SOURCE: “The Ambiguity of Henry James,” in The Question of Henry James: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by F. W. Dupee, Henry Holt and Co., 1945, pp. 160–90.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1934, Wilson presents a psychoanalytical interpretation of The Turn of the Screw in which he regards the ghosts of the story as illusions seen only by the governess.]
A discussion of Henry James's ambiguity may appropriately begin with The Turn of the Screw. This story, which seems to have proved more fascinating to the general reading public than anything else of James's except Daisy Miller, apparently conceals another horror behind the ostensible one. I do not know who first propounded the theory; but Miss Edna Kenton, whose insight into James is profound, has been one of its principal exponents, and the late Charles Demuth did a set of illustrations for the story based on this interpretation.
According to this theory, the young governess who tells the story is a neurotic case of sex repression, and the ghosts are not real ghosts at all but merely the hallucinations of the governess.
Let us go through the story from the beginning. It opens with an introduction. The man who is presenting the governess's manuscript tells us first who she is. She is the youngest daughter of a poor country parson, but “the most agreeable woman I've ever known in her position,” who would have been “worthy of any whatever.” She had come up to London and answered an advertisement and found a man who wanted a governess for his orphaned nephew and niece. “This prospective patron proved a gentleman, a bachelor in the prime of life, such a figure as had never risen, save in a dream or an old novel, before a fluttered, anxious girl out of a Hampshire vicarage.” It is made clear that the young woman has become thoroughly infatuated with her employer. He is charming to her and lets her have the job on condition that she will never bother him about the children; and she goes down to the house in the country where they have been left with a housekeeper and some other servants.
The boy, she finds, has been sent home from school for reasons into which she does not inquire but which she colors, on no evidence at all, with a significance somehow sinister. She learns that the former governess left, and that she has since died, under circumstances which are not explained but which are made in the same way to seem ominous. She is alone with the illiterate housekeeper, a good and simple soul, and the children, who seem innocent and charming. As she wanders about the estate, she thinks often how delightful it would be to come suddenly round the corner and find that the master had arrived: there he would stand, smiling, approving, and handsome.
She is never to meet her employer again, but what she does meet are the apparitions. One day when his face has been vividly in her mind, she comes out in sight of the house and sees the figure of a man on the tower, a figure which is not the master's. Not long afterward, the figure appears again, toward the end of a rainy Sunday. She sees him at closer range and more clearly: he is wearing smart clothes but is not a gentleman. The housekeeper, meeting the governess immediately afterward, behaves as if the governess herself were a ghost: “I wondered why she should be scared.” The governess tells her about the apparition and learns that it answers the description of one of the master's valets who had stayed down there and used to wear his clothes. The valet had been a bad character, who used “to play with the boy … to spoil him”; he had been found dead, having slipped on the ice coming out of a public house: it is impossible to say that he wasn't murdered. The governess believes that he has come back to haunt the children.
Not long afterward, she and the little girl are out on the shore of a lake, the little girl playing, the governess sewing. The latter becomes aware of a third person on the opposite side of the lake. But she looks first at the little girl, who is turning her back in that direction and who, she notes, has “picked up a small flat piece of wood, which happened to have in it a little hole that had evidently suggested to her the idea of sticking in another fragment that might figure as a mast and make the thing a boat. This second morsel, as I watched her, she was very markedly and intently attempting to tighten in its place.” This somehow “sustains” the governess so that she is able to raise her eyes: she sees a woman “in black, pale and dreadful.” She concludes that it is the former governess. The housekeeper tells her that her predecessor, though a lady, had had an affair with the valet. The boy used to go off with the valet and then lie about it afterwards. The governess concludes that the boy must have known about the valet and the woman—the boy and girl have been corrupted by them.
