A Young Woman's Fantasy in The Turn of the Screw Essay

A Young Woman's Fantasy in The Turn of the Screw Essay

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A Young Woman's Fantasy in The Turn of the Screw

    The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, is an odd story about a young woman who, leaving her small country home for the first time, takes a job as a governess in a wealthy household.  Shortly after her arrival, she begins to suffer from insomnia and fancies that she sees ghosts roaming about the grounds.  James is a master story-teller and, at times, the complexities of the story make it difficult to follow.  The Turn of the Screw is a story within a story, the tale of the governess being read aloud as a ghost story among friends.  Harold C. Goddard wrote a fascinating piece of criticism entitled "A Pre Freudian Reading of The Turn of the Screw."  When applied to the book, his theory makes perfect sense.  Goddard suggests that the governess, young and inexperienced, immediately falls in love with her employer during their meeting.  As a result of her unrequited love, her overactive mind creates a fantasy in which the the two ghosts intend to harm the children, in order to make herself a heroine, thereby getting the attention of her employer.


     Goddard points out that the young woman is unstable from the beginning.  We find out little about her background, except that she is "the youngest of several daughters of a poor country parson" (4).  It becomes immediately obvious to the reader that such a drastic change of environment as she experiences is cause enough for her to experience extreme anxiety.  Indeed, she tells Mrs. Grose, "I'm rather easily carried away.  I was carried away in London!" (8).  After her interview with her potential employer, the man from Harley Street and the uncle of her young charges, she goes on and on about the man, praising him and ...

... middle of paper ...

... that haunt the grounds.  The story is told through the voice of the governess, which, considering her mental state, makes it difficult to decipher what is actually occurring.  There are many questions that are never answered, rather, they are left up to the reader to decide.

Works Cited and Consulted

Freud, Sigmund. An Outline of Psycho-Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1969.

Goddard, Harold C. A Pre Freudian Reading of The Turn of the Screw. New York: Hillary House Publishers, 1960.

James, Henry. "The Turn of the Screw". The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Novels. New York: New American Library, 1995.

Nunning, Ansgar. "Unreliable Narrator." Encyclopedia of the Novel. Ed. Paul Schellinger. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998. 1386-1388.

Wagenknecht, Edward. The Tales of Henry James. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1984.

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