglas grudgingly admits that he and the woman were fond of each other, even though she was ten years older than him. He also thinks that he was the only person that she ever told about her terrifying experience.

When the manuscript finally arrives, some of the guests have already left the country house. As a result, Douglas reads his story to a smaller but more appreciative audience.

The story is about a 20 year-old woman who is the youngest of several daughters of a country clergyman. She wants to take up her first teaching position. In answer to an advertisement, she goes to the London home of a handsome and charming young unmarried man. The man explains that he needs to hire a governess because he is the legal guardian of his niece and nephew, the 10 year-old boy Miles and his younger sister Flora. Both of the children's parents died in India. The young man's business keeps him in London but he believes it is healthier for the children to live in the country. For that reason, they live in his large country house, called Bly, in Essex. Miles attends boarding school but the governess will be obliged to teach him as well as Flora during the upcoming summer vacation. There are many servants at Bly who are overseen by the housekeeper Mrs. Grose. The children's previous governess, said to have been a highly respectable young woman, recently died suddenly. The job that the young man offers the young woman is very well paid but it comes with certain conditions. The governess is never to contact her employer. She cannot write to him to complain about anything or to ask for his advice. She must make all decisions regarding the children entirely on her own. All of her pay will be sent to her by the young man's lawyer. The young woman decides to take the job. She never sees the young man again.

When she arrives at Bly in June, the governess is greeted by Mrs. Grose and Flora. From the start, the governess feels that she and Mrs. Grose will be good friends. Mrs. Grose is clearly pleased that the governess has come to the house. The governess gets the feeling that she is trying to hide how pleased she really is. The governess is also thoroughly charmed by Flora, thinking that she is the most beautiful child that she has ever seen. Teaching and spending time with Flora are things that the governess genuinely looks forward to doing. Mrs. Grose clearly loves Flora as much as the governess does. In answer to the governess's question, Mrs. Grose says that Flora's brother Miles is even more good-looking and charming than the girl.

On her first night at Bly, the governess sleeps alone, although she will normally share her bedroom with Flora. A few times, she fancies that she hears [[Things that go bump in the night]sounds during the night]] but she is not greatly troubled by them.

The governess receives a letter from her employer on her second evening at Bly. Inside it is a second unopened letter from the head teacher of Miles' boarding school. In his letter to the governess, the children's uncle tells her to read the letter from the head teacher and deal with any problems arising from it. The head teacher's letter says that Miles cannot go back to his school after the summer vacation because he has been expelled for bad behavior. No details are given about what it was that Miles did. Mrs. Grose is stunned when she hears the news. The governess then asks her if she has never known Miles to be bad. Mrs. Grose happily says that is not the case and indicates that she does not think it is natural for boys never to be naughty.

The governess asks Mrs. Grose what her predecessor was like. Mrs. Grose says that, just like the current governess, the previous one was young and pretty. Referring to their employer, the governess says that he seems to like pretty young women. Obviously thinking about somebody else, Mrs, Grose answers, "Oh, he did.. It was the way he liked everyone!' Realizing her mistake, she corrects herself by saying, "I mean that's his way - the master's." Even though the governess presses her, Mrs. Grose continues to insist that she was talking about their employer all along. The governess asks if her predecessor was at Bly when she died. Mrs. Grose says that the former governess had gone home for a vacation when she died. She says that she does not know what caused the young woman's death.

Miles returns to Bly. When she first meets him, the governess is just as charmed by him as she had been by his sister. She finds it nearly impossible to believe that the boy has been expelled from his school for bad behavior. The governess decides not to write to Miles' head teacher about the matter and to continue to educate Miles herself. She also decides to say nothing about the matter to Miles or his uncle. Mrs. Grose fully supports those decisions. Miles never says anything about his time at boarding school or the other boys he met there. The governess finds that slightly odd.


The governess sees a figure of a man at the top of the Old Tower. 1898 illustration by Eric Pape.

In the weeks that follow, the governess greatly enjoys teaching Miles and flora and spending time with them. Her favorite time of the day, however, is the time that she has to herself after the children have gone to bed. During that time, in the summer evenings before sunset, she strolls around the grounds of Bly. She has a romantic fantasy about suddenly seeing a man while she is taking one of those walks. Her fantasy comes true in an unexpected way. While taking her stroll early one June evening, the governess looks back at the house. At the top of one of the buildings two tall towers, known as the Old Tower, she sees the figure of a man. The governess is certain that he is not her employer or anybody else that she has ever seen before. She sees that he is not wearing a hat, which suggests to her that he feels at home at Bly. The man is too far away for the governess to call out to him but she is in no doubt that he sees her. He keeps his eyes on her as he walks away.

The governess says nothing about the man to Mrs. Grose. She wonders if there is another person living at Bly that she has not been told about, possibly a mad relative of her employer who is kept in isolation. Eventually, she comes to the conclusion that the man she saw was simply some traveler who intruded into the house and then left without any further incident.

It rains very heavily one Sunday. The governess decides that she will not take the children to church that morning as usual and that she will take them to the evening service with Mrs. Grose instead. Sunday is also the only day of the week when the children are allowed to take tea in the dining room that is usually reserved for adults. While she is looking out of the dining room window on that rainy June afternoon, the governess suddenly sees the face of a man looking into the room from outside. He is the same man that she saw a few days earlier on top of the Old Tower. The man looks straight at the governess but then continues to look around the room. The governess has the frightening realization that he is looking for one of the children.

The governess goes outside at once to look for the man. The man, however, is nowhere to be seen. The governess stands in the same position in which she saw the man and puts her own face against the windowpane. Mrs. Grose comes into the dining room at that moment. She is so frightened by the sight of the governess's face at the window that she faints. The governess finds it troubling that Mrs. Grose was that frightened.

When she recovers her senses, Mrs. Grose tells the governess that she was scared because the governess looked "awful' and "white as a sheet". She asks the governess what is troubling her. The governess tells her about the man whose face she saw at the window and about how she has seen the same man once before. In answer to Mrs. Grose's questions, the governess gives a detailed description of the man. She says that he had short curly red hair, a long pale face, an unusual small beard and mustache that were not quite as red as his hair, arched eyebrows that are darker than his hair, small eyes and a wide mouth with thin lips. She says that he was well dressed but was obviously not a gentleman and looked as if he was wearing someone else's clothes. Mrs. Grose says that description sounds like Peter Quint, their employer's former valet who has been dead for some time.

Mrs. Grose seems to readily accept the idea that the governess has seen Peter Quint's ghost. The two women discuss the matter for several hours. The governess says that she thinks that Quint was looking for Miles. The expression on Mrs. Grose's face shows that she thinks that could well be true. it is revealed that, even though Miles and Flora have never spoken about the man to their governess, Peter Quint had been chosen by their uncle to personally take charge of their welfare and to look after the entire house. Mrs. Grose knew that Peter Quint was wicked and hated the idea of him looking after the children. She did not dare, however, to say anything to her employer because of his hatred of complaints. It is explained to the governess that Peter Quint was found dead one winter morning. He had apparently fallen and hit his head while trying to walk up an icy slope on his way home drunk from a pub.

The governess now sees herself as the heroic protector of the children against the wicked ghost of Peter Quint. She enjoys taking on that role.

One afternoon, Miles stays indoors to read while the governess and Flora play beside a large pond, known as the lake, on the grounds of Bly. The governess has the feeling that they are being watched by someone on the other side of the lake. She resists the urge to look in that person's direction for some time. When she does look, it is not Peter Quint that the governess sees but a pale woman dressed in black. She is a good-looking woman but she also looks as if she is thoroughly wicked. She does not look at the governess. Instead, she looks directly and purposefully at Flora. Although she does not say anything to her governess, the governess is certain that Flora can see the woman too. It is at that point that the governess comes to the realization that the two children have been aware of the presence of Quint's ghost and the female ghost all along and haven chosen to say nothing about them to her.

The anxious governess talks to Mrs. Grose. She tells her that she thinks the female ghost is that of the previous governess. Mrs. Grose says that the previous governess's name was Miss Jessel. She reluctantly admits that Miss Jessel was just as wicked as Peter Quint. Miss Jessel and Peter Quint were in a romantic relationship. Miss Jessel eventually left Bly in disgrace.[2] Mrs. Grose still denies knowing the cause of Miss Jessel's death and says that she does not want to know what killed her.

In tears, the governess says that she has been deluding herself by thinking that she was the heroic protector of Miles and flora. She now thinks that the children are probably already damned.

Mrs. Grose starts to suspect that the governess could simply be making up stories about having seen ghosts. The governess responds by saying that she was able to give Mrs. Grose detailed descriptions of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, two dead people that she never knew while they were alive.

The governess asks Mrs. Grose why she could not say that Miles had never been bad after she found out that he had been expelled from school. This now strikes the governess as odd because Miles has been exceptionally well behaved all the time that he has been at Bly. Mrs. Grose says that Miles was constantly in the company of Peter Quint for several months. Mrs. Grose did not approve of that and spoke to Miss Jessel about it. Miss Jessel told Mrs. Grose to mind her own business. Mrs. Grose then went to speak to Miles herself. She said that it was unseemly for a young gentleman to spend a lot of time with somebody from a lower social class. Miles replied that Mrs. Grose was working class too. He also denied that he spent a lot of time with Peter Quint, which Mrs. Grose knew to be a lie. Since Miles appears to be good at lying, the governess wonders if he could have been communicating with the ghost of Peter Quint and keeping that a secret from her.

The governess thinks the children may know that she knows they have seen the ghosts. Nevertheless, she tries to keep her knowledge about Miles and Flora and the spirits from them. The two children continue to appear to be very fond of their governess. They surprise and delight her by jumping out at her dressed up as animals, famous people from history and characters from Shakespeare's plays. The governess recognizes that Miles has a special talent for music. She is aware that he really needs a better education than she can provide for him. She is also impressed by how much affection and respect Miles has for his 8 year-old sister.

One evening, the governess does not go to bed. She spends all night reading, although she frequently looks up from her book to check that Flora is still sleeping soundly in her bed. Reminded of the sounds that she heard on her first night at Bly, she suddenly has the feeling that someone is walking about the house. Taking a candlestick, the governess leaves her room. When she gets to a tall window on the staircase, her candle blows out. This does not much matter, however, because the dawn light coming in through the window makes the candle unnecessary. The governess then sees the ghost of Peter Quint on the staircase. The governess and the ghost spend some time staring at each other in total silence. Peter Quint eventually goes down the staircase into the darkness. The governess thinks that he has vanished.

On returning to her bedroom, the governess finds that Flora is not in her bed, even though the curtains are drawn around the bed to make it look as if the girl is in it. Flora then emerges from behind a window blind. The girl says that she noticed that her governess was out of bed and looked out of the window to see if she could see her in the garden. In answer to the governess's questions, Flora says that she saw nobody in the garden. The governess is certain that is a lie.


The governess sees the ghost of Miss Jessel on the stairs. 1898 illustration by Eric Pape.

The governess often leaves her room again in the nights that follow, when she is certain that Flora is asleep. She retraces the steps that she took on the night that she saw Peter Quint. She does not see his ghost again. One night, however, she sees the ghost of Miss Jessel. Miss Jessel is seated on one of the lower steps and is holding her head in her hands as if she is very sad. She has her back turned to the governess and does not notice her. She only remains on the step for a short while before she vanishes.

When she returns to her room, the governess sees that Flora is out of bed and looking out of the window again. She does not move away from the window and makes no attempt to explain her behavior to her governess. in order to get a good look at whoever is prowling around the garden, the governess goes up to the unused bedroom in the Old Tower. She is extremely surprised to see that the person in the garden is Miles.

The governess goes down to the garden. Miles walks up to her willing and she takes him back inside and up to his bedroom. Neither the governess nor Miles say a word to each other until they get to his bedroom. The governess then asks Miles why he went outside at night. He says that he did it just so that the governess would think of him as bad for once. He explains that he asked his sister to get out of bed and look out of the window in order to get the governess's attention. The governess mildly scolds Miles for putting his health at risk by going out into the cold night air. He answers, "How otherwise should I have been bad enough?" he adds, "Think, you know what I might do!" The governess thinks that Miles is referring to the behavior that got him expelled from boarding school.

