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The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Christine Nguyen

on 19 January 2013

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Transcript of The Turn of the Screw

Purpose & Theme Henry James takes on an emotional and personal tone while writing in the point of view of the governess, keeping a defined style. He draws a picture of the governess slowly losing her sanity from encountering the ghosts, creating emotions for the reader to sympathize to. Henry James skillfully builds up the suspense, up to when Peter Quint shows up for the last time and then the unexpected death of Miles, making the ending quick and brief, thus leaving the readers with lingering thoughts on what happened, what could of happened, and why it happened. By not revealing much, Henry James keeps the reader mulling over the book. This also gives the book a theme of repression. By providing the readers less information, it would leave more room for our minds to think outside of the box (in our case, book) to find the underlying meaning of his novel, which is a great way to keep us readers hooked. Plot The book begins as a man named Douglas introduces the tale of Flora and Miles at a Christmas Eve gathering. He soon pulls out a written record and we begin to go on an adventure with the governess, the main character, who tells us her experiences through her own eyes in this novel. She is hired to work in Bly, