The White Roses of Innocence

        In the 1961 movie The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, I thought It was interesting that white roses were seen in the vase when the governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) first comes to Bly to care for Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin). Although white roses usually represent purity or innocence, these white roses are in a sense very ironic.

        The children seem to start out innocent enough but are thought by Miss Giddens to be corrupted by the ghosts, Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop). However, the audience was never really sure who actually was innocent. Are the children innocent? Or is the governess innocent?

        One view of the story is that the governess goes gone crazy, and it is she who has corrupted the children. I tended to agree with this view when watching the movie because, when the governess touches the white roses, the petals fall off. This could represent that what the governess touches became corrupted.

        The children seemed to have been fine until the governess shows up and puts ideas into their heads. The children could be represented as the white roses that have lost some of their petals. Another scene that hints at Miss Giddens' corruption is evident when she is cutting the white roses, sees a bug crawling out of the mouth of a cherubic statue, and then sees a man (Peter Quint) standing on the roof of the tower. The roses seem to appear when the ghosts are seen.

        Miss Giddens obsesses over this, seems to go crazy, especially when she is seen twirling around and around with the candelabra. Miss Giddens also harms Flora by making her confront the ghost, Miss Jessel, and drives her into hysteria and then kills Miles by making him confront the ghost, Peter Quint. The only encounters with ghosts seem to be when Miss Giddens points it out, which leads me to believe that it was all in her head. She went crazy and could not contain herself and lashed out on the innocent children.

      Miss Giddens has come to the country seeming just as innocent as the white roses, but she soon corrupts herself, leading to the corruption of the innocents.

Jill Pierce

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