The afternoon of the following day, the governess tells Mrs. Grose about finding Miles in the garden. She adds that she thinks Miles and Flora constantly talk about Peter Quint and Miss Jessel when they are alone together. The governess thinks that the children are very well behaved either because they are only pretending to be good or because their minds are elsewhere because the ghosts of Quint and Jessel have completely dominated them. Mrs. Grose asks what the dead Quint and Jessel can do to Miles and Flora. The governess replies that the ghosts can destroy the children. She adds that up until now, the ghosts have only appeared at a distance but they could come closer and lead the children to their doom. Mrs. Grose says that the governess should write to the children's uncle if she thinks they are in danger and ask him to take them away from Bly. The governess knows that her employer, who expressly told her not to write to him, would think her mad if she wrote such a letter. She tells Mrs. Grose that she will not write to the children;s uncle and warns Mrs. Grose not to contact him either, saying that she will resign at once if she does.

A month goes by. Summer comes to an end and autumn begins. Although the governess does not see the ghosts of Peter Quint or Miss Jessel again, she often senses that they are present. She senses that Miles and Flora are communicating with them. She says nothing about this to the children, however, because she knows that they would only deny it. The governess finds herself constantly trying not to talk about ghosts and has the feeling that the children are doing the same thing. The children continue to say nothing to their governess about the time before she came to Bly, even though she has told them all about her childhood. The governess thinks that she can sometimes hear the children whisper to each other that she almost got them to talk about Quint and Jessel but they managed not to say what she wanted to hear.


Miles and the governess talk in the churchyard. 1898 illustration by Eric Pape.

On the way to church one Sunday morning in autumn, Miles suddenly asks the governess when he is going to go back to school. He says that he wants to learn more and also see more of life. He strongly hints that he has grown tired of spending all of his time with his sister and a female governess and that he now wants male companionship. The governess and Miles linger in the churchyard for some time and discuss this. He asks the governess if his uncle knows that she is still teaching him. The governess says that she does not think his uncle cares. Miles replies that he can make his uncle care by writing to him and getting him to come back to Bly. The idea of having to talk to her employer about Miles' expulsion from school and the underlying reason behind it horrifies the governess. She does not follow Miles into the church and makes up her mind to run away. She goes back to the house, which is empty because all of the servants are at church, to fetch her belongings. She goes to the schoolroom to fetch some things that she will need. When she goes into the room, she sees the ghost of Miss Jessel seated at her desk. With a look of total indifference, the ghost gets up and stands in front of the governess in complete silence before leaving the room. As the ghost leaves, the governess shouts after her, "You terrible, miserable woman!" The governess feels that the room is much lighter after the ghost has left. At that moment, she makes up her mind to remain at Bly.

Miles, Flora and Mrs. Grose return home. They say nothing to the governess about her absence from church. Mrs. Grose later admits that the children told her to say nothing, telling her that would be what the governess would prefer. The governess says to Mrs. Grose that she went back to the house so that she could talk to Miss Jessel. Mrs. Grose asks the governess if Miss Jessel spoke to her. The governess says that she did. According to the governess, Miss Jessel said that she was being tormented in Hell and that she wanted to take Flora there with her.

The governess says that she has decided to resolve the situation by writing to her employer and asking him to come to Bly. She then plans to show him the letter from Miles' boarding school about his expulsion. The governess also thinks about telling her employing in her letter that he bears some responsibility for leaving his niece and nephew in the care of the wicked Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. Mrs. Grose says that their employer did not really know Quint or Jessel very well and that she is more guilty for not having taken any action against them. Not wanting Mrs. Grose to get into trouble, the governess suddenly becomes unsure of what to write. Mrs. Grose, who cannot read or write, says that she will get the bailiff to write to their employer. The governess points out that would mean having to tell their strange story to somebody else. Mrs. Grose then reluctantly allows the governess to write to the children's uncle.

That evening, the governess starts to write a letter to her employer. It is a stormy night and the governess is uncertain about what to write. She leaves her room to see if Miles is out of bed again. To her surprise, Miles calls out to her when she comes to his bedroom door and asks her to come in. She finds Miles in bed but very much awake. He says that, instead of trying to sleep, he has been thinking about his governess and their "queer business". The governess takes this as a reference to her continued teaching of Miles at home and her not having sent him to school. Miles says that he does not want to return to his old boarding school and wants to attend a new one. The governess attempts to convince Miles that the idea of seeing his uncle and discussing his education does not trouble her. She tells Miles that she has begun writing a letter to his uncle. Miles replies that she should finish it. The governess points out to Miles for the first time that he has never said anything about his time at boarding school or anything else about his past. Miles answers by asking the governess if she is sure that is true. The governess asks Miles to tel her what happened at his boarding school and what happened at Bly before he went away to school. Miles appears confused by the question. The governess tearfully tells Miles that there is nothing she would not do for him and says, "I just want you to help me to save you!" A sudden gust of cold air then makes the candle go out. The governess notices that the window is shut tight. Miles says that the candle was blown out by him.