Observe that there is never any real reason for supposing that anybody but the governess sees the ghosts. She believes that the children see them, but there is never any proof that they do. The housekeeper insists that she does not see them; it is apparently the governess who frightens her. The children, too, become hysterical; but this is evidently the governess's doing, too. Observe, also, from the Freudian point of view, the significance of the governess's interest in the little girl's pieces of wood and of the fact that the male apparition first appears on a tower and the female apparition on a lake. There seems here to be only a single circumstance which does not fit into the hypothesis that the ghosts are hallucinations of the governess: the fact that the governess's description of the first ghost at a time when she has never heard of the valet should be identifiable as the valet by the housekeeper. And when we look back, we see that even this has been left open to a double interpretation. The governess has never heard of the valet, but it has been suggested to her in a conversation with the housekeeper that there has been some other male somewhere about who “liked everyone young and pretty,” and the idea of this other person has been ambiguously confused with the master and with the master's possible interest in her, the present governess. And has she not, in her subconscious imagination, taking her cue from this, identified herself with her predecessor and conjured up an image who wears the master's clothes but who (the Freudian “censor” coming into play) looks debased, “like an actor,” she says (would he not have to stop to love her!)? The apparition had “straight, good features” and his appearance is described in detail. When we look back, we find that the master's appearance has never been described at all: we have merely been told that he was “handsome.” It is impossible for us to know how much the ghost resembles the master—certainly the governess would never tell us.
The apparitions now begin to appear at night, and the governess becomes convinced that the children get up to meet them, though they are able to give plausible explanations of their behavior. The housekeeper tells the governess that she ought to report these phenomena to the master, if she is so seriously worried about them. The governess, who has promised not to bother him, is afraid he would think her insane; and she imagines “his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdown of my resignation at being left alone and for the fine machinery I had set in motion to attract his attention to my slighted charms.” The housekeeper threatens to send for the master herself; the governess threatens to leave if she does. After this, for a considerable period, the visions no longer appear.
The children become uneasy: they begin to wonder when their uncle is coming down; they want to write to him—but the governess suppresses their letters. The boy finally asks her frankly when she is going to send him to school, intimates that if he had not been so fond of her he would have written to his uncle long ago about her failure to do so, threatens to write him at once.
This upsets her; she thinks for a moment of leaving, but decides that this would be deserting them. She is apparently now in love with the boy. The ghost of the other governess immediately appears again, looking “dishonored and tragic,” full of “unutterable woe.” The new governess feels now—the morbid half of her split personality is getting the upper hand of the other—that it is she who is intruding upon the spirit instead of the spirit who is intruding upon her: “You terrible miserable woman!” she cries. The apparition disappears. She tells the housekeeper, who looks at her oddly, that the soul of the former governess is damned and wants the little girl to share her damnation. She finally agrees to write to the master, but no sooner has she sat down to the paper than she gets up and goes to the boy's bedroom, where she finds him lying awake. When he demands to go back to school, she embraces him and begs him to tell her why he was sent away; appealing to him with what seems to her desperate tenderness but what must seem queer and disquieting to the child, she insists that all she wants is to save him. There is the sudden gust of wind—it is a windy night outside—the casement rattles, the boy shrieks. She has been kneeling beside the bed: when she gets up, she finds the candle extinguished. “It was I who blew it, dear!” says the boy. For her, it has been the evil spirit disputing her domination. It does not occur to her that the boy may really have blown the candle out in order not to have to tell her with the light on about his disgrace at school. (Here, however, occurs the only detail which is not readily susceptible of double explanation: the governess has felt a “gust of frozen air” and yet sees that the window is “tight.” Are we to suppose she merely fancied that she felt it?)
The next day, the little girl disappears. They find her beside the lake. The young woman now for the first time speaks openly to one of the children about the ghosts. “Where, my pet, is Miss Jessel?” she demands—and immediately answers herself. “She's there, she's there!” she cries, pointing across the lake. The housekeeper looks with a “dazed blink” and asks where she sees anything; the little girl turns upon the governess “an expression of hard, still gravity, an expression absolutely new and unprecedented and that appeared to read and accuse and judge me.” The governess feels her “situation horribly crumble.” The little girl breaks down, becomes feverish, begs to be taken away from the governess; the housekeeper sides with the child, and hints that the governess had better go. But the young woman forces her, instead, to take the little girl away; and she tries to make it impossible, before their departure, for the children to see each other.
