Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some thoughts

Hi everyone,

I was just thinking about what we were talking about in class about The Turn of the Screw and what it would take to consider a child not just bad, but evil. I personally think that a child's actions can be considered evil when they start interfering with someone else's well being.

To use some examples that we were discussing I think the Natalia's brother stealing cool whip by flattering his mother can't be considered because his actions haven't harmed anyone (except maybe his own health but regardless). The children in the novel, especially Miles, is manipulating the author in a malicious manner and coupled with the ghosts she is seeing the governess' mental well being begins to erode. So I don't consider Natalia's brother to be particularly evil but Miles and Flora's actions seem evil too me.

The most prominent and well established point in the novel when the children plan something to harm the governess is when Miles goes outside at midnight. She says "The presence on the lawn--I felt sick as I made it out--was poor little Miles himself." Later that night as she talks to Miles he admits that he planned the whole thing with Flora and its sole purpose was to shatter the governess' happy illusion that the children she was watching were infallible.

I also was wondering why Mrs. Grose seems to readily accept that the governess is seeing not just one but two ghosts. She also not only accepts that the governess is seeing them but with no proof or evidence accepts the governess' word that the children also are not only seeing the ghosts but are interacting with them. I was just a little confused as to why Mrs. Grose seems to blindly follow the governess and believes whatever she says. At first I was thinking it was the show that through the governess the children indirectly are able to not only control the governess but the whole of Bly.



  1. I completely agree with you when you say that "a child's actions can be considered evil when they start interfering with someone else's well being." I also think that if a child's actions, or anyone's actions for that matter it doesn't even have to be a child, is interferring in someone's life negatively and those actions were done with malicios intent, then, for me, that would constitute as being evil. there has only been a handfull of instances in my life when i thought that a child's actions could be considered evil. once, my niece and her playmate come to visit me at my house. my niece had told her playmate not to bring her favorite pet snake over because I didn't like snakes. well the little girl brought it anyway and when she arrived at my house i suppose she thought it would be funny if she let it loose in my room and hid behind the door in the next room. i get in my room only to find it coiled up on my rug and my first reaction was of course to scream and run out of my room. the little girl, who had been giggling since i entered my room, then ran into my room and grabbed the snake and just as she was leaving, she said "wow! you really are afraid of snakes!" the point that i was trying to get at with my story was that contrary to what natalia's little brother did, this little girl did what she did because she knew that she would get some sort of negative spark out of me, which i turn led me to the conclusion that that little girl's actions were truly evil.

    I also wanted to point out the distinction between being bad and being evil, at least the way i see it. i see bad as being relative. what i perceive as something "bad" and what someone else perceives as "bad" may be completely different.but when it comes to "evil" i see it as a standard of causing, to some degree of intensity, physical or mental pain and discomfort.

    I also was wondering about why Mrs. Grose kept going along with whatever the governess said. It is a little odd that she would do that. I thought maybe she did that because of how Mrs, Grose is the housekeeper and the woman is the governess and maybe Mrs. Grose thinks that it would be out of "her place" to go against what the governess says. Just an idea. =]

  2. I also agree with Keefe when he says that children are evil when they are committed to interfering with the well being of others. A child can't really be evil when they are simply pouting or stealing cool whip.

    Also, to address the idea of evil versus bad, I think that evil already has a somewhat set standard whereas bad takes on many interpretations. What constitutes bad may vary due to, say, values or morals. One person could think stealing cool whip violates one of the crucial ten commandments and another could think it's harmless! Evil carries a higher intensity to it, and I think many similarly agree to what constitutes evil because of the larger degree.

    About Mrs. Grose going along with everything, she probably does it because the governess is the one in charge. It is kind of weird that she still follows what the governess says even after the whole incident where the governess saw the ghost but Grose didn't.

  3. I think we agree on the fact that when a child, or any person for that matter, acts in a way that is harmful to others, he/she can be considered evil. There are some circumstances to be considered though.

    First, children readily believe what they are told, especially if it came from adults. They are still too young to know right from wrong. With this in mind, some children seem to act evil because it might have been how their superiors acted or no one told them that what they're doing is wrong. Second, sometimes actions harm others because they were performed out of self-preservation. It's not evil to kill someone out of self-defense.

    So we have to analyze the two children's actions from their perspective. How much of an influence did Miss Jessel and Quint have on the children's behaviors? Did the children feel threatened by the governess? (she could have left out some details from the manuscript). Determining whether someone's actions can be considered evil depends on many factors. Good and evil are vague concepts and have to be carefully analyzed.

    Mrs. Grose's actions speak to her character. She is a servant, so she is naturally inclined to agree with her master. I think James intended for Mrs. Grose to be a static character as a sort of a mediator between the governess and the children.

  4. I think an important thing to consider is the definition of "evil". According to Google, evil is defined as "morally objectionable behavior". In that case, Natalia's brother is certainly evil, because lying is morally objectionable. Additionally, Miles and Flora, were they indeed "torturing" the governess, would certainly be considered evil. If it were only the view of the governess that they are doing wrong, then they may not actually be evil.

  5. I feel like there is quite an important distinction between being "bad" and being "evil." There are of course some similarities as well. One similarity is that both types of people usually involve the person knowing what he/she is doing. In the case of Natalia's brother, he had a clear intention of acquiring the cool whip. When I think of someone being "evil" I think that he/she has the intention of hurting another being (either directly or indirectly) with the knowledge of such an effect. An important difference, in my opinion, is that people who are "bad" do not have a clear understanding of whom they are hurting nor do they have the direct intention to hurt them. I feel like "evil" people find a specific need to hurt but "bad" people may hurt people in the process unintentionally as they fulfill their own motivations. (Like in the cool whip example, it can be inferred that Natalia's brother did not intend to hurt anyone.) Anyone agree/disagree? Any additional clear differences/similarities?

  6. I believe that children do have the tendancy to become evil over time, but they are not born evil. They become evil through experiences that they have encountered throughout their lives. I agree with the statement that children are not evil untill they begin hurting others well beings. In order for them to start hurting others they have usually been hurt themselves in the first place by other people. I think that children start off with a clean slate and begin getting values from their parents as young children. Then as they are exposed to real life more their personalities change from what or who they encounter.


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