Essay on The Turn of the Screw

Essay on The Turn of the Screw

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“An action-occurs which proceeds from the supernatural (from the pseudo-supernatural); this action then provokes a reaction in the implicit reader (and generally in the hero of the story). It is this reaction which we describe as ‘hesitation,’ and the texts which generate it, as fantastic” (Todorov 195). The fantastic is the moment of hesitation that is experienced by the reader who is confronted by a supernatural event in the story or novel and thus understands the laws of nature are put into question. Todorov uses three conditions that constitute the fantastic, in the first, the reader enters the character’s world and considers it a natural world and so the reader hesitates between determining whether there is a natural or supernatural explanation of the events that occur in the story. The second condition is when the reader identifies himself with the character in the novel and by doing so interprets the events by the characters in the novel. Lastly, the reader must obtain an attitude in relation to the text, and decide what levels or modes of reading he or she will hold. The fantastic can be divided into two genres, the uncanny and the marvelous. The marvelous occurs when a reader must create new laws of nature for the particular event to occur, whereas the uncanny is when reality remains intact and there is an explanation for the event. Todorov argues that the ambiguity persists even after the reader is finished with The Turn of the Screw which is interesting but there are stronger textual clues that support the governess was in a state of hysteria.
According to a Freudian psychoanalysis of the governess, we understand that there is much more occurring than just a haunted estate. The reader knows what is occurring...


... middle of paper ...


...rong because of the inconsistencies with the laws of nature that are portrayed in the novel. According to Sussman, the governess is “a textbook case of hysteria” (230). The symptoms of hysteria were laid out in a book by Freud and Breuer that was published just three years before The Turn of the Screw was published. As Sussman elucidates the highly suggested conditions of the governess as stated through Freud’s textbook seems acceptable to determine that the governess and the story she tells are direct illusions of hysteria (231). The governess’s actions are an over the top emotional reaction caused by multiple events in one’s past.






Works cited
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print.
Todorov, Tzvetan. “The Fantastic.” Class Handout.
Sussman, Henry. "James: Twists of the Governess." Class Handout.

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