For this week: feminism, gender criticism, and more of The Turn of the Screw

Posted in prompts at 8:16 pm by Dominique

Hi everyone,

This weekend you’ll be revising your drafts and preparing to submit your final copies of the first paper on Heart of Darkness to the appropriate folder on Dropbox before class on Tuesday. Please see the sample essays and the “reminders” handout I distributed at the end of Tuesday’s class as you prepare your revised version of the essay. Please see my comments on your work in teh Dropbox folder.

Everyone will also be reading chapter 7 in Bressler’s book on feminism. Our main bloggers this week are Kathleen Ocampo and Maria Serrano. In posts of 500-550 words, to be submitted by Monday at midnight, each blogger will answer TWO of the following sets of questions to answer about The Turn of the Screw:

1. Who are the women in the text? Do different generations of women seem to have access to the same kinds of power and/or possibilities or not?

2. What does the domestic space look like?  Are women responsible for most of the  labor in this space?

3. Do women interact with each other the same way that they interact with men? (and vice versa)  Think about speech, diction, tone, etc.  In either case: how and why do interactions take place as they do? Do women speak for themselves or are they spoken for?  When, where, how?

4. Are there communities of women?  If so, are these communities offered as self-sufficient or do they require the presence of men?

5. Do women transgress? [socially, economically, sexually, etc?]  What are the ramifications of these transgressions – or lack thereof? (Think of Miss Jessel!) What does the text suggest as the “lesson” the reader is to learn about women’s roles and opportunities from the way transgressions are handled narratively?

6. What is the relationship between women and money?  Do women provide for themselves, make important economic decisions, etc?

7. Consider the traditional representational options for women: virgin, mother, or whore.  Does the text buy into these distinctions?  Does it resist them?  How and to what end?

8. How (if at all) are femininity and masculinity figured by the text?  Are they represented in the ways you might imagine or is there something surprising about those representations?  Are there moments when these representations break down?     If so, how, why, and to what end?

9. Is marriage and/or reproduction offered as the end-goal for all women or does the text offer other possible modes of happy existence and  satisfaction?  If marriage and/or reproduction are the goals, are these goals offered in seemingly traditional or untraditional ways?  Where do female authority, power, and control fit (if anywhere) in these relationships?

10. Do characters seem to learn their gender identities or are these identities offered as intrinsic and unquestioned realities?

11. How do female characters understand themselves? What role does gender play in these understandings?

12. How does class, race, disability, reproductive ability, or history interact with a particular character’s understanding of her gender and/or identity  (if at all)?  How do these features affect gendered representation?  Are certain kinds of women more “womanly” or feminine than others?  Who is offered as marriageable or desirable options and who is not?

13. Where are female desires and aggressions in the text?  What are its objects and directions?  Are these appropriate or transgressive?  What do these desires and aggressions reveal about the character, society, and/or female representation in the text?

14. Does the text assume a male or female readership? (You may need to know something about the reading practices of the time to answer this question. See the “Cultural Context” material in Part II of our edition for a little more on this.)  What bearing does that have (if any) on the way relationship that the text develops with its     reader?

Commentators will submit posts of 150-200 words by Wednesday at midnight that either build on Kathleen and Maria’s responses or select  ONE other question to answer.

Have a great weekend–eat some candy–and watch out for Peter Quint and Miss Jessel.


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  1.    kocampo100 said,

    October 31, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    1) There are four main women characters in the novel. The governess, Mrs. Grose, Flora and Miss Jessel. The governess, who is an educated young woman that came from a poor family is hessitant to take the job however is completely infatuated with her employer so she takes it anyway. Mrs. Grose is the family’s housekeeper acts as the governess’ right hand and confidant. She is unable to read and write making her lower class compared to the governess. Flora’s character is not explained as much as Miles which made me think that her character is really not as important. She is the younger sibling, well-mannered and very beautiful. Lastly Miss Jessel was the family’s former governess who had an affair with a Peter Quint who was merely a servant. The women in the novel are clearly a part of different generations. Mrs. Grose who I’m assuming is older than the governess still gives her respect because she is lower class. She has little to no power which shows that her lack of education has limited her possibilities. Miss Jessel’s character is not explained as much but the reader definitely knows that her affair with Peter Quint was looked down upon due to their class difference. I feel that even nowadays, dating out of one’s social class is still looked down upon though. Flora, being the youngest of the women I feel has the most possibilities, she comes from a wealthy family, respectable and has good morals even though the governess thinks she has a dark and deceiving side. The governess I feel is in the middle, she came from a poor family but was educated which meant she received a good amount of possibilitiesand opportunities considering the tiime this was set.

