Turn of the Screw Paper
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Turn of the Screw Paper
Allie EiselenThe Turn of the Screw Paper
"...and according to the physicians who examined me, my little heart had stopped beating for just a moment; but to me it felt like an eternity. When I came to later that evening, I was lying in the large unused guest room upstairs and Uncle Douglas was sitting anxiously at the foot of the bed." Miles took a deep breath, as if smelling the mustiness of the dusty down blanket that had covered his little body, and reclined himself further in the oversized couch.
Although Miles had sought help muddling through his memories of Bly before, the previous doctors had been unable to give him peace of mind. It had been the viewpoints of an American doctor, who insisted that Miles' fears were the result of a heart arrhythmia, which finally turned the young man toward a contemporary practice back in Europe. Today's session was the third visit that Miles had made to the home office of Dr. Sigmund Freud at Berggasse 19 in Vienna's ninth district. After ten years of trying to keep his chin up and suppress the memories of his harrowing childhood, Miles finally felt that he was in capable hands and could speak candidly to Dr. Freud about the events that had been haunting his dreams.
The doctor turned to a fresh page in his note pad, cleared his throat, and asked, "So Miles, what happened next? You said he was anxious?"
"Well, I remember Uncle Douglas had traveled all the way from his house on Harley Street to Essex. He hardly ever made the trip to the countryside. Actually, Flora and I had seen him only on a handful of occasions prior to the incident, and we rarely communicated during those years, not even through the post. I'm not even certain that he knew I was expelled from school, let alone why..." Miles' eyes wandered, unseeing, around the and richly cluttered room, searching for words to describe the feelings and impressions that he had kept deep inside of himself for so long.
The doctor interjected, "Do not think too much. Just tell me what comes to mind."
"I've never held him responsible...Uncle Douglas was a gentleman...he had no way of really knowing how things were at Bly...I...I don't know...it has occurred to me that perhaps he didn't want to know". Miles had promised himself long ago that the words that were next to leave his lips would not be shared with Flora, "He was a carefree bachelor who did not want to be bothered with his brother's death or his brother's children at all! Uncle Douglas did not want to know what happened to me or Flora, at Bly, or at school, or with the staff, or with my classmates or with the Governess! And there I was. Lying right in front of him should have been the realization that he had let it all happen! The whole bloody mess of it!"
And there it really was. A proverbial weight was lifted from Miles' shoulders; and in a mix of anger and relief and disappointment and pain, he looked to the doctor for some sort of approval, or disgust, or support—any reaction at all would do. Freud peered up through his gold framed eyeglasses and gave but a measured nod to the young man on the couch. This was the cathartic release that Freud had anticipated.
After only three hypnotic sessions in analysis, his patient's free floating anxiety had been anchored to an internal moral conflict between the feelings of obligation and respect to his guardian and the detest of his isolation from their childhood. The doctor was eager to probe further into his patient's subconscious mind, to expose the depths of what he believed to be Miles' moral anxiety and outrage, and to allow Miles to put his previously latent feelings into words. Testing a hypothesis as to exactly how far into his unconscious Miles had repressed the epiphenomena of that fateful day, Freud asked a question he already knew the answer to:
"And then what happened to the Governess?"
"I don't know" whispered the small boy in Freud's twenty-year-old patient.
Freud and his colleague Joseph Breuer had been primarily interested in the study of hysterical women when they met Miss Lucy R. over nine years ago at le Becetre hospital in Paris. Having succumbed to hysterical conversion while employed as the governess at the infamous Essex estate, an English gentleman had referred Miss Lucy R. to Freud and Breuer for analysis. Through hypnosis, Freud determined that her hysteria was an acquired one, which she developed following traumatic sexual events in her early childhood. Familiar with Case Study 3, Freud knew that upon his arrival at Bly, Douglas had feared for the safety of her young pupils. Freud also knew that young Miles had witnessed Miss Lucy R. being forcibly removed from Bly.
"Take your time Miles. Think back and try to remember things as they seemed to you back then, not as you have rescripted them in the years since. Take your time...think...how did Uncle Douglas handle the situation?"
Miles responded as if by rote to the doctor's prompting: "Upon committing the Governess to the asylum, dear Uncle Douglass informed the woman's parents of the tragic events that transpired." This confirmed for the doctor that indeed, Miles did know exactly what happened.
Miles continued, "The Pastor and his wife were lovely people, just as she had described them to us in her stories. But oh, how I pestered them to let me know who it was that I was supposed to have seen that evening..." Before Miles could trail off or stop recollecting the pieces of history altogether, Dr. Freud firmly interjected:
"No, Miles, think back, who was she, Miles? Who was the woman you were supposed to have seen the night your heart stopped? Who... was... she? "
" Miss Jessel was the name of our governess' childhood nanny." Miles paused for a moment and thought about what he had just said. It was as if he had just painstakingly dug up an unmarked grave and had laboriously dragged off the lid only to discover that he had known who the occupant had been all along. He should know, he thought, after all, it was he who had buried her so deeply.
Freud had used hypnotism to analyze dozens of patients conflicted with anxiety. His experience told him that Miles was growing apprehensive about his reminiscence. Interested in keeping his patient talking, the doctor nonetheless thought it best to back off for the moment. Miles had made an enormous amount of progress in three sessions, but Freud was concerned that unearthing too many of these suppressed memories at once might trigger a latent and perhaps, a more complicated psychosis. Lighting a fresh cigar, the psychoanalyst reflected back to when Miss Lucy R. acknowledged having been tormented while under the tutelage of Miss Jessel. Still undecided for the moment as how to proceed, the doctor was surprised that the patient himself decided to continue.
Miles interlocked his fingers, rested his hands behind his head, gazed again at the ceiling, and said, "The Governess did tell Flora and I many stories about her childhood, her family, her father, the parson, her sisters, her home in the country ...but I don't recall her telling us anything about Miss Jessel at all. Flora played nice with the Governess. Yes, Flora played nice with the Governess and laughed at her stories. Well, she laughed until the Governess started playing with Mrs. Grose anyway. The way in which the Governess played with Mrs. Grose was not how Flora wanted to play though...
Actually, I don't think Mrs. Grose wanted to play with the Governess for long, as she left us after church one Sunday. You know, that was the Sunday I told the Governess I wanted to leave Bly because I was a man and I was ready to be properly educated. It was time to make my way in the world. I had learned all there was to learn from...well anyway; the governess had nothing left to teach me that I didn't already know and it was time for me to go. Maybe the Governess was upset with me for wanting to leave her. It is possible she thought I would be indiscreet about...things. Perhaps the thought of me going away was why she held me so close to her later on...Oh, Flora really was a good girl then. I was the naughty one..."
"Miles, tell me about Peter Quint..."
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