Faculty Mentors

Dr. Katie Simon
Dr. Jennifer Flaherty


This paper’s purpose is to offer a new reading of the children in Henry James’s novella The Turn of The Screw (1898). The paper argues that the characters are subjects of Foucault’s panopticon and social control, which results in Flora’s loss of social status and Miles’s death due to their lack of adherence to the social control. I also argue that the social control and the panoptic system integrate themselves into the Bly household and work alongside one another to reinforce the hierarchy. A panoptic system represents a type of surveillance based on Bentham’s architectural design that subject prisoners to a visual field. Social control makes those in a social group conform to expected behavior, and in the novel social control is integrated through a panoptic system. These two systems of control put the children into a unique position given their class expectations and the interactions they had with former servants Mr. Quint and Miss Jessel. These two characters did not enforce the children’s class expectations, allowing them to form meaningful relationships with those considered below them. These relationships taught the children to behave in a way that goes against their class expectations and therefore the social control, which causes the children to be deemed unnecessary to the novel’s society.



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