    12) When dealing with desires and aggressions I can definitely use the governess for both. Clearly her desires were for her employer which she took a job for. Her aggressions were toward the children and the ghosts. Both ideas I feel are trangressive. Her infatuation being the reason to take a job which is not unheard of still definitely violates any kind of morals one can have. Her aggressions for the children seemed under the surface because she still acted like she cared for them. Her paranoia about the children’s true identities lead to her seeing ghosts and pretty much going crazy. These feelings that she has, I feel that they sculpted her character as someone losing their mind and having really bad hallucinations.

  2.    mary03 said,

    November 1, 2011 at 1:37 am

    After Reading the feminism chapter and reading the turn of the screw the domestic space is when a woman is a house wife , a woman who cooks clean and cares over the children, one who does the womanly chores . The Governess and ms Grose were resonsible of the children and the house hold also the domestic space in the story . The governess was more responsible for the domestic space , because she took the resonsilblity from the uncle. The governess and ms grose was responsible for most of the labor in this space. because they are womens and at that time and even now womens are categoize in doing the motherly and womenly chores. In reading chapter 7 in the criticism book it talks about how man feel superior and the woman are inferior , it shows that the man feel like they have the upper hand . Because man are stronger and they work , meanwhile the woman is suppose to cook , clean. It didnt matter what our opinion was and we didnt have the right in making decisions, because its a mans world.
    The relationship between women and money is POWER in the turn of the screw and with the feminism chapter it talks about how wman are powerless , the governess was powerless as well . How man has all the power in controlling the decisions in a womans life and in this world . And in making and having more money than a woman. In the turn of the screw the governess did not provide for herslf , she was provded with money , food, and shelter . In the 60’s woman could not provide for themselves the man did . The woman could not even work or get a education , the man felt superior like martin luther said, ” Although a woman is a beautiful handiwork of god , she does not equal the glory and dignity of the male”. And we can still see that its a mans world , they feel like we are not equal to them , man feel like we cant make economic decision or handle pressure or do manly labor . There perception of woman in chapter 7 are that we are fragile and weak, man feel like we cant give good criticism , we cant do a mans job for example , a construction worker or a firefighter. We still havnt had a woman president , its a mans world.

  3.    amark916 said,

    November 1, 2011 at 7:54 am

    In response to question #1:
    The women in the text are the Governess and Mrs. Grose. Throughout the story Mrs. Grose who is unable to read seems to admire the governess. Mrs. Grose is considered a “servant” in the book and the governess is considered a higher position. It is the responsibility of the governess to care for the two children Miles and Flora. Therefore, Mrs. Grose gives her respect as if the governess is her boss to some extent. The fact that Mrs. Grose is illiterate contributes to the respect that she has for the governess. In Mrs. Grose’s time women (especially servants) did not have access to education as the governess, men were mostly educated as well. I think that this is why she did not deem the governess as insane. Mrs. Grose probably did not feel that she could challenge the mental stability of the governess because of her illiteracy. After all, she was a mere servant and her generation of women was quite different than the governess’ generation. Mrs. Grose does not want to go against the governess but at times she feels like she has to protect the children from the accusations made by the governess. Mrs. Grose feels powerless, and this is noted when she is after the governess to inform the uncle of what has been going on in Bly. I wondered why she did not contact him. But it becomes apparent to the reader that Mrs. Grose plays her position as a servant. Even though she loves the children she does not get involved like most woman of today would. It is like she does not have a voice and this is clearly attributed to the time that she is brought up in.

