Mrs. Grose: The Real Governess

        It is hard to call Mrs. Grose (Meg Jenkins) the maid, for she is much, much more. In the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) may have held the title of governess, but it seemed Mrs. Grose was far more capable of knowing what was best for the children. Miss Giddens fell far too short and was undeserving of the title "governess."

         Before Miss Giddens' arrival, Mrs. Grose had been running the household and had apparently been doing quite the admirable job. Her only downfall is that she is illiterate. Otherwise she would have been more than capable of raising and educating young Miles (Martin Stephen) and Flora (Pamela Franklin). When Miss Giddens arrives, Flora is happy and healthy and seems entirely content with life. Mrs. Grose obviously knows the most about the children's history and even warns Miss Giddens of what she should and should not speak of. Miss Giddens thinks that she is doing what is best for the children, but Mrs. Grose tries to subtly disagree with her. The ideas of Mrs. Grose are dismissed, and she is forced to obey the wishes of her young boss.

         Mrs. Grose wants to believe that Miss Giddens is seeing these ghosts but finds it quite difficult. Miss Giddens crosses the line at the lake when she begins screaming at Flora to make her admit that she sees the ghost of Miss. Jessel, and Flora loses all control of her emotions. Mrs. Grose knows that Miss Giddens has gone too far and takes it upon herself to comfort young Flora. It seems that in the most trying situations, Miss Giddens loses her composure, while Mrs. Grose remains levelheaded.

         It is obvious that Mrs. Grose genuinely cares for the children, and it seems that Miss Giddens' intentions are only to impress the children's uncle and prove that she can raise these children alone. Mrs. Grose is not given enough credit for her influence on the children. She is always willing to do what is best for them, no matter what the best may be. Mrs. Grose was far more deserving of the title "governess" than Miss Giddens ever was.

Michelle Farney

Table of Contents