She is now left alone with the boy. A strange and dreadful scene ensues. “We continued silent while the maid was with us—as silent, it whimsically occurred to me, as some young couple who, on their wedding-journey, at the inn, feel shy in the presence of the waiter.” When the maid has gone, and she presses him to tell her why he was expelled from school, the boy seems suddenly afraid of her. He finally confesses that he “said things”—to “a few,” to “those he liked.” It all sounds very harmless: there comes to her out of her “very pity the appalling alarm of his being perhaps innocent. It was for the instant confounding and bottomless, for if he were innocent, what then on earth was I?” The valet appears at the window—it is “the white face of damnation.” (But is the governess condemning the spirits to damnation or is she succumbing to damnation herself?) She is aware that the boy does not see it. “No more, no more, no more!” she shrieks to the apparition. “Is she here?” demands the boy in panic. (He has, in spite of the governess's efforts, succeeded in seeing his sister and has heard from her of the incident at the lake.) No, she says, it is not the woman; “But it's at the window—straight before us. It's there!”…“It's he?” then. Whom does he mean by “he”? “‘Peter Quint—you devil!’ His face gave again, round the room, its convulsed supplication. ‘Where?’” “What does he matter now, my own?” she cries. “What will he ever matter? I have you, but he has lost you forever!” Then she shows him that the figure has vanished: “There, there!” she says, pointing toward the window. He looks and gives a cry; she feels that he is dead in her arms. From her point of view, the disappearance of the spirit has proved too terrible a shock for him and “his little heart, dispossessed, has stopped”; but if we study the dialogue from the other point of view, we see that he must have taken her “There, there!” as an answer to his own “Where?” Instead of persuading him that there is nothing to be frightened of, she has, on the contrary, finally convinced him either that he has actually seen or that he is on the point of seeing something. He gives “the cry of a creature hurled over an abyss.” She has literally frightened him to death.
When one has once been given this clue to The Turn of the Screw, one wonders how one could ever have missed it. There is a very good reason, however, in the fact that nowhere does James unequivocally give the thing away: almost everything from beginning to end can be read equally in either of two senses. In the preface to the collected edition, however, as Miss Kenton has pointed out, James does seem to want to put himself on record. He asserts here that The Turn of the Screw is “a fairy-tale pure and simple”—but adds that the apparitions are of the order of those involved in witchcraft cases rather than of those in cases of psychic research. And he goes on to tell of his reply to one of his readers, who had complained that he had not characterized the governess sufficiently. At this criticism, he says, “One's artistic, one's ironic heart shook for the instant almost to breaking”; and he answered: “It was ‘déjà très-joli’… please believe, the general proposition of our young woman's keeping crystalline her record of so many intense anomalies and obscurities—by which I don't of course mean her explanation of them, a different matter. … She has ‘authority,’ which is a good deal to have given her. …” The italics above are mine: these words seem impossible to explain except on the hypothesis of hallucination. And note, too, in the collected edition that James has not included The Turn of the Screw in the volume with his other ghost stories but in a volume of stories of another kind, between The Aspern Papers and The Liar—this last the story of a pathological liar; whose wife protects his lies against the world, acting with very much the same sort of deceptive “authority” as the governess in The Turn of the Screw.
When we look back in the light of these hints, we become convinced that the whole story has been primarily intended as a characterization of the governess: her visions and the way she behaves about them, as soon as we look at them from the obverse side, present a solid and unmistakable picture of the poor country parson's daughter, with her English middle-class class consciousness, her inability to admit to herself her sexual impulses and the relentless English “authority” which enables her to put over on inferiors even purposes which are totally deluded and not at all to the other people's best interests. Add to this the peculiar psychology of governesses, who, by reason of their isolated position between the family and the servants, are likely to become ingrown and morbid. The writer knows of an actual case of a governess who used to frighten the servants by opening doors and smashing mirrors and who tortured the parents by mythical stories of kidnapers. The poltergeist, once a figure of demonology, is now a recognized neurotic type.
When we examine The Turn of the Screw in this light, we understand for the first time its significance in connection with Henry James's other fiction—(the story, on any other hypothesis, would be, so far as I remember, the only thing James ever wrote which did not have some more or less serious point). We see now that it is simply a variation on one of James's familiar themes: the frustrated Anglo-Saxon spinster; and we remember that he has presented other cases of women who deceive themselves and others about the sources and character of their emotions. The most obvious example is that remarkable and too-little-read novel, The Bostonians. The subject of The Bostonians is the struggle for the attractive daughter of a poor evangelist between a young man from the South who wants to marry her and a well-to-do Boston lady with a Lesbian passion for her. The strong-minded and strong-willed spinster is herself apparently quite in the dark as to the real reason for her interest in the girl; she is convinced that her desire to dominate her, to make her live with her, to teach her to make speeches on women's rights, to prevent the eligible young Southerner from marrying her, is all ardor for the feminist cause. But James does not leave the reader in doubt—and he presents Olive Chancellor in a setting of other self-deluded New England idealists.