  4.    beezy said,

    November 2, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Response to question 13:

    Upon several meetings with the bachelor, the governess falls in love. She is awarded the position of watching over the house, and caring for the children, Miles and Flora. Her desire for the master is only natural, seeing as how he has everything a woman could want. Her position as governess suggests she was running away from something, prior to her arrival at Bly. This most likely means a level of insecurity and instability could be attributed to the governess. Her aggression stems from a lack of control in her surroundings. The images of “ghosts” haunt her constantly throughout, and she believes that the children are in cahoots with them. Her struggle to ‘save’ them is result of her desires for the master, and her ultimate will to appease him. The governess is highly unstable, and her capacity to do good is overwhelmed by her inability to do her job. At this time, the role of governess was respectable, seeing as how woman did not possess much power. The female depiction of mental and physical weakness is abundantly clear through the text. After smothering little Miles to death, and with no male figure present in the house, she ultimately becomes the master of her distorted surroundings.

    -Enes Mrkulic

  5.    steveocarpio said,

    November 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    response to question # 3

    The men and women dont interact the same with each other. Miles in the story is looked as a prince and a little spoiled kid almost, you can say he is even respected by the female presence in the story. Miles in page 85 doesnt want to be compared to that “little girl Floral.” He demands being seen as a man in the women’s eye. He also threaten to tell on the governess when he was having a discussion about school with her. The men have the respect of the women here and they are seen, no matter the age, as the head of the house. Floral in the story is also looked as a child play, almost like a doll. Mrs Grose, like mark says, is also seen as a maid servant type. She doesnt have a voice but i do agree she does care for the kids. She keeps her distance though she doesnt want to be involved for reasons not to intereact with the master in other ways i suppose.

  6.    acervinaro90 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    There are four main women in this story; Mrs.Jessel, Mrs.Grose, the Governess, and Flora. The governess has great respect for Mrs.Grose, but there is a definite difference between these two women. When they receive a letter at home about Miles being expelled the governess begins to read the letter. Mrs.Grose kept asking the governess about the contents of the letter and when the governess gives the letter to Mrs.Grose she looks at the governess and says “something’s are not for me miss.” This means that unlike the governess, Mrs. Grose was not educated. Yes, the governess didn’t have it easy all her life, but you can see the differences in the generations because the governess was able to get educated and Mrs.Grose was not. Mrs.Grose I think might also feel inferior to the governess because she doesn’t really have any say when it comes to the governess. For example when she wanted to tell the governess to contact the uncle about what was going on in Bly. I feel that even though Mrs.Grose is present her voice doesn’t appear to make a great impact. She could not do it herself because even though she played a part in the children’s life she was merely just a servant. As time passed new laws came about which gave women more rights; such as voting and education. Flora can be taken as an example as a generation change because she is getting an education at such a young age which can only mean that rights for women have changed again.
    Alessandra Cervinaro

  7.    khaff88 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Question #1
    The main women in this novel are the Governess, Mrs.Grose, and Flora (even though Flora is only a child). To start off, Mrs. Grose is the oldest by assumption and experience; she knows her way around the house being that she is the housekeeper. Because she was never educated she lacks the ability to read and write, she confides in the Governess and helps her with the children. The Governess we know is in her early twenties and only took this job based on pure infatuation for the Bachelor. Being that she is well educated women readers would hope that the governess would use her education to better herself and not take a job just to get the guy. But, that is not the case. Flora is the youngest and from what we know from her is that she is being educated at a very early age, she shows that she is intelligent and she also described as very beautiful. I feel out of the three that Flora has the better chances for more possibilities in her life. Being of a younger generation there is room for growth and she can learn from generations before her. If she is already being educated now, by the time she is in her teens there is hope that she will not feel the need to throw away her education for a man, like what the Governess did. Mrs. Grose has the least room for possibility because of her lack of education, in that generation it may have not been necessary for her to need to learn how to read and write; but now we can see by reading and comparing her to the Governess and Flora, it is something she should have learned.

