How ‘Haunting of Bly Manor’ Strays From The Novel – For Better and Worse

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After Netflix dropped The Haunting of Hill House in 2018 to rave reviews, fans were excited to hear a similar project was on the way. The streamer debuted The Haunting of Bly Manor from Hill House EP Mike Flanagan October 9.

Like its predecessor, The Haunting of Bly Manor draws from a gothic novel. In this case, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. While Hill House was created as an almost entirely new story, Bly Manor pulls a lot from its source material. However, the Netflix series still made some key changes – for better and for worse.

Read on to find out how The Haunting of Bly Manor compares to The Turn of the Screw.

(Note: this article contains spoilers for both the series and the novel!)

The Characters

RAHUL KOHLI as OWEN and T'NIA MILLER as HANNAH GROSE in Haunting of Bly Manor
Owen and Hannah Grose (via Netflix)

The Haunting of Bly Manor takes the opportunity to expand upon characters in The Turn of the Screw. In the novel, Owen and Jamie aren’t actually characters. (There’s a single reference to Bly having a cook and a gardner.) Flora and Miles’ parents are only referenced as having died, and their uncle only referenced as having hired the governess (Dani in the series).

Bly Manor also fully invented Viola, the former inhabitants of Bly, and all the people over the years sucked into her spell.

The Relationships

VICTORIA PEDRETTI as DANI and AMELIA EVE as JAMIE in THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR
Dani and Jamie (via Netflix)

Bly Manor vastly expands and improves upon all the relationships within Turn of the Screw. Bly Manor is very much an emotional story. It weaves together multiple tales of love, from the tragic to the sweet. Since the novel doesn’t have Owen or Jamie, it doesn’t have their relationships with Mrs. Grose and Dani. Peter Quint and Miss Jessel’s relationship is touched on, but covered much more in-depth in the Netflix show.

More importantly, in Turn of the Screw, the governess spends the vast majority of her time feeling isolated. Again, there’s no Owen or Jamie. She doesn’t befriend Mrs. Grose. It’s just her and two very strange and slightly ominous children. 

The Horror

Haunting of Bly Manor poster

A good update to the scare factor comes from Bly Manor’s use of the Lady in the Lake. Viola and her story are fully creations of the Netflix series. And the faceless woman stalking up to the manor and killing its inhabitants definitely adds to the horror.

But all of the changes don’t work as well. The changes to the characters’ relationships in Bly Manor give them a much better emotional arc. Unfortunately, it also detracts from the overall horror created by Turn of the Screw. In the book, the governess’ loneliness and isolation directly feeds into the creepy vibe. When ghosts turn up, they torment her alone – and for the majority of the story, no one believes she’s seeing them. The novel cultivates an air of danger, fear, and paranoia that Bly Manor loses.

The Ending

Miles (via Netflix)

Whether you prefer the ending to Bly Manor or the ending to Turn of the Screw really depends on the kind of story you wanted to hear.

As the final episode of Bly Manor cheekily says, “it’s not a ghost story. It’s a love story.” The final episode of the Netflix series shows a flash-forward of Dani and Jamie living happily together. Ultimately, they’re torn apart by Dani’s possession; she drowns herself in the lake to make sure she wouldn’t hurt Jamie. Then we learn it’s Jamie who has been telling their story all along. Flora and Miles have grown up, and don’t remember their terrifying past at Bly.

Meanwhile, the end of the novel is pretty much the exact opposite. Again, in the book the governess never formed close relationships to others during her time at Bly. There’s no gardener romance or blissfully ignorant grown-up kids here. Turn of the Screw culminates in the governess sending Mrs. Grose away from the manor with Flora. (Mrs. Grose is not dead in the book.) Meanwhile, the governess herself tries to shake Miles from the clutches of the ghost. When she tells him he’s free from the ghost’s control, the boy dies in her arms.

So, which did you prefer – the series or the book? Let us know in the comments.

And if you’re a horror fan, check back to THS for Fright-A-Thon, our celebration of all things spooky and scary.

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