Is Structure the Answer?

         Is structure really the way to go when it comes to raising children? Or is loose parenting better to let the child's mind be open? It is something like this that sends my mind wondering…How would the children of William Archibald's 1950 play The Innocents, based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of The Screw and filmed by director Jack Clayton in 1961, differ in their actions if they had had solid, military-like structure?

         Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens) are a wild bunch; free to run around the house without much regard to any rules. The governess, named Miss Giddens in The Innocents and played by Deborah Kerr in the movie, seems afraid to punish them because she feels that they are not loved enough, or that they do not understand the right and wrong way to act. Because of this, they seem to be "possessed" by the spirits of Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). It has been said "idle hands do the devil's work," and it seems that was what had possibly happened with Flora and Miles. Their idleness and wildness seemed to invite themselves into the trouble that struck them.

         Bring in the idea of military school. On a boring night, the Disney Channel showed a movie starring Hilliary Duff called Cadet Kelly, directed 2003 by Larry Shaw. It is about a girl who goes from an open-thinking New York City high school to a military school in upstate New York. So, transpose Flora and Miles into the movie. They have gone from running wild around the large house and garden, with only two women that do not really have a lot of authority, to a restrictive, uniformed environment of George Washington Military Academy. Miles would become a gentleman who did as he was told. Close quarters with other boys his age would do him good to learn how to become a man. Also, structure and instructions for every little detail would teach him how to behave and improve his manners. Also, Flora, cute as she can be, would learn more than how to be a priss. It always helps for young ladies to know how to take care of themselves and not rely on men to fix a tire or carry packages. Also, it would toughen her up so she would not cry as much as she does when she gets "scared" if Miss Giddens or someone else reprimands her on her actions.

         Military school is not just yelling and screaming and Army attire. Lifelong lessons are learned to get the students through any issue. Although the children are not encouraged to open their minds and better their individuality, which some children need, such children as Miles and Flora would get what they have not had: structure and powerful people in their lives. If they really existed, the ghosts of the household would not follow them to such a restricted place. The children would not have the time or opportunity to be idle enough for the "devil" to lay his hands on them and to tell them to play scary games or for Miles to kiss Miss Giddens in such an erotic fashion.

         Children need structure and someone to look up to constantly. Miles and Flora had neither. In a military-like atmosphere, they would have both and most likely come out better young adults, unhampered by ghosts or wimpy governesses.

Megan Arszman

Table of Contents