  8.    awilliams108 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Question #1
    The highlighted women in the novel were the Governess, Mrs.Grose, and Flora ( who is a child/and mile little sister). Mrs. Grose is the main character for most of the governess information, the governess does not take her words at face value not even ask Mrs. Grose opinions or questions. The Governess is a young women who adores Miles and Flora, she is very cautious of her actions. She is a well smart and intelligent women, and sometimes comes off as bit a boastful women because she think she is smarter then every one else. Flora was just as sweet as she was in apperance, very graceful and peaceful little girl . She was two years younger than her brother, and when flora meet the governess for the first time she knew they would click, where as the governess look at that so adorable instead of miles.

  9.    terrylghong said,

    November 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Question 1

    The women in the text are Miss Jessel, Mrs. Grose, the Governess, and Flora. Here I will focus on Mrs. Grose and the Governess. Yes, at that time women could have access different power in different generations. A good example is the governess can read but Mrs. Grose can’t. In the novel, Mrs. Grose was not able to read the letter from Miles headmaster and found out he was expelled from school. She was very sad and couldn’t believe this fact. I think the outcome will be different if she can read and write. Instead of cry out loud of what happen to Miles, she could just write back to the headmaster and explained Miles was well behave kid (which was true according to the lately observation by the Governess) and there must be some misunderstanding between them. She could persuade the headmaster to reconsider his decision. In other word, a person can read and write had the power or better possibility to change the result of what was happen here.

  10.    marissae17 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Response to question 3:

    The women do not interact with each other the same way that they interact with the men. One relationship that is making a big point of this is the relationship between the governess and Miles. Although the governess is supposed to be acting as a guardian figure and is much old then Miles, he talks to her with a slight ‘I’m better than you’ attitude. An example of this is when Miles got kicked out of school and the governess and Mrs. Grose didn’t do a thing about it and just assumed that it was a mistake. There were no consequences for Miles actions. Another scene is when the governess finds Miles standing in the middle of the field late at night when he is supposed to be in bed, and when he comes inside he doesn’t get in trouble and they act like nothing ever happened. This relationship is different from the governesses and Flora’s because the governess looks at Flora as this little innocent child and think of her as this baby girl.

  11.    GordonWTam said,

    November 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Question #1
    The female gender in this story is represented by the governess, Flora, Mrs. Grose, and of course, Miss Jessel. Dividing them by generation, it’d be Flora in the youngest, Ms. Jessel and the governess in the next, and Mrs. Grose in the older category. In terms of access to power, all three generations are similar in the fact it seems what you are born into gives you particular access to power. In other words, no matter what generation, at this point in human culture women have a vastly small amount of control over their own destiny. Flora appears to be born into wealth, so she gets everything, such as proper schooling, a governess, that kind of thing. The governess is probably middle class so she knows how to read and can get a job as a governess and Mrs. Grose is sadly on the lowest rung. In terms of feminism, it seems being young and beautiful at the very least can land you a job much like the governess.

  12.    emina said,

    November 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    The two main woman in the text are the Governess and Mrs. Grose. These two women are from different generations and the reader can tell while reading that the governess is more dominant. They do not have the same possibilities because they were not given the same opportunities in life. For example there is a passage in the book when Miles gets suspended from school and Mrs. Grose can not read what the letter says because she does not know how to read. But fortunately the Governess was there and she read the letter to Mrs. Grose, and this specific example shows how the Governess is dominant. Even though Mrs. Grose watches and takes care of Miles she is limited to what he can teach him while the Governess isn’t. The possibilities for the woman in the text all change according to what generation they are from. Mrs. Grose is an older woman so thats why she was never even taught to read while the Governess is younger, and had the opportunity to get an education.

