The Governess Wears Pink

The governess in Henry James’ Turn of the Screw is a character  I am not too fond of. I think that she definitely over-steps her boundaries as a professional by being touchy with the children. She embraces them tightly, kisses them, and even has these spasms in which she hurts them (the incident with Flora). Her concerns are far beyond the classroom. She is constantly thinking the children are angels, but then fears that they are being mischievous. This back and forth between perspectives make her all the more confusing. The governess wants to constantly protect them and voice that she is doing everything for the good of Flora and Miles, yet is not even capable of doing so because she is caught up in her own mind.

I think that the governess is trying to take on a motherly role to the children, rather than being their teacher. Since she is concerned about how she is perceived by her employer, their uncle, she finds it her duty to care for them like her own. The governess doesn’t want to be seen as lonesome or uncaring, so she pushes herself onto the children, smothering them. She forgets that she has the authority to correct the children as well. The governess doesn’t seem to be a good disciplinary figure. I remember my teachers being strict and making sure I knew how to do my assignments correctly. They weren’t mean, but they definitely weren’t soft. The governess doesn’t have that trait. She lacks in showing the children wrong from right, and instead lets their mischievous acts go. That would definitely not fly well with my teachers!

Even if I don’t think the governess is completely evil, she does have some darkness in her. When I think of an mean, dangerous, and evil teacher Dolores Umbridge comes to mind. She is crazy! I can see her and the governess share the trait of paranoia. Umbridge wants things her way because she feels like Hogwarts is not the place it should be. Her strict ways are smothering and definitely wrong. Umbridge, like the governess snaps and underestimates the endurance of her students.


4 thoughts on “The Governess Wears Pink

  1. Hey Clarissa,

    I can totally see the governess being very similar to Umbridge and I really do love that connection, especially when keeping in mind her paranoia. I think that may be what has to do a lot with her relations to the children, and perhaps it’s these crazy feelings she has for the uncle that may be making her twisted. She seems to be this really complex character, and I wonder if she happened to not be infatuated with the uncle, would she have been more resilient to the attacks from the children and the ghosts?

    – Ash


  2. I agree with you that she definitely oversteps boundaries by being touchy with the children. Her concerns are far beyond what she are told to and she is the one put the children in danger I believe.
    Perfect connection with Dolores Umbridge. She is on my evil teachers list and What she did to Herry really hurt this fans also. Good point with “evil now available in pink”, because the governess is also a beautiful woman and give us a good impression at first. Darkness is always there no matter what covers it.


  3. Hey Clarissa!
    I was totally thinking of Harry Potter references, but my mind immediately went to Snape- how the heck did I forget the evil Dolores Umbridge! What a perfect example. I like how you really talk about the role of a teacher as someone who has the ability to do good for the children and correct them if she thinks there is seriously something wrong going on in their lives. Its almost as if she is acting as a child herself, losing her clear sense of authority for some weird obsessive paranoia. It actually does make me wonder who has more control in this story, the children or the governess?


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