There is a theme of the same kind in the short story called “The Marriages,” which amused Robert Louis Stevenson so hugely. But here the treatment is comic. A young English girl, described by one of the characters as of the unmarriageable type, much attached to an attractive father and obsessed by the memory of a dead mother, breaks up her father's projected second marriage. She goes to his fiancée and tells her that her father is an impossible character who had made her late mother miserable. When her brother calls her a raving maniac, she remains serene in the conviction that, by ruining the happiness of her father, she has been loyal to her duty to her mother.
James's world is full of these women. They are not always emotionally perverted. Sometimes they are emotionally apathetic—like the amusing Francie Dosson of The Reverberator, who, though men are always falling madly in love with her, seems never really to understand what courtship and marriage mean and is apparently quite content to go on all her life eating marrons glacés with her father and sister in their suite in a Paris hotel. Sometimes they are emotionally starved—like the pathetic Milly Theale of The Wings of the Dove, who wastes away in Venice and whose doctor recommends a lover.
James's men are not precisely neurotic; but they are the masculine counterparts of his women. They have a way of missing out on emotional experience, either through timidity or caution or through heroic renunciation.
The extreme and fantastic example is the hero of The Beast in the Jungle, who is finally crushed by the realization that his fate is to be the man in the whole world to whom nothing at all is to happen. Some of these characters are presented ironically: Mr. Acton of The Europeans, so smug and secure in his neat little house, deciding not to marry the baroness who has proved such an upsetting element in the community, is a perfect comic portrait of a certain kind of careful Bostonian. Others are made sympathetic: the starved and weary Lambert Strether of The Ambassadors, who comes to Paris too late in life.
Sometimes, however, the effect is ambiguous. Though the element of irony in Henry James is often underestimated by his readers, there are stories which leave us in doubt as to whether or not the author knew how his heroes would strike his readers. Is the fishy Bernard Longueville of the early novel Confidence really intended for a sensitive and interesting young man or is he a prig in the manner of Jane Austen? And some of James's later heroes are just as unsympathetic. The very late short story “Flickerbridge,” in which a young American painter decides not to marry a young newspaper woman (the men are always deciding not to marry the women in Henry James) because he is afraid she will spoil by publicizing it a delightful old English house, the property of her own family, in which he has greatly enjoyed living without her, affects us in the same unpleasant way.
But “Flickerbridge” seems merely a miscue: evidently James intends it to be taken seriously. How is The Sacred Fount to be taken? This short novel, surely one of the curiosities of literature, which inspired the earliest parody—by Owen Seaman—I ever remember to have seen of James and which apparently marked his passing over some borderline into a region where he was to become for the public unassimilably exasperating and ridiculous, was written not long after The Turn of the Screw and is a sort of companion piece to it. There is the same setting of an English country house, the same passages of a sad and strange beauty, the same furtive and disturbing goings on in an atmosphere of clarity and brightness, the same dubious central figure, the same almost inscrutable ambiguity. As in the case of The Turn of the Screw, the fundamental question presents itself and never seems to get definitely answered: what is the reader to think of the protagonist?—who is here a man instead of a woman.
It would be tedious to analyze The Sacred Fount as I have done with The Turn of the Screw—and it would be a somewhat more difficult undertaking. The Sacred Fount is mystifying, even maddening. But I believe that if anyone really got to the bottom of it, he would throw a good deal of light on Henry James. Rebecca West has given a burlesque account of this novel as the story of how “a week-end visitor spends more intellectual force than Kant can have used on The Critique of Pure Reason in an unsuccessful attempt to discover whether there exists between certain of his fellow-guests a relationship not more interesting among these vacuous people than it is among sparrows.” A gentleman, who tells the story, goes to a week-end party in the country; there he observes that certain of his friends appear to have taken a new lease on life whereas others seem to have been depleted. He evolves a theory about them: the theory is that the married couples have been forming new combinations and that the younger individuals have been feeding the older individuals from the sacred fount of their youth at the price of getting used up themselves.