  13.    nadiab said,

    November 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Response to question 3:

    The interaction between both the governess and Mrs. Grose are friendly. Mrs. Grose listened attentively to the governess thorough out the text. Mrs. Grose also followed the instructions of the governess. Some of the dialogue in the text indicated the governess’s frustration in conversing to Mrs. Grose. The governess felt that Mrs. Grose wasn’t fully grasping what she was communicating. It seemed that the governess insisted upon Mrs. Grose to follow her plans. Regardless how strange the governess’s ideas were, Mrs. Grose listened. The governess kept firm to her comments and would not back down when Mrs. Grose insisted upon something different. Thus, the governess was able to fully express her ideas in the home. Since the employer wasn’t present at the home, the governess could speak what she felt like to Mrs. Grose. Not even Mrs. Grose could sway her mind. However, the governess’s interaction with Miles was different. She spoke quiet differently to Miles. When they conversed, she spoke in a tone that is appropriate for the young boy. In some of the dialogue between the two, Miles speaks in a manner that resembled a grown man. Though the governess had such strong convictions about Miles stealing the letter, she maintained a sense of composure when talking to him. It seemed as though it were two adults communicating with one another in this scene.

  14.    jruiz104 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Jose Ruiz
    English 170W
    Response to Question 1
    In the book Turn of the Screw the Governess, Mrs. Grove, Flora, and Miss Jessel are four female main characters throughout the story. The Governess and Mrs. Grove are two women from different generation that one obtains power by controlling the illiterate. The Governess and Mrs. Grove remind me that in society we are brainwash according to the demand for power. It can be in school, military, and through media that what we see, hear and learn, we become custom to a habit. The governess comes from a poor family and got herself educated meaning she is higher up in a hierarchy. On the other hand Mrs. Grove is illiterate and provides the governess with loyal support. In the scene by the lake the governess wanted to prove to Mrs. Grove that there is a ghost named Miss Jessel. However, Mrs. Grove doesn’t see a ghost and her conscious tell her that the governess is crazy. At this point, I thought that the governess is frustrated that she losing control over Mrs. Grove. Furthermore, at the scene when the governess coerces Mrs. Grove to take Flora to their uncle house. Why did Mrs. Grove listen when she already encounter the governess losing her mind? It’s because Mrs. Grove is at the bottom of the hierarchy just like pawn on a chess board. Mrs. Grove is repeating the same habit even though her conscious tell her something is strange. It doesn’t matter if your old/young illiterate/educated no one is above anyone status.

  15.    brianfinnerty91 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Response to Kathleen’s Post: I really liked Kathleens’ post on how feminism was shown in “The Turn of the Screw”. From Kathleens’ post we see that the four main females in the short story are the governess, Mrs. Grose, Flora and Miss Jessel. I like how Kathleen described each character in no more than one sentence each. Kathleen describes each character based on their social status and she tells us how important each character is to the story. In her post Kathleen answers question number twelve in which she relates the governess to dealing with desires and aggressions. In the short story the governess she has feelings for the employer who gave her a job. During the story she lets out her aggressions on the children and the ghosts, who were Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. Throughout the entire story we as readers see the downward spiral the governess go through. By the end of the story we can clearly see that the governess has lost her mind.
    -Brian Finnerty

  16.    seng101 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Question 10

    I believe that the characters are given to their identities as intrinsic and unquestioned realities. The governess is offered the opportunity to become the “motherly” figure of the household for Miles and Flora. She protects them from the dangers of the school master and even the ghost. The ghost of Peter Quinn is given an identity. Mrs. Grose even asks the Governess if she had seen the ghost of Peter Quinn to be a gentleman. People at the time were expected to be in their place. Peter Quinn was expected to be wearing a hat to show his status as being a gentleman, and because he didn’t wear a hat he was presumed to be some dangerous stranger. The same goes for any of the children of the house. They were expected to be the most obedient and well mannered kids in the town. It was only until otherwise informed by the school master that Miles was a misfit at school. The governess she tries to affirm herself that Miles was good and goes about trying to make him the model little boy of the town.