The governess finishes her letter the following day but does not mail it.

That day, the children do exceptionally well in their lessons. Miles offers to play the piano for the governess in the afternoon. After listening to him play for some time, the governess suddenly notices that Flora is not in the room. She asks Miles where the girl is. He laughs and says that he does not know. The governess comes to the realization that Miles has been distracting her so that Flora could slip away and see Miss Jessel. She tells Mrs. Grose this. After searching the hose for Flora, the governess and Mrs. Grose go outside to look for her. In answer to Mrs. Grose's questions, the governess says that she has left Miles in the schoolroom with Peter Quint and that does not trouble her very much.

Before leaving the house, the governess puts her letter to her employer on the hall table.

Mrs. Grose and the governess head towards the lake, the place where the governess first saw the ghost of Miss Jessel. The governess is certain that is where Flora has gone. The governess sees that the lake's only boat is missing and tells Mrs Grose that they will have to take the ten minute walk around the lake. When they reach the other side, the governess sees the boat partially hidden, as she had expected to do. The governess and Mrs. Grose see Flora a short distance away. Flora picks some withered plants so that it looks like that was the reason why she left the house. The girl stands still and allows the governess and Mrs. Grose to come to her. They all remain in complete silence for some time. Flora eventually asks the governess where Miles is. The governess says that she will only answer that question if Flora tells her where Miss Jessel is first.

The governess exclaims that she can see Miss Jessel on the other side of the lake. She points towards the direction of the ghost, certain that Flora and Mrs. Grose can see her too. She yells at Flora, telling her to admit that she can see the ghost. Flora just looks at the governess sadly. Mrs. Grose says that she sees nothing. Turning to Flora, Mrs. Grose says that the dead Miss Jessel is obviously not there and it has all been a misunderstanding. The distressed Flora says that she wants to go inside and get away from her governess, calling her cruel. Flora suddenly no longer looks beautiful to the governess and looks almost ugly instead. Before Flora leaves, the governess shouts out, "I've done my best but I've lost you."


The governess collapses face down on the ground. 1898 illustration by Eric Pape.

The governess collapses face down on the ground. It is almost evening by the time she comes round. Arrangements have been made for Flora to spend the night with Mrs. Grose. All of the girl's belongings have been taken out of the governess's room. Miles goes into the schoolroom. He spends two hours sitting with the governess. He says nothing to her, however, until he leaves and says, "Good night."

Before dawn the following morning, Mrs. Grose goes to see the governess in her bedroom. Mrs. Grose has come to ask the governess to leave Bly because Flora says that she is scared of her and never wants to see or speak to her again. The governess does not want to leave and manages to persuade Mrs. Grose to take Flora away from the evil influence of Bly instead. She tells her to take Flora to her uncle in London and to tell him everything that has happened. The governess wants to remain with Miles because she now believes she can save him. She thinks that Miles is on the point of confessing everything. Mrs. Grose says that she wants to leave Bly anyway. In spite of not having seen the ghost of Miss Jessel the previous afternoon, Mrs. Grose says that she still believes in the ghosts of Quint and Jessel. She thinks that the evil influence of Miss Jessel's ghost is the only explanation for the horribly foul-mouthed way in which Flora has been talking about her governess.

The governess says that her letter to the children's uncle should reach him before Mrs. Grose and Flora do. Mrs. Grose says that will not happen because the letter was not mailed. When she came back to the house the previous afternoon, Mrs. Grose noticed that the letter was no longer on the table. She can only conclude that Miles took it. Mrs. Grose also concludes that stealing letters was probably the reason why Miles was expelled from school. The governess is sure that Miles has read the letter before destroying it. she says that Miles will not have gotten much information out of the letter, however, because she simply told her employer in it that she wanted to speak to him. She goes on to tell Mrs. Grose that she is certain she can get Miles to confess to the theft.

