The Freudian Id in The Turn of the Screw

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Henry James was one of America's most brilliant and fascinating writers. He uses language to tap into the reader's subconscious and always has them wanting more. This sensation is no more prevalent than in his thriller The Turn of the Screw. In this intense psychological thriller, the main character releases her own sexual frustration into the illusions of two ghosts that haunt a quiet country manor. The Freudian Id plays out in the fantasies of Peter Quint and Mrs. Jessel and the governess's own repressed feelings overrun her every thought. James provides insight into the power of Freud's sub-conscious that controls the governess and pushes her farther and farther away from reality. He is also able to equate it to people in everyday situations.

The story is set in a mansion in the English countryside. A young woman is hired to take care of two children, Flora and Miles, and she becomes entranced by a love for their employer. However, she becomes so in love with this employer that it begins to control her everyday life and overruns her feelings. Her unrequited love for this man is played out through her fantasies of two ghosts who haunt the mansion. To the governess, the appearance of Peter Quint is the employer that she is in love with and Mrs. Jessel represents the governess. Together, they play out the fantasy that the governess has to be with the employer and have relations with the employer. The governess would go on these walks alone, and the sole thought that occupied her mind was love or lust. In chapter three the governess narrates, "One of the thoughts that, as I don't in the least shrink now from noting, used to be with me in these wanderings was that it would be as charming as a charming story sud...

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...s story, or racial struggle and take it down to its rudimentary basis in the Id. The Id causes a person to perpetuate these differences as it applies to their desires for control or lust, and it is up to every person to suppress these animal instincts through rational thought. The governess did not do this, thus her mind was polluted and she drove herself into insanity and drove those around her to death and illness because of her evil choices. It does not do Henry James to call this a moral of sorts, but it almost is. Everyday people are faced with choices whether they know it or not, in conversation someone can just glance at the surface of a comment, or delve deep into it, releasing the Id into the mind.

Work Cited

James, Henry. “The Turn of the Screw”. 1898. The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories. Ed. T. J. Lustig. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992:113-236.
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