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MonkeyNotes-The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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Miles

Miles plays a crucial role in the novel as he initiates action in the story and also creates suspense in it. From the moment, the letter arrives from the headmaster of the school regarding Milesí dismissal from school, till the climactic scene when the boy reveals the secrets, the story is charged with suspense. The letter creates doubts about the character of Miles, both in the minds of the governess as well as the readers and evokes a desire to meet the boy.

Miles is an interesting character as he is capable of giving both surprises and shocks. When Miles arrives at Bly, he surprises the governess by being a charming boy, pleasant in looks and affable in manners. After reading the letter, the governess might have imagined him to be arrogant and unruly, but Miles proves her wrong. As Mrs. Grose had mentioned earlier, he turns out to be as adorable as his sister. Later in the novel, he shocks the governess by playing a prank on her. On a dark night, after everyone is asleep, he goes outside the house and stands all alone looking up at the tower. When the governess asks him to explain his action, he boldly tells her that he wanted to project himself as bad in her eyes. His answer shocks the lady as much as his action did.

Miles is not only precocious and talented, but also frank and forthright. He excels both in studies and music and impresses the governess with his understanding and reasoning. He even expresses his longings and desires openly to the governess. The governess is very shocked when he expresses his desire to rejoin school to be with the boys of his own age. Therefore, Like all teenagers, he too longs for freedom and companionship.


Miles is a product of his environment. Orphaned at a tender age, neglected by his guardian and surrounded by servants of low character, it is natural that he would imbibe certain unhealthy traits. This is reflected in the way he behaves with some boys in school, which then earns him a bad reputation. He also does things on the sly, like stealing the governessí letter from the table, reading it and then burning it. But in spite of all this, Miles is a lonely child, innately good, but tempted to do bad things occasionally, mainly to assert himself.

Miles is mature for his age and acts with a lot of understanding. He gives due respect to the governess and treats her like a lady and even confides his problems to her and seeks her advice. However, when she runs away from the church and avoids meeting any of them, he decides not to disturb her. He even asks his sister and Mrs. Grose not to question the lady. He therefore acts more responsibly than the governess does.

Miles should rather be pitied than scoffed at. It is not certain whether Miles had been in contact with the evil spirits or not. His association with the lowly servants could probably account for his present behavior. Towards the end of the novel, when the governess forces him to confess his crime and scares him with the devil, she drives the boy to nervous break down and ultimately to his death. Miles therefore becomes a victim of circumstance and an object of pity for the readers.

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