Mrs. Grose and Flora have already left by the time that the governess comes downstairs for breakfast. Miles has already eaten his breakfast and gone out for a walk. He stays outside and away from the governess all day. The governess decides that she and Miles should have dinner in the same dining room from the window of which she saw Peter Quint's ghost in June. At the end of the meal, after the maid has cleared the table and left the room, Miles says, "Well - so we're alone!" The governess says that they are not entirely alone. Miles says, "Of course we have the others", and then adds, "they don't count much."[3]


Miles and the governess. 1898 illustration by John LaFarge.

The governess explains to Miles that Flora had to be sent away because Bly suddenly disagreed with her. Miles says that he is pleased that Bly agrees with him. The governess says that she is happy at Bly too. She adds that, although she knows that she has nothing further to teach Miles, she would be happy to stay on at Bly as his friend. When Miles asks her if she would really do that, she reminds him of how in his bedroom on the night of the storm she said that she would do anything for him. Miles comments that he thinks she said that because there was something she wanted him to tell her. The governess admits that is true and adds that there is still something she wants Miles to tell her. Miles looks very uncomfortable and clearly wants to leave the room. He says that he has to go and speak to a servant named Luke, which is an obvious lie. The governess tells Miles that she will let him go if he first answers one small question. She asks him if he took the letter that she wrote.

The ghost of Peter Quint then appears to the governess again. He is outside in the garden. He approaches the window, in front of which Miles is standing with his back turned towards it. Miles admits to having stolen the letter. After Miles makes that confession, the ghost of Peter Quint moves away from the window but continues to prowl around outside. The governess asks Miles if he also stole things at his boarding school. Miles replies that he did not. In answer to the governess's questions, he says that he must have been expelled from his school because of certain unpleasant things that he said to his friends. They then repeated those things to other friends and the teachers eventually heard them.

The governess suddenly finds herself sternly saying to Miles, "Stuff and nonsense!" She then clearly sees Peter Quint's face at the window again. She runs to Miles and shouts, "No more! No more!" She holds Miles to stop him from looking out of the window.

Miles then surprises the governess by asking, "Is she here?" He explains that he means Miss Jessel. The governess tells him that there is is somebody horrible at the window but it is not Miss Jessel. The boy then asks, "It's he?" The governess asks him who he means and he exclaims, "Peter Quint - you devil!" The governess tries to reassure Miles that, now that he has confessed to the existence of the wicked ghost, Peter Quint no longer has any hold on him and he is safe. Miles falls into the governess's arms and she realizes that he has died.



Photograph taken during a student performance of the opera The Turn of the Screw at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island in 2000.

The English-language opera The Turn of the Screw, written by the British composer Benjamin Britten and the British librettist and playwright MYfanwy Piper, was first performed at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy on September 14, 1954. It continues to be performed regularly at venues across the world. Filmed versions of the opera were produced in France in 1974, in Germany in 1990 and in the United Kingdom in 1994 and 2004. The opera is a largely faithful, although somewhat abbreviated and condensed, adaptation of Henry James' story. Unlike in the novella, Miles is already at Bly when the governess arrives in the opera and there is no reference to his expulsion from boarding school. Another difference between the novella and the opera is the list of conditions that the governess agrees to before accepting the job. In the opera, she agrees never to write to her employer about the children, never to ask about the history of Bly House and never to abandon the children.

William Archibald, a playwright born in Trinidad, adapted The Turn of the Screw for the stage as The Innocents. The first performance of the play was at the Playhouse Theater on Broadway on February 1, 1950. The Innocents ran for a hundred and forty-one performances and won the 1950 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design. The play was first performed in London's West End at Her Majesty's Theatre on July 8, 1952. A Broadway revival of the play opened at the Morocco Theater on October 21, 1976 but closed after only twelve performances.

The 1961 British horror movie The Innocents is an adaptation of the stage play of the same name. Its screenplay is credited to William Archibald and Truman Capote. The two writers jointly received the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay for their work on the film. The Innocents stars Deborah Kerr as the governess Miss Giddens,[4] Michael Redgrave as her employer, Peter Wyngarde as Peter Quint, Clytie Jessop as Miss Jessel, Megs Jenkins as Mrs. Grose, Martin Stephens as Miles and Pamela Franklin as Flora. It was directed by Jack Clayton. Even though it is adapted from the play The Innocents rather than directly from the novella The Turn of the Screw, the film succeeds in capturing the spirit of the novella and remains largely faithful to its plot. The film places rather more emphasis on sexuality than the novella does. Mrs. Grose tells the governess that she often saw Peter Quint and Miss Jessel having sex in empty rooms in broad daylight and that she thinks the children may have seen them too. Mrs. Grose also tells the governess that Miss Jessel committed suicide by drowning herself in the lake at Bly after Peter Quint's death. Although The Innocents was not a great critical or box office success when it was first released, it is now considered to be a classic of Gothic cinema.

The Nightcomers, a 1971 British movie directed by Michael Winner, is a prequel to The Turn of the Screw. It stars Marlon Brando as Peter Quint, Stephanie Beacham as Miss Jessel, Thora Hird as Mrs. Grose, Verna Harvey as Flora and Christopher Ellis as Miles. The sexual nature of the film means that the Miles and Flora depicted in it are clearly several years older than the children described in The Turn of the Screw. In The Nightcomers, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are depicted as being in a sadomasochistic relationship. Miles and Flora spy on what Quint and Jessel do in private and try to copy what they see. Considering them to be a bad influence on the children, Mrs. Grose decides to get Peter Quint and Miss Jessel fired. Not wanting them to be separated from each other and believing that they will be reunited when they die, Miles and Flora make up their minds to help Quint and Jessel by murdering them. The Nightcomers ends with the arrival of a new governess, presumably the same woman whose story is told in The Turn of the Screw, played by Anna Palk.

The Turn of the Screw was adapted as an episode of the American TV series Omnibus that was first shown on CBS on February 15, 1955. It was adapted as the third episode of the American TV series Startime, starring Ingrid Bergman as the governess, which was first shown on NBC on October 20, 1959. A British television adaptation of The Turn of the Screw was first shown on the ITV network on December 25, 1959. The novella was adapted as the second episode of the French TV series Nouvelles de Henry James. The episode first aired on TF1 on December 25, 1974. The first episode of the short-lived American horror anthology series nightmare Classics is an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. The episode was first broadcast on the Showtime channel on August 12, 1989. The Italian TV movie Il mistero del lago is an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. It was first shown on Canale 5 on January 7, 2009. A British TV movie adaptation of The Turn of the Screw was first shown on BBC One on December 30, 2009.

Other film and TV adaptations of The Turn of the Screw include The Turn of the Screw (USA 1974), Otra vuelta de tuerca (Mexico 1981), The Turn of the Screw (West Germany 1982), Otra vuelta de tuerca (Spain 1985), The Turn of the Screw (France/UK 1992), The Haunting of Helen walker (USA 1995), Presence of Mind (Spain/USA 1999), the Turn of the Screw (Uk/USA 1999), The Turn of the Screw (USA 2003) and In a Dark Place (Luxembourg/UK 2007). The horror movie The Others (Spain/USA 2001), directed by Alejandro Amenábar and starring Nicole Kidman, shows influences from Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and the 1961 film The Innocents but is not a direct adaptation of either work.

The Turn of the Screw was adapted as an episode of the American radio series Favorite Story that first aired on the Los Angeles station KFI on December 17, 1949. A British radio play based on The Turn of the Screw, starring Charlotte Attenborough as the governess, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on January 1, 1993 as part of the Christmas Spirits series.


  1. Few details are given about any evil deeds that were carried out by Quint and Jessel and their wickednness is generally described in very vague terms. It has been suggested that they sexually abused Miles and Flora.
  2. The implication is that the unmarried Miss Jessel became pregnant with Peter Quint's child.
  3. Miles may be talking about the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel when he speaks of "the others" who do not count much. Alternatively, he could simply be talking about the many servants who live and works at Bly.
  4. The governess, who is unnamed in the novella the Turn of the Screw, was given the name Miss Giddens in the 1950 play The Innocents. This name was carried over to the 1961 film. When the play was revived on Broadway in 1976, the name was changed to Miss Bolton.

External links

See the article on The Turn of the Screw on Fandom's Literature wiki.