  17.    Terry said,

    November 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Question #3

    The main characters representing the female gender in the Turn of the Screw are the Governess, Mrs. Grose, and Flora. The three of them represent three separate generations of women. Mrs. Grose is the eldest, the Governess is a young woman, and Flora is just a little girl. Mrs. Gross is the housekeeper and is at least somewhat knowledgeable despite never being educated. She was not given much opportunity to make much of herself. The Governess is more or less the nanny of the children. The Governess is educated, which opens up more doors for her but she ultimately decides to take this nanny job because she is obsessed with the Bachelor. Flora being the youngest seems like she has the best chance at a successful life. She has time to grow and is being schooled from a young age. Also, she has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the women who precede her. As the generations pass, more and more opportunities are being opened up to these female characters. Showing us that Henry James might have saw a problem with the gender roles of the time and wanted things to change.

    Jesse Goirn

  18.    victoriane said,

    November 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    The main female characters in the story are; The governess, Mrs. Grose, Miss Jessel and Flora . The governess is in charge of the home although she is only in her 20’s. Mrs. Grose is the oldest of the women and the wisest she is the maid of the house and must tend to the governess. Miss Jessel was once the governess of Bly but is thought to have committed suicide because of her affair with Peter Quint. Flora is the youngest of the woman and is portrayed as a gentle, and sweet almost doll like. Mrs. Grose and the governess have a different power/possibilities. Mrs. Grose being the maid must obey the governess but she tries not to get involve and doesn’t want to believe the governess when she says the children see ghost. She is unable to do much for the children nor herself because she is only a maid.

  19.    joshuak314 said,

    November 2, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Question 1:

    The female characters in the text are the governess, Ms Jessel, Mrs Grose and Flora. The governess is the well-educated caretaker of Flora and Mile. She seems to belong to the middle class. Mrs Grose is the illiterate servant of the Bly estate and therefore in the lower part of the social class. Ms Jessel was probably most similar to the governess in social standing and education level. Flora is the youngest and the richest. Age wise, with Flora being the youngest, next would come Ms Jessel and the governess being of similar age, and Mrs Grose being the oldest. If we went by this, it would seem that as time passed, women gained a higher status in society due to greater opportunities and therefore earned more money as well. If we could come to the conclusion that these women were the “average/normal” woman of their time, we could see how greater possibilities opened up for women as time went by. But it was not because of greater possibilities that Flora was born into a rich family. It was fate. The governess would be a better example. It was probably self-motivation and the possibility for women to get an education that allowed her to receive the education she did and get the position she did. The same goes for Ms Jessel. We can’t make any indisputable statements for Mrs Grose without making an assumption. If we made the assumption that Mrs Grose was the average woman of her time, we could come to the conclusion that women had less rights and opportunities in her days. But we’re not given enough evidence from the text to make that assumption. With only the text for reference, we can not say if different generations of women had access to the same kinds of power and/or possibilities

  20.    emendoza said,

    November 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    re: question 3

    the interactions between women and men in this novel vary greatly between each character. generally speaking though, the women in the story seem to always be repressed or their opinions and words come second to that of the men. take Miles for example, although he is supposed to respect the Governess as his caretaker, he deliberately disobeys and plots schemes to make her job difficult. furthermore, he assumes superiority over Flora, such as when he planned for Flora to distract the Governess while he sneaks outside. Flora seems to always be spoken for, she never really has a voice of her own until she’s pushed into a corner. the Governess places words in her mouth constantly, and it isnt until Flora is confronted at the lake with Mrs.Grose does she finally speak her mind (and tells the Governess off). the interaction between mrs grose and the governess is an odd one, it seems to me like there’s an undercover battle for power/leadership between them. yes the Governess takes control of the situation, it can appear that Mrs Grose seems to be waiting for her chance to take over, which she finally does when she takes Flora away from the dangers of the Governess

  21.    Dominique said,

    November 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Hm, so, to reiterate in slightly different terms a question we touched upon last week: do we ultimately respect the governess by the end of the novella as a vigilant, more conscious character than the others who has to deal with Miles’ unfortunate death or is our lasting impression one of a woman who is unstable/obsessive/unreliable? What do you all think?

    (*Extra credit for those who respond*)

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