An Innocence Worse than Evil in The Turn of the Screw

  • Michelle H. Phillips


Innocence has long been a hallmark of Romanticized childhood, and it is the special target for modernism’s disillusioned gaze. The Turn of the Screw is unparalleled, I argue, less for the highly effective way that it invites readers to imagine evil and more for the doubt that it casts on the value of childhood innocence. Innocence is as haunting, as nebulous, and as suspect, in James’s novella, as are the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. Even if the evil spirits are real, they are not the cause of the illness and death in the novel. Rather, it is the governess’s relentless pursuit and policing of the children’s innocence that results in the undoing of Flora, Miles, and the governess herself.


Fairy Tale Evil Spirit Blank Slate Childhood Innocence Frame Narrator 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle H. Phillips
    • 1
  1. 1.Howard UniversityFairfaxUSA

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