To Insanity in Pursuit of Love.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is usually read as a ghost story in which the central character, the governess, tries to save the souls of two children possessed by evil. However, the short-story can be also analyzed from many different perspectives, as we come upon a number of hints that lead to various understanding of certain scenes. One of the possible interpretations is the psychoanalytical one, in which we interpret the events either from the point of view of the governess or from the perspective of the two children. I will concentrate on the problem of the governess who, restricted by her own problems and moral dilemmas, projects her fears on her pupils and in this way harms the children. What causes her moral corruption and gradual maddening lies deep in her psyche. Both the Victorian upbringing and the social isolation of a poor village tell her to restrict her sexual desires evoked by the romance reading. The result is tragic. The governess becomes mad and the children psychologically destabilized and scared of the adults. The story ends with the governess strangling the boy in a hysteric fit. The Turn of the Screw is a very popular work of literature, with reach history of critical interpretations where not much can be added, therefore my essay is mostly based on The Turn of the Screw. A History of Its Critical Interpretations 1898 1979 by Edward J. Parkinson.
In the Victorian society, love, sex and desire were the unspeakable subjects, especially for a young, unmarried woman in care of two young children. The governess herself can not imagine thinking about or mentioning her sexual needs. Her desire for love is so strong that she immediately falls in love with the man she hardly...
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... was with a man. Although the story is a ghost story first of all, it is also a comment on the Victorian society, its cruelty, "destructive pressures" and "restrictive code of behavior," that led to many tragedies. The ghost motive is unquestionably the prevailing one and can be understood in the realistic as well as the symbolic way. As symbols, the ghosts stand for the restrained love and the corrupted psyche of the woman getting mad, who cannot control her sexual desires. The ghosts themselves are not scarier than the condition of the mind of the woman who in pursuit of love becomes insane.
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. London: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994.
Parkinson, Edward J. The Turn of the Screw A History of Its Critical Interpretations 1898 1979. 6 April 2006
The Norton American Anthology. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995.
The classic ghost story, the Turn of the Screw, is filled with loose-ends and ambiguity. Are the ghosts real or imagined? Is the Governess a heroine or anti-heroine? Are the children really as innocent as they seem? In the novel, Henry James rarely provides an in-depth character that the reader actually gets to know. From the young romantic governess, to the intelligent ten year old, James keeps his characters morally ambiguous in order to further the “Unsolved mystery” style.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James continues to stir up an immense amount of controversy for such a short novel. Making a definite, educated decision on the actual truth considering the countless inquiries that develop while reading this story proves more difficult than winning a presidential election. That being understood, taking one particular side on any argument from a close reading of the story seems impossible, because the counter argument appears just as conceivable. Any side of the controversy remains equally disputable considerably supported by textual evidence from the novel. One issue which, like the rest, can be answered in more than one ways is why Mrs. Grose believes the Governess when she tells her about her ghost encounters. Usually one would second-guess such outlandish stories as the ones that the governess shares throughout the story, yet Mrs. Grose is very quick to believe our borderline-insane narrator. One of the explanations for such behavior could be the underlying fact that Mrs. Grose and the governess have a similar socio-economic background, therefore making them somewhat equals even if the governess does not always seem to think that way. This fact makes them susceptible to trusting and believing each other, and to believing that the ghosts are there, for the people that the ghosts are presenting used to be servants and therefore from a similar socio-economic background. To add on to that, Bruce Robbins proposes in his Marxist criticism of The Turn of the Screw that the idea of a ghost is synonymous to that of a servant, subconsciously making the two lower-class workers of Bly more vulnerable to believe that the ghosts were real; in other words, servants we...
Throughout the Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, ambiguity is used purposely in respect to the reality of the ghosts. Without certainty the reader must guess and assume in order to determine if the ghosts are real or if they are conjured in the governess's mind. In this book there is more proof for the imagination of the ghosts. One source of evidence is the preparedness of the governess. At the beginning of the book the governess is being thrown into a situation that she is unprepared for. This unpreparedness was due to the life she lived before going to Bly. That life gave her little applicable experiences and leaving her always wanting attention, especially from men. Also, the governess feels the need to discredit the perfection of the children and by creating these ghosts this goal could be achieved. This need to seek a man’s attention and discredit the children suggests that the governess was never sane and imagined the ghosts.
“An action-occurs which proceeds from the supernatural (from the pseudo-supernatural); this action then provokes a reaction in the implicit reader (and generally in the hero of the story). It is this reaction which we describe as ‘hesitation,’ and the texts which generate it, as fantastic” (Todorov 195). The fantastic is the moment of hesitation that is experienced by the reader who is confronted by a supernatural event in the story or novel and thus understands the laws of nature are put into question. Todorov uses three conditions that constitute the fantastic, in the first, the reader enters the character’s world and considers it a natural world and so the reader hesitates between determining whether there is a natural or supernatural explanation of the events that occur in the story. The second condition is when the reader identifies himself with the character in the novel and by doing so interprets the events by the characters in the novel. Lastly, the reader must obtain an attitude in relation to the text, and decide what levels or modes of reading he or she will hold. The fantastic can be divided into two genres, the uncanny and the marvelous. The marvelous occurs when a reader must create new laws of nature for the particular event to occur, whereas the uncanny is when reality remains intact and there is an explanation for the event. Todorov argues that the ambiguity persists even after the reader is finished with The Turn of the Screw which is interesting but there are stronger textual clues that support the governess was in a state of hysteria.