This theory seems obviously academic: older people feed younger people with their vitality quite as often as younger people feed older ones—and does James really mean us to accept it? Are not the speculations of the narrator intended to characterize the narrator as the apparitions characterize the governess? As this detached and rather eerie individual proceeds to spy on and cross-examine his friends in order to find out whether the facts fit his theory, we decide, as we do in The Turn of the Screw, that there are two separate things to be kept straight: a false hypothesis which the narrator is putting forward and a reality which we are supposed to guess from what he tells us about what actually happens. We remember the narrator of The Aspern Papers, another inquisitive and annoying fellow, who is finally foiled and put to rout by the old lady whose private papers he is trying to get hold of. In the case of The Aspern Papers, there is no uncertainty about James's attitude toward the narrator: James lets us know that the papers were none of the journalist's business and that the rebuff served him right. And the amateur detective of The Sacred Fount is foiled and rebuffed in precisely the same manner by one of his recalcitrant victims. “My poor dear, you are crazy, and I bid you good-night!” she says to him at the end of the story. “Such a last word,” the narrator remarks, “the word that put me altogether nowhere—was too inacceptable not to prescribe afresh that prompt test of escape to other air for which I had earlier in the evening seen so much reason. I should certainly never again, on the spot, quite hang together, even though it wasn't really that I hadn't three times her method. What I too fatally lacked was her tone.” But why did he lack her tone?—why would he never again hang together? What are we supposed to conclude about his whole exploit?
Mr. Wilson Follett, the only writer on James who has given The Sacred Fount special attention (in “Henry James's Portrait of Henry James,” New York Times Book Review, August 23, 1936), believes that the book is a parable—even a conscious parody—of James's own role as an artist. The narrator may or may not have been right as to the actual facts of the case. The point is that, in elaborating his theory, he has constructed a work of art, and that it is a mistake to make the validity of works of art depend on a correspondence with actuality. Art has only its own kind of validity, and a collision with actuality would destroy it and put an end to the activities of the artist.
Certainly James has put himself into The Sacred Fount, and certainly he has intended some sort of fable about the imaginative mind and the material with which it works. But it seems to me that Mr. Follett's theory assumes on James's part a conception of artistic truth which would hardly be worthy of him. After all, the novelist must know what people are actually up to, however much he may rearrange actuality; and it is not clear in The Sacred Fount whether the narrator really knew what he was talking about. If The Sacred Fount is a parody, what is the point of the parody? Why should James have represented the artist as defeated by the breaking in of life?
The truth is, I believe, that Henry James was not clear about the book in his own mind. Already, with The Turn of the Screw, he has carried his ambiguous procedure to a point where it seems almost as if he did not want the reader to get through to the hidden meaning. See his curious replies in his letters to correspondents who write him about the story: to what seem to have been leading questions, he seems to have given evasive answers, dismissing the tale as a mere “pot-boiler,” a mere “jeu d'esprit.” Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians, though tragic perhaps, is horrid, and she is vanquished by Basil Ransom. But he was willing to leave his readers in doubt as to whether the governess was horrid or nice. And now in The Sacred Fount, we do not know whether the week-end guest, though he was unquestionably obnoxious to the other guests, is intended to be taken as one of the élite, a fastidious, highly civilized sensibility, or merely as a little bit cracked and a bore. The man who wanted to get the Aspern papers was fanatically inquisitive and a nuisance; but many of James's inquisitive observers who never take part in the action are presented as most superior people. James confessed to being this sort of person himself. Ambiguity was certainly growing on James. It was to pass all bounds in those scenes in his later novels (of which the talks in The Turn of the Screw between the housekeeper and the governess are only comparatively mild examples) in which the characters are able to carry on long conversations with each consistently mistaking the other's meaning and neither ever yielding to the impulse to say any of the obvious things which would clear the situation up.
What if the hidden theme of The Sacred Fount is simply sex again? What if the real sacred fount, from which the people observed by the narrator have been drawing their new vitality, is love instead of youth? They have something which he has not had, know something which he does not know; and, lacking the clue of love, he can only pedantically misunderstand them. And they, since they have the forces of life on their side, are able to frighten him away.
This theory may be dubious, also; but there is certainly involved in The Sacred Fount the conception of a man shut out from love and doomed to barren speculation on human relations, who will be shocked by direct contact with reality.
Hitherto, it has usually been quite plain what James wanted us to think of his characters; but now there appears in his work a morbid element which is not always handled objectively but has invaded the storyteller himself. He seems to be dramatizing the frustrations of his own life without quite being willing to confess it, without always fully admitting it to himself.
But before we pursue this line of inquiry, let us look at him in a different connection.
