Ambiguous Issues: Throughout the Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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Throughout The turn of the Screw by Henry James, the theme of ambiguous issues is constantly leaving the reader on their own. The ambiguity and uncertainty within this text causes the readers to come up with their own theories as to what the text really means. The ghost story perspective only adds to the infuriating vagueness. The title itself is about all of the twists within this story and basically foreshadows the confusion that the text will cause.
In The turn of the Screw, the characters often communicated very indirectly with one another, hinting toward certain situations but never explaining them fully. At the beginning of this story, one of the first vague quotes, “he had been left, by the death of their parents in India, guardian to a small nephew and a small niece” depicts that Miles and Flora’s parents died in India (James 158). However, the details around their death are unknown and mysterious.
The next unclear situation is when the Governess learns of Miles’ expulsion. This is one of the main mysteries within this story. The question, “What does it mean? The child’s dismissed his school,” is the only question that the reader has throughout the conversation between the Governess and Mrs. Grose (165). Even though their conversation does inform the reader that the school has “absolutely decline[d]” Miles, it doesn’t clarify what exactly he has done to be expelled (165). The Governess comments, “That he’s an injury to the others” and “to corrupt” are her own opinions as to why Miles was expelled (165, 166). Nevertheless, her comment does not help the reader in any way because the remark in and of itself is unclear. Her first comment suggests that Miles might be causing physical harm to other students but her second ...

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... through her hug, squeezing the life out of him because of her own fears of the supposed ghosts. Miles response is so ambiguous it leaves the reader with only theories with no way of knowing for a fact what really happened.
This book leaves it to the reader to determine whether the Governess is guilty or not, depending on its extremely ambiguous text. The Turn of the Screw is the definition of a mystery book. Although unlike the usual mystery books, the end reveals no definite answer to the reader. It only leaves the audience even more confused with their own theories. For the reader, the theme of ambiguous issues is a recurring problem and there is no possible way of finding out what truly happened.

Works Cited

James, Henry. "The turn of the screw." The turn of the screw and other tales. Ed. Kimberly C. Reed. Toronto: Broadview Editions, 2010. 154-250. Print.

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