The Turn of the Screw is a novel by Henry James which was serialized in 1898. It consists of twenty-four chapters that follow an introductory section. Sitting around a fire on Christmas Eve, a group of friends are gathered and are listening to ghost stories. It is then that one of the members begins the narration of a ghost story that is told in first-person from his point of view.
The governess is the narrator and also the central character for much of the novel. Her name is never revealed, the only information given about her is that she left home, was twenty years old, and was the youngest daughter of a poor clergyman. Upon her arrival in London, a young man who she later fell in love with interviewed her for the position of a governess. He never loves him back and the result of her mental status due to said unrequited love is left up to the reader.
She basically begins to reveal herself as having an intense internal conflict. She may be mad, sexually repressed, and delusional. This makes her imagine ghosts and evil which are only the consequences of her internal conflict. Or, the governess could have an external conflict which would be herself vs. man; in this case, man would be Peter Quint and Miss Jessel - the ghosts she encounters. The appearances of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are only seen by the governess. According to the governess, the children are maintaining communication with their previous caregivers even though they are dead.
Eventually, all of the characters are affected by the “imagination” of the governess. It is still questionable to the reader if the ghosts really do appear, but it is evident that the other characters do not see them. The governess interprets any behavior from the children as being evil, even though the behaviors are “normal” for children between these ages. Miles, the 10 year old boy, dies when his heart stops (as a result of seeing a ghost?) and Flora is taken away to her uncle's.