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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James book review

At the governess' suggestion, Mrs. Grose takes Flora away to her uncle, leaving the governess with Miles, who that night at last talks to her about his expulsion; the ghost of Quint appears to the governess at the window. The governess shields Miles, who attempts to see the ghost. The governess tells Miles he is no longer controlled by the ghost and then finds that Miles has died in her arms, and the ghost has gone. Throughout his career James was attracted to the ghost story. However, he was not fond of literature's stereotypical ghosts. He preferred to create ghosts that were eerie extensions of everyday reality, "the strange and sinister embroidered on the very type of the normal and easy", as he put it in the New York Edition preface to his final ghost story, " The Jolly Corner ".

With The Turn of the Screw , many critics have wondered if the "strange and sinister" were only in the governess's mind and not part of reality. The result has been a longstanding critical dispute about the reality of the ghosts and the sanity of the governess. Beyond the dispute, critics have closely examined James's narrative technique for the story. The framing introduction and subsequent first-person narrative by the governess have been studied by theorists of fiction interested in the power of fictional narratives to convince or even manipulate readers.

The imagery of The Turn of the Screw is reminiscent of gothic fiction. The emphasis on old and mysterious buildings throughout the novella reinforces this motif. James also relates the amount of light present in various scenes to the strength of the supernatural or ghostly forces apparently at work.

The Turn of the Screw

The governess refers directly to The Mysteries of Udolpho and indirectly to Jane Eyre , evoking a comparison of the governess not only to the character of Jane Eyre , but also to the character of Bertha, the madwoman confined in Thornfield. Oliver Elton wrote in that "There is Then John Silver [4] pointed out hints in the story that the governess might have gained previous knowledge of Quint's appearance in non-supernatural ways. This induced Wilson to return to his original opinion that the governess was delusional and that the ghosts existed only in her imagination.

William Veeder sees Miles's eventual death as induced by the governess.

The Turn of the Screw

In a complex psychoanalytic reading, Veeder concludes that the governess expressed her repressed rage toward her father and toward the master of Bly on Miles. Other critics, however, have strongly defended the governess. They note that James's letters, his New York Edition preface, and his Notebooks contain no definite evidence that The Turn of the Screw was intended as anything other than a straightforward ghost story, and James certainly wrote ghost stories that did not depend on the narrator's imagination.

For example, " Owen Wingrave " includes a ghost that causes its title character's sudden death, although no one actually sees it. James's Notebooks entry indicates that he was inspired originally by a tale he heard from Edward White Benson , the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are indications that the story James was told was about an incident in Hinton Ampner , where in a woman named Mary Ricketts moved from her home after seeing the apparitions of a man and a woman, day and night, staring through the windows, bending over the beds, and making her feel her children were in danger.

In a commentary in The New Yorker , Brad Leithauser has given his own perspective on the different interpretations of James' novella:. All such attempts to 'solve' the book, however admiringly tendered, unwittingly work toward its diminution[; its] profoundest pleasure lies in the beautifully fussed over way in which James refuses to come down on either side According to Leithauser, the reader is meant to entertain both the proposition that the governess is mad and the proposition that the ghosts really do exist, and consider the dreadful implications of each.

Poet and literary critic Craig Raine , in his essay "Sex in nineteenth-century literature", states quite categorically his belief that Victorian readers would have identified the two ghosts as child molesters. The Turn of the Screw was first published in the magazine Collier's Weekly , serialised in 12 instalments 27 January — 16 April The title illustration by John La Farge depicts the governess with her arm around Miles.

Episode illustrations were by Eric Pape.

Among many other revisions, James changed the children's ages. The Turn of the Screw has been the subject of a range of adaptations and reworkings in a variety of media, and these reworkings and adaptations have, themselves, been analysed in the academic literature on Henry James and neo-Victorian culture.

source url There have been numerous film adaptations of the novel. The Turn of the Screw has also influenced television. In the story, the ghosts of Quentin Collins and Beth Chavez haunted the west wing of Collinwood, possessing the two children living in the mansion. The story led to a year-long story in the year , as Barnabas Collins travelled back in time to prevent Quentin's death and stop the possession.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Turn of the Screw disambiguation. Horror gothic fiction ghost story. Among the various adaptations and reworkings of James's novella are The Turn of the Screw , a opera by Benjamin Britten left, and The Nightcomers , a prequel film directed by Michael Winner right, photographed and starring Marlon Brando. Discourses of Desire. See this book for an argument that Bronte was actually the source of the tale, through Mary Sedgwick Benson. American Literature.

Gothic Studies. The Daily Telegraph. The New Yorker. In Defence of T. Complete Stories, — New York: Library of America. Beidler, Peter G. Coffeehouse Press. Neo-Victorian Studies. Mosaic Winnipeg. Financial Times. Retrieved January 5, They both died under extraordinary circumstances. The governess starts to believe that the two are connected to each other. She thinks that through some evil means they are using the children to continue their relationship and have evil intentions.

Having discovered the history of the couple she decides to be vigilant lest the children come to harm. One Sunday afternoon, the ghost of Peter Quint reappears to the governess, and this time she has the feeling that he is looking for someone.

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Sitting in the dining room she glimpses the figure outside the window. She sees the mysterious man again:. She realizes he is the same person who appeared earlier on the tower. She describes him to Mrs. Grose, saying, "He gives me a sort of sense of looking like an actor". Then she declares that she hasn't seen an actor before in her life.

She says he had no hat on, had curly red hair and queer red whiskers, and his face was pale with arched eyebrows. Finally, he had a big, thin-lipped mouth. The description could hardly be more detailed, enabling Mrs. Grose to identify him as Quint. Now first, she saw him at night and second he was up on the tower miles away. Then how can she be so sure?


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She only saw him twice and on both occasions not for very long. It could be, then, another figment of her imagination. Grose asks the governess whether he was "nobody from the village? I didn't tell you, but I made sure. Happy days pass with the governess taking care of the children. She is relieved to see that no harm has come to them.

Yet their happiness is doomed to come to an end. One night, by candle-light, she sits to read Henry Fielding's Amelia. The use of Fielding's novel is symbolic, foreshadowing of the governess's neurotic mind, who like the heroine suffers a spiritual calamity. The governess finds herself on similar grounds to the heroine, who, likewise, is a protector of two children. The heroine awaits her imprisoned husband, and the governess waits for her master too.

The governess starts to feel drowsy and as she is about to put down her book she has a strange feeling that something is astir in the house. She immediately takes her candle and goes down towards "the tall window that presided over the great turn of the staircase".

Henry James The Turn of the Screw

To her surprise she sees the ghost of Quint who according to her "was absolutely. She is able to identify this evil presence as "we face each other in our common intensity. At last the figure turns its "villainous back" and disappears into the dark. The governess believes that if she gathers her strength she can stand up to Quint. The appearance of the apparitions was because she believed in them and now she is full of "a fierce rigour of confidence".

She is without fear and this will make him leave "for the time, at least. Chapter 24, the last chapter of the novella, shows the last encounter between the governess and Peter Quint. Grose takes Flora to her uncle's house; meanwhile the governess and Miles stay in the house alone. They sit to have a meal which is dominated by silence, the maid cleaning the dishes being the only sound heard.

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