Who are these characters of Henry James's about whom we come to be less and less certain as to precisely what he means us to think?
The type is the cultivated American bourgeois, like Henry...
This story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.
Their eyes never left him as they anxiously waited to hear the story which kept them anchored around the warmth of the fire on Christmas Eve. As expected, one of the guests unveils a haunting tale of dark supernatural entities that torment a young governess. These apparitions and their desire to have the souls of two innocent siblings provoke the governess to fiercely protect her pupils. Oddly, no other servant or occupant within the household sees these 'ghosts'. Is the governess really seeing these apparitions or is she merely dismissed to be delusional? Whether it is mere deception of the mind or twisted secrets, The Turn of the Screw gives off an air of suspense that lingers long after the last page is turned.--Submitted by Anonymous
This novel is a must; required reading, really, for you who find yourselves in a large, creaky house in, excuse the pun, the "dead of Winter". A fairly strong snowstorm helps, with the sad whistling sound of snow being driven by the wind through the branches. Sit back with refreshments of choice and just ride the writing like a magic carpet. It will immediately become like an addictive drug, leading you smoothly through the opening door of the adventure and closing it just as smoothly behind you, for there is no looking back on this one, no procrastination to "get to chapter 3 tomorrow" or "I'll read the rest of it on my trip". No, none of that. I actually recommend setting some time aside before even beginning it. Then away you will go and just try to stop, I dare you. This is some of the finest suspense writing ever. One of my personal all time favorites, and still, despite hundreds of other greats of the genre, one of the scariest I have ever read. The mood is like a Maine fog with razor sharp images wafting in and out of the sea smoke. Fog and sea smoke confined to a classic English Gothic house setting, that is. There is an excellent and fairly recent film that is loosely connected that will come to mind if you have seen it, the Title of which I shall not reveal here. You'll know what I'm talking about.... Have fun and prepare to be haunted by this story and a dedicated fan of his writing for the rest of your life. A true Classic.--Submitted by Hollywood Legend
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Recent Forum Posts on The Turn of the Screw
Just started with good prospects
I have to read The Turn of the Screw for English 102 and reading literature for class always is a bit of a drag, but I am actually rather excited to get into this book. My Professor introduced it as a ghost story, and it really sparked some curiosity to me. I've been thinking about attempting to write a horror story, but really had no clue where to start, and I think this may give me the direction and push that I need. I've only read the prologue and I really like the writing style employed. When I started the first paragraph I found it very difficult to read, but when I actually sat down and payed attention to the story I found an easier time reading it. On a whim I decided to read it allowed to myself and found that I was reading in a more dramatic voice than my usual reading allowed tone. Once I got into it the stream of conscious style was surprisingly easy to read. It captured emotion well and felt like a casual rendition, it felt very much like someone speaking the story allowed vs. the simple 'telling' style employed in most books. So far I am rather intrigued by the book and can't wait to get into it.
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Turn of the Screw reviews
As some of you might already know... for every e-text book on LitNet there's the option to submit your own introduction to it for possible inclusion on that book's introduction page. For example http://www.online-literature.com/henry_james/turn_screw/ I recently received a bunch of summaries for James's novel, might have been a class assignment or something, but, as they can't all fit on one page I'm going to post them here. If one of these is yours? you can join the site and discuss further if you wish :)
Posted By Logos at Mon 30 May 2011, 3:24 AM in The Turn of the Screw || 3 Replies
essay question help
Hey everyone, just needing a jump start with this essay question, could you help? Discuss the relationships between the narrators of The Turn of the Screw. What purpose is served by the complicated way in which the story is told? i know that the governess is the primary narrator and the 2nd is an implied author (unkown author) but how do they have a relationship?:shocked:
Posted By scbunzy at Mon 10 May 2010, 9:45 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 1 Reply
a frame without a picture ??
