What Is Going On!

     After reading the 1898 Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw, I simply thought the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel wanted to get the children, Miles and Flora, and take them where they themselves were. I thought, since Quint had been wicked in life, that he was wicked in death. Quint had dragged Miss Jessel down with him and wished to take Miles and Flora. The only nagging question in my mind was why he wanted the children. Now that I have seen the 1961 movie The Innocents (directed by Jack Clayton), I see what was really going on.

     Mrs. Grose told the new governess in the book that Quint had been too free with all of them. I guess that meant with every person who had lived or worked at Bly. In the movie, though, Mrs. Grose (Meg Jenkins) went farther and told Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) that Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) had done things in the light that should have been done in the dark--Boom! The lights went on in my head immediately. I understood from Mrs. Grose that Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin) had seen what Quint and Miss Jessel did, since Mrs. Grose admitted that she herself had seen them together. Mrs. Grose said she did not know what the children had seen; but I felt sure I was right, and that the children had seen everything.

     Mrs. Grose also told Miss Giddens that Miles and Quint were always going off into the woods together. Miles' expulsion from school goes along with his time alone with Quint in my mind. In the novella Miles said he got into trouble for saying things to boys he had liked at school. In the movie Miles just said he got into trouble at school for saying things.

     Miss Giddens certainly believed something hideous had been going on, both before and after Quint and Miss Jessel died. In the movie she even came out and said that Miss Jessel yearned for Quint physically, and that the only way they could be together in that way is through Miles and Flora.

     Miles himself gave a strong hint of his adult-like sexuality. He caught Miss Giddens off guard in the movie by kissing her, not like a child, but like a man. Afterwards, he gave her a very calm, eerie look. Miss Giddens, of course, was stunned.

     Even though the movie put some unsavory images into my head (which I hope to shake out), I did like it more than the book.

Deborah Bland

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