After women experience childbirth, it is common for them to have an experience known as postpartum depression. For the women suffering this type of depression can experience different instances of fear, insomnia and moments of anxiety and paranoia. In the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the narrator begins to show the signs for postpartum depression and psychosis, without having any children and shows a hidden sexual desire about the children. Because of her fear, panicked actions and hasty generalizations throughout the novella, it is clear for readers to question the governess’ sanity and see that she in a deep stage of psychosis.
The Turn of the Screw starts off with the governess arriving at the home to begin her job. She immediately falls in love with Flora, the youngest child and is excited to meet Miles, the older child. She quickly adapts to her life with the children and thinks nothing out of the ordinary until she is told of Miles’ current state. Miles had been kicked out of his school for “being an injury to the others” (James 34). The governess immediately questions Miles and his behavior and asks the maid, Mrs. Grose, of his past behaviors. She worried that if Miles was so-called tormenting the children in his school if he had the capabilities to “corrupt her” (35). Mrs. Grose tells her about the last governess and her youth and beauty, which was similar to the narrator. The narrator continues to question Mrs. Grose about Miles and asks her questions like “Did she see anything in the boy?” and “Was she careful – particular?” (36). Mrs. Grose shakes her off and tells her not to worry. After this the governess continues to pe...
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...I never have. I think you’re cruel. I don’t like you!” and follows that by asking Mrs. Grose to “take me away from her!” (103). The governess continuously pressured the children to see something they couldn’t. She was forcing them to see something she created in her own mind.
In Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, readers discover the different stages of psychosis and obsessive behavior through the governess’ character. Whether it was a change in person from gaining new responsibility to care for other beings or full blown psychosis, readers were able to view the experience in the text. The hallucinations of Quint and Miss Jessel drove her insane, leading to the children hating her and dying in her arms. What she wanted to accomplish in the beginning happened at the end. She did save and protect the children but not from the spirits, from her mentally unstable self.
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