hi everyone, i desperately need some help i've got an essay to do for yesterday ,and the question goes like that to what extent is the turn of the screw a frame without a picture? can anyone help me with it?? or just tell me what it means?? and what am i supposed to wrtite ?? thank you in advance:yawnb: sarah
Posted By britt001 at Wed 18 Mar 2009, 2:15 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 2 Replies
help anyone? research paper
I was just wondering if anyone had any good ideas or books to get sources from dealing with the turn of the screw story and freudian ideas. i already checked freuds interpetation of dreams and it didnt help much. Any suggesstions?? thanks
Posted By tina88 at Thu 13 Nov 2008, 10:27 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 2 Replies
The turn of the Screw essay. What do u think of this
Who or what is haunting in the Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw is a Ghost story written by Henry James, since it has been published it went through various interpretations and critics, this because of his ambiguity and difference. It is a text that can be interpreted in many ways, It could be seen as a simple ghost story in which there are ghosts hunting a house leading, then, to the death of a child. It could be the story of a hunted woman with hallucinations, seeing things that do not exist people that are not there, she is scared by these demons and she is scared they might hurt the children, with which she had a strong bond, and her fear is reflected to them scaring and confusing them. This story could also be a very fine thought about the psychology of a frustrated person, giving the story a three dimensionality that is identifiable in the person herself. All of these statements could be true none of them are false because it depends in which way would you interpret a certain behaviour, certain person would understand that ghost lead to death others frustration others would understand love. The text of Henry James The Turn of the Screw has been judged the finest he has ever Done (pg155) and it was seen as a ... a deliberated, powerful, and horribly successful study of the magic of evil by the New York times in 1898. Many criticisms talk about problem of evil and evil ghosts so it seems as if they would be haunting, these pre-Freudian thoughts are: the fears of the people seen as the evil that creeps into our life and we have to protect us and others from it. Here is were another opinion starts in which she is, since the beginning, in love with this great man, the Master: she as a girl from a poor family where her father is thought a person with a psychically unbalanced nature (pg 161) and might even have been insane. She feels this unnatural bond towards the children and she sees herself as a protector from evil, an evil that is imaginary, the evil is not real and obvious for others, it is an hallucination she creates to protect the children: Her whole being tingles with the craving to perform some act of inexplicable courage. These hallucinations may come because she instantly becomes a victim of insomnia (pg162). The Freudian explanation is more complicated and vast because it allow us to see into a matter that comprehends more than just one reality (knowledge) or two realities (the physical and the metaphysical word). Freud introduced a third dimension of reality that is the psychological reality made of memories, dreams, emotions, rooted in the human psyche. In fact Before Freuds Traumdeutung there were only two gnoseologic (the ways of understanding) theories: the dualistic and monistic explanation of reality were confronting each other. The dualistic philosopher saw two parallel realities coexisting, the physical reality and the conceptual reality. According to them (Hegel) the reality is made of the stone as a tangible object and the idea of it (Hegel). The monistic conception of the world was introduced by Aristotle and was dominant until the enlightenment and it recognized just one reality: the metaphysical (nomen est omen). After Freuds discoveries evil loose its moral meaning as punishment for some guilt. And ghosts are not anymore demonic creatures (Quint, Miss Jassel). Ghosts may just bee dreams, the dream of a mind that needed to protect the children, an illusion created by fears, frustrated hopes, hope and despair intertwine with each other and are projected from one person to another, with feedbacks and reflections, in a way that makes impossible to separate dreams from hard facts: Her whole being tingles with the craving to perform an act of unexampled courage. The governess is also under the influence of an intense love towards the master, she is dazzled and confused by this different world she finds herself in (coming from a poor, cold and strange family) a world of beauty and perfection. Inside her fantasy she is beaten off by the realization of the impossibility of her love, infact she understands that she will never meet this majestic and secret figure she can only imagine and dream. The young woman falls instantly and passionately in love with the man who has inserted the advertisement. She scarcely admits it even to he heart she knows that her love is hopeless. These thought lead to self delusion and to a imaginary world that follows her rules, this world is not a cloud-cuckoo-land but a land of fear and the border between events, ideas and memories/dreams is irremediably blurred and disguised. She cannot see her own insanity she can see only it reflection, as it were, in the faces, trace its effect on the acts, of others. (pg.167) Evil, is the presence of Ghosts, the fact that we are in the end unsure, if they are feared and evocated by the Governess, or effectively seen by the children and this creates an insecurity inside us, we are not sure what to believe, at the beginning we think something and then the complete opposite. But we are definitely sure that it is not an external evil, a curse, a punishment for some distant unknown guilt (the pre-Freudian interpretation) it is the reflection of a darkened mind, a mind darkened by insecurity, love and despair. Points Despair In the end James does not tell us what haunts the children and/or Governess. It is something more subtle. There are the fears of the children, originated by the premature loss of their parents, and their pain of growing. But there is also the Governess loneliness and lack of warmth and protection from her family. Her frustrated desire for a (protected and solid) family, for which she is prepared to all sacrifice. And there is something bad that actually happened at Bly. So, fears, frustrated hopes, hope and despair intertwine with each other, are projected from one person to another, with feedbacks and reflections, in a way that makes impossible to separate dreams from hard facts. The border between events, ideas and memories/dreams is irremediably blurred. The evil, is, the impossibility to keep the distinction between the facts, ideas and emotions. Evil is life seen through the mirror of a darkened mind. Pre Freudian Evil creeps, Freudian recognizable Freudian wrote about the existence of different realities, because everybody has realities defined by theire youth.
Posted By nikymimanchi at Sun 26 Oct 2008, 6:47 AM in The Turn of the Screw || 1 Reply
essay , need help!!!
hi,i need some help for an essay i have to do...Good and Evil in "The turn of the screw"..and i have no idea ...actually i was suppose to read the book , but i didn't...so please, if someone has any idea on that question..i'll appreciate.thx!
Posted By guigui at Sun 23 Mar 2008, 7:40 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 0 Replies
Help Desperately Needed! Please!
I start school in two days and at the end of my school year last year, I was given a reading assignment to complete. It's on The Turn of the Screw. I have lost my book, yet I still have the assignment that needs to be completed with me. KEEP IN MIND, that this has to be a typed, in 12 point font, and it has to be 2 pages long. I know it seems like a lot but I would HIGHLY appreciate it if you could help. I really need these points (50 points) to start my school year off. I am not intelligent in the field of reading, so I was wondering if someone could help. Help is GREATLY appreciated. I'm desperate. Ok, there are 4 options that I can pick from, and I will state each option below. You choose which one to do, but just state before your answer which number you will be doing. PLEASE NOTE: The chapters stated below are from the complete text book found at http://www.online-literature.com/henry_james/turn_screw/ (1) In chapter 21, the governess delivers a surprisingly nasty accusation toward Flora: "She resents, for all the world like some high little personage, the imputation, on her truthfulness and, as it were, her respectability.... Ah, she's 'respectable,' the chit!" This sudden revelation of class resentment on the governess's part seems at odds with her other attitudes throughout the text. How does class function in this story? How does it reveal or conceal motives? Think of how different the book would be without it. (2) In chapter 22, the governess and Miles are described as being like a couple on their "wedding journey." How are we to understand this intrusion of a romantic setting into the relationship of a governess to her 10-yr-old charge? Are there other scenes where a similar suggestion might be found? How does romance work throughout the book, from Douglas onward, to direct or misdirect our view? Why is this ghost story so infected by ghostly loves? (3) Don't write on this one unless you agree that the children are not actually "evil." They are, in fact to all appearances sweet, kind, intelligent, courteous, generous kids. Let's just say they are real kids. And yet we find the governess repeatedly referring to them as evil, as horrors, although she at first thought them to be perfectly innocent. How do these terms function in the book? That is, what is served by seeing the children as innocent or evil? Be sure to choose several specific scenes and look carefully at the way the governess's use of these categories shapes her perceptions, understandings, motivations, and place in the world. What, by the way, makes the governess "unfit" for church? (4) In chapter 6, the governess says, "I know, I know, I know! My exaltation grew." The governess seems obsessed with knowing, and yet what she knows remains very obscure. How does this desire to "know" work in the story? Does this desire to know help her to know more, or less? How do questions of what others know - the Master, Miles, Flora, Mrs. Gross play into the governess's interest in knowing? Note: My teacher is not interested in your trying to tell him what anyone knows or doesn't, but only how "knowledge" functions as a sort of coin of character in the book. Once again I will say that if you help me, I will GREATLY appreciate it. I am in desperate need. 50 points for my school is a lot of points and especially to start the year off with. I really am desperate. Thanks for your time!
Posted By Doesitall at Sat 1 Sep 2007, 12:13 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 2 Replies
Essay - help please!!
My essay topic; 'THe Reader who wishes to support the Freudian interpretations of TTOTS&see the governess as a sex-starved and hysterical spinster with a peverted imagination must ignore many important signals in the text.' Discuss, indicating whether you agree, partly agree or disagree. I want to agree, can any one help me with ideas or info? THanks heaps
Posted By groovygrandmas at Fri 18 May 2007, 12:17 AM in The Turn of the Screw || 0 Replies
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