The Turn of the Screw: Novel Summary: Chapter 15 – 16

Chapter 15
Shaken by her conversation with Miles, the governess does not go into the church. Instead, she goes back to the house. She is about to pack up and leave Bly altogether, but she sees Miss Jessel in the schoolroom with her head in her hands. The ghost rises and stands within a dozen feet of the governess. For some reason, the governess feels that it is she, rather than the ghost, who is the intruder. The governess addresses her as “You terrible, miserable woman!” but the ghost vanishes without responding. The governess is left with the feeling that she must remain at the house.
Chapter 16
The governess had expected the children to reproach her for not going into the church with them, but she learns from Mrs. Grose, who did go to church, that this was not the case. The children also asked Mrs. Grose to say nothing about her absence, since they assumed this would please the governess. The governess makes the excuse that she had to go back to meet a friend. Then she confesses to Mrs. Grose that she in fact went back to talk to Miss Jessel, who said she suffered the torments of the damned and wants to get Flora so that the girl will have to share those pains, too.
The governess tells Mrs. Grose that she has decided to write to the master, the boys uncle. He needs to know that Miles was kicked out of school. Mrs. Grose again defends Miles, and says that she will take the blame. She offers to write to the master herself. But after the governess responds with sarcasm, Mrs. Grose, with tears in her eyes, backs down and says the governess should write the letter.
Chapters 15-16, Analysis
At this point, the governess has completely lost her sense of proportion. She is planning to desert her post because Miles asks why he is not in school. She is most upset that she has lost some power over him. His rebellion means he is not in her control, and she voices her fear that “he should probably be able to make use of my fear to gain, for his own purpose, more freedom” (75). Until this point, she has held the power over a male who is of a higher class, and she has immensely enjoyed that power. Now, she is aghast at having lost the upper hand and having to face the fact that Miles is absolutely right.
Her conversation with Mrs. Grose reveals that the governess is desperately trying to retain her power. She lies and tells the governess that she spoke to Miss Jessel. Since she is the storyteller, she has the power to make up the details. She asserts the power of the pen when Mrs. Grose says she will write to the master by reminding Mrs. Grose that she does not know how to write. Because Mrs. Grose is lower class and less educated, the governess can at least control her, and she does.
The governesss agitation about Miles mentioning his school reveals that her concern that all is not right with him began as soon as he was sent away from school. Her conviction without any evidence that he is conversing with ghosts probably stems from her knowing that he did something dreadful at school. If Quint was a bad influence, he probably led to Miles misbehaving at school. It is only a short jump of logic to assume he still has an evil influence over the boy.