Gender Criticism and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James Essay

Gender Criticism and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James Essay

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Gender Criticism and The Turn of the Screw
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...


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...of the ghosts will forever be a mystery, as well as the idea that James wanted to create a subliminal satire, mocking the fact that society saw all servants as one big chunk of lower class, comparable to animals and even ghosts in this case, yet the servants themselves created a hierarchy amongst themselves, ranking some servants higher than others. Everything is basically relative and is what each separate person perceives it to be, just as the answers to the infinite questions posed by The Turn of the Screw.
Works Cited

Burrows, Stuart. “The Place of a Servant in the Scale.” Nineteenth-Century Literature,
Vol. 63, No. 1 (June 2008), pp. 73-103. Web.

James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004. Print.

Robbins, Bruce. “They don’t much count, do they?”: The Unfinished History of The Turn
of the Screw.”

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