The Role of Sexuality in Turn of the Screw Essay

The Role of Sexuality in Turn of the Screw Essay

Length: 845 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Henry James's Turn of the Screw was written in a time when open sexuality was looked down upon. On the surface, the story is simply about a governess taking care of two children who are haunted by two ghosts. However, the subtext of the story is about the governess focusing on the children's innocence, and the governess trying to find her own sexual identity. Priscilla L. Walton wrote a gender criticism themed essay about the Turn of the Screw, which retells certain parts of the story and touches on the significance they provide for the sexually explicit theme. Walton's essay is accurate because James purposely put an undertone of sexuality and identity confusion in the Turn of the Screw.
The governess made it clear that she was longing for a romance or a mate. One day she was walking around thinking about the master of Bly and she saw Peter Quint on top of a tower. James made sure to name the type of tower Quint was standing on- crenelated structures. These were structures on top of castle walls meant to protect the inhabitants. It's ironic that Quint was standing on the exact thing meat to protect, as if to say it would not stop him from defiling Miles.
The governess said that Quint's figure was, “very erect, as it struck me” (pp.40-41). The governess constantly made sexual innuendos that led the readers to believe she was sexually frustrated, or at least had sex on her mind a lot. The governess mentions Quint's long gaze at her and said she stared just as hard back at him. In the time this story was written, men and women were not equal. The governess's strong will defied the tradition role of women to be the prey, and rather yet put her on Quint's level of authority.
Miss Jessel and Peter Quint kept appearing to the gove...


... middle of paper ...


...e female roles she was witnessed in her life, and she reverts back to being an innocent little girl by running back to Mrs. Grose for security.
After Flora leaves her, the governess focuses all her attention on Miles. The reader already has some knowledge upfront that Miles has some negative quality to him, so his sexually seems less of a secret than Flora's. He was sent home from school for saying inappropriate things to boys that he likes. There is a strong possibility that Quint taught him about homosexuality in the past. However, Miles is also seen in a heterosexual light by the governess. “We continued silent while the maid was with us- as silent, it whimsically occurred to me, as some young couple who, on their wedding journey, at the in, feel shy in the presence of the waiter. He turned round only when the waiter had left us. 'Well- so we're alone!'” (p.113).

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on The Turn of the Screw

- The Turn of the Screw "I must take my horrid plunge" from the opening line sets the tone of the passage. The novel's gothic form is revealed very early on in the passage. There is a distinctive differentiation between horror and terror derived from the studies of Radcliffe. "Terror" is when one induces to action and "horror" is when one is "powerless" and "freezes" as a result of it. The Governess' horrid plunge is a forced action, as she is powerless to combat the supernatural forces that oppose her....   [tags: Gothic The Turn of the Screw Henry James Essays]

Better Essays
1071 words (3.1 pages)

Essay about The Shifting Narratee in The Turn of the Screw

- The Shifting Narratee in The Turn of the Screw       In the essay "Introduction to the Study of the Narratee," Gerald Prince discusses the interpretative value of thinking about to whom a narrative is addressed. First, he establishes what a "zero-degree narratee" (or possessor of a minimum number of specific narratee characteristics identified by Prince) is and is not: A narratee is not the actual reader, the implied reader, or the ideal reader. The narratee is beholden to the narrator, because, "Without the assistance of the narrator, without his explanations and the information supplied by him, the narratee is able neither to interpret the value of an action or to grasp its repe...   [tags: James Turn of the Screw Essays]

Better Essays
908 words (2.6 pages)

Henry James' The Turn of the Screw Essay

- Henry James' The Turn of the Screw Peter G. Beidler informs us that there have been “hundreds” of analyses of Henry James’ spine-tingling novella, The Turn of the Screw (189). Norman Macleod suggests that James himself seems to be “an author intent on establishing a text that cannot be interpreted in a definite way” (Qtd in Beidler 198). Yet, the vast majority of analyses of The Turn of the Screw seem to revolve around two sub-themes: the reality of the ghosts and the death of Miles both of which are used to answer the question of the governess’s mental stability: is she a hero or a deranged lunatic....   [tags: Henry James Turn Screw Essays]

Better Essays
1589 words (4.5 pages)

Protecting Miles and Flora in The Turn of the Screw Essay

- Protecting Miles and Flora in The Turn of the Screw “I saw my service so strongly and simply. I was there to protect and defend the little creatures…” The governess sees it as her duty to protect Miles and Flora. What do they need protection from and how does Henry James illustrate this in his novel “The Turn of the Screw”. Henry James’s ‘Turn of the Screw’ can be interpreted in many different ways. He constructed his novel in order to make allusions to sexual topics, (without stating anything explicitly) madness, ghosts and the Victorian society....   [tags: Henry James The Turn of the Screw Essays]

Better Essays
2235 words (6.4 pages)

Essay on The Governess in The Turn of the Screw

- 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)....   [tags: The Turn of the Screw Essays]

Better Essays
1116 words (3.2 pages)

Sexual Passion in The Turn of the Screw Essay

- Sexual Passion in The Turn of the Screw In a criticism on Henry James’s story The Turn of the Screw, Strother Purdy suggests that large amounts of sexual passion may be assumed to exist underneath the surface of the narrative. Purdy says that under a Freudian interpretation of the story, the sexual element is easily recognized and is used as the whole source of the action. According to this theory, the governess wishes to impress her master because she is in love with him and, therefore, exceeeding her authority with the children....   [tags: Turn of the Screw Essays]

Free Essays
430 words (1.2 pages)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James Essays

- The Turn of the Screw This novel was, surprisingly, interesting. The intensely complex and intricate (if not confusing!) sentences, upon first thought, made me expect an experience of complete, utter, and total confusion; however, they served not only to keep my interest in the novel – for I had to concentrate to grasp the full, rich meaning of his thoughts – but also to create in me a sense of enjoyment, that of being enriched with the experiences of the main character so that my life and that character's became inseparable, only it occurred not only with the main character, but with the entire plot at once – all characters, all scenes (to which I shall come late), all conversations......   [tags: The Turn of the Screw Henry James]

Better Essays
717 words (2 pages)

Essay on The Freudian Id in The Turn of the Screw

- 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....   [tags: The Turn of the Screw Henry James]

Better Essays
1676 words (4.8 pages)

The Delusional Governess in Henry James' The Turn of the Screw Essays

- The existence of the ghosts in The Turn of the Screw has always been in debate. Instead of directly discussing whether the ghosts are real or not, this essay will focus on the reliability of the governess, the narrator of the story. After making a close examination of her state of mind while she is at Bly, readers of The Turn of the Screw will have many more clues to ponder again and to decide to what extent the governess can be believed. While critics like Heilman argue that there are problems with the interpretation that the governess was psychopathic, textual evidence incorporated with scientific research show that the governess did go through a period of psychical disorder that caused he...   [tags: The Turn of the Screw Essays]

Better Essays
2431 words (6.9 pages)

Essay on The Governess's Desire in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw

- The Governess's Desire in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw Henry James's The Turn of the Screw paints a landscape that is ripe for psychoanalytic analysis. He has chosen language and syntax that symbolize his main character's psychological fragmentation and her futile attempt to mend herself. Many of Lacan's theories emerge as the Governess reveals her motivations through her recollective narrative. The Governess enters the Imaginary Stage of Lacan's psychoanalysis theory when she sees herself in the mirror on her first night at Bly....   [tags: James Turn of the Screw Essays]

Better Essays
574 words (1.6 pages)