One of the most critically discussed works in twentieth-century American literature, The Turn of the Screw has inspired a variety of critical interpretations since its publication in 1898. Until 1934, the book was considered a traditional ghost story. Edmund Wilson, however, soon challenged that view with his assertions that The Turn of the Screw is a psychological study of the unstable governess whose visions of ghosts are merely delusions. Wilson’s essay initiated a critical debate concerning the interpretation of the novel, which continues even today (Poupard 313). Speculation considering the truth of the events occurring in The Turn of the Screw depends greatly on the reader’s assessment of the reliability of the governess as a narrator. According to the “apparitionist” reader, the ghosts are real, the governess is reliable and of sound mind, and the children are corrupted by the ghosts. The “hallucinationist”, on the other hand, would claim the ghosts are illusions of the governess, who is an unreliable narrator, and possibly insane, and the children are not debased by the ghosts (Poupard 314). The purpose of this essay is to explore the “hallucinationist” view in order to support the assertion that the governess is an unreliable narrator. By examining the manner in which she guesses the unseen from the seen, traces the implication of things, and judges the whole piece by the pattern and so arrives at her conclusions, I will demonstrate that the governess is an unreliable narrator. From the beginning of The Turn of the Screw, the reader quickly becomes aware that the governess has an active imagination. Her very first night at Bly, for example, “[t]here had been a moment when [she] believed [she] recognized, faint and far, the cry of a child; there had been another when [she] found [herself] just consciously starting as at the passage, before [her] door, of a light footstep.” The governess herself acknowledges her active imagination in an early conversation with Mrs. Grose, when she discloses “how rather easily carried away” she is. Her need for visions and fantasies soon lead her to believe that apparitions are appearing to her. It is from this point on that she begins to guess the unseen from the seen, trace the implication of things, and judge the whole piece by the pattern. After the first appearance of Peter Quint, the governess begins to make infe...
Heilman, R, N. The Turn of the Screw as Poem. University of Kansas City Review, Vol 14, 1948: 277-289
Written in 1898, The Turn of The Screw is set in Victorian-era England and influenced by the “sharply defined” gender roles of the day (Hughes 1). Unlike in previous centuries and places where middle to upper-class women could work in some capacity, in Victorian-era England, men and women’s duties did not overlap at all, meaning that there was only one acceptable path for each gender and a clear division between the two.
Henry James’s Turn of The Screw has long been hailed as one of the most classic and genre-defining novels that has ever been written; the complexity, supposed insanity, and eventual downfall of the main character of the governess creates an engaging plot defined by the mental stability and moral ambiguity of the governess. Throughout the entirety of the novel, the governess increasingly becomes a more conflicted and morally ambiguous character whose unreliable narration suggests a larger introspection into the destructive nature of heroism and the effects an unreliable narrator has on the story as a whole.
“The Turn of the Screw,” by Henry James is a novella that is open to countless of interpretations due to its ambiguity. There is a contradiction after contradiction about whether the Governess is sane enough to be able to see the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. In fact, since the novella was published, many critics have argued that the projections of the ghosts are subjective to the governess’s imagination, while others argue the opposite. The story revolves around a young woman, who has recently finished her education. She accepts her first job: being the Governess of little Flora and Miles. The two children are under the care of their uncle after the death of their parents. For this reason, the Governess moves to a grand mansion in
During the Victorian period men and women’s roles became more sharply defined than at any time in history (“Gender Roles” Internet). “Working women” became common, and women made a name for themselves in society (Burnett). At the same time, finding a husband was not supposed to be a young girl’s main priority (“Gender Roles” Internet). The novella The Turn of the Screw gives the meaning of a Victorian woman many interpretations. Henry James, a Victorian author, portrays his opinion of women as being sexually confused and ambitious in his novella, The Turn of the Screw.
Throughout the topics in literature, Turn of the Screw by Henry James is usually the most discussed. James had written this novel as merely a conventional ghost story, although many theses can be interpreted. One that sticks out the most is that the governess was, in fact, an insane anti-heroine.
Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, is a captivating and suspenseful gothic ghost story. This novel has arisen much controversy due to the question of whether or not it should be interpreted as a conventional ghost story, or rather, a psychological case study of the main character. The Turn of the Screw follows a story line about an inexperienced governess who takes charge of two orphaned children living on a rural estate known as Bly. Upon being introduced, the governess soon realizes that the job she was given may be too good to be true. This becomes evident when she detects supernatural forces that are potentially present at Bly. The forces she senses seem to be directing their supernatural energy onto the young children, Miles
There are many different ways to interpret The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. Many critics over the past century have voiced their opinions about the story. Each critical analysis of the story disagrees with the beliefs expressed in another. Robert B. Heilman is a critic who wrote in the mid-twentieth century. He interprets The Turn of the Screw to be a representation of the conflict between good and evil. Heilman's points are clear and obviously well thought out, but there are flaws in his argument that make his interpretation questionable.
Married Love was an unprecedented book, which inadvertently redefined female sexuality. Often regarded as the precursor of sex-manuals, Married Love launched Stopes’ enormously successful career as a writer. Published in 1918, Married Love reviewed the intertwining relationship of marriage, sex and contraception, which in Stopes’ view were the fundamental components of a fulfilling and rewarding marriage. Like all discourse, Married Love is heavily embedded within a distinct historical and cultural context. Darwinian theory and the development of eugenics had a phenomenal impact on Stopes. Recognising the equal sexual desire of women would make Married Love greatly influential in the shaping of modern perceptions into female sexuality. Examining the social ethos of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Married Love was a pioneering book for its time. The significant transformation of gender roles during the interwar years in combination with the progressing field of sexology, Stopes’ work would be another stepping stone to the democratisation of sexuality.
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.