The Governess's Desire in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw

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The Governess's Desire in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw

 

 

Henry James's The Turn of the Screw paints a landscape that is ripe for psychoanalytic analysis. He has chosen language and syntax that symbolize his main character's psychological fragmentation and her futile attempt to mend herself. Many of Lacan's theories emerge as the Governess reveals her motivations through her recollective narrative.

 

The Governess enters the Imaginary Stage of Lacan's psychoanalysis theory when she sees herself in the mirror on her first night at Bly. She recalls,"the long glasses in which, for the first time, I could see myself from head to foot..." and as her idealized image gazes back, the Governess has now
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The picture of Bly painted by the Governess pulsates with men who are not there; their absent presence agitates the Governess's anxiety over her own fragmentation. The master has abandoned her physically and emotionally, Miles has potential but is only a child, and Peter Quint is nothing more than air. Even though they are unavailable to her, the Governess's desire to be what these pseudo-men desire becomes the driving force behind her actions.

 

In order to please the master, the Governess makes it her mantra to carry out her agreement to in charge of Bly (a traditional male role and yet the Governess remarks, "Well, I was strangely at the helm!")without engaging him in any of the messy details. In order to please Miles, the Governess indulges his late-night wanderings and until he brings up the subject, does not pester him with questions about his expulsion from school. To please Peter Quint, the Governess makes herself available to him by strolling alone across the grounds. None of these attempts to fulfill these imagined desires fulfills the Governess, of course, because unity of self is not possible. There is no phallic presence at Bly and according to Lacan, none is forthcoming.

 

Ironically, the other present characters at Bly are also fragmented and desire to fulfill the Governess's desires, if the narrative is reliable. Mrs. Grose, who could very well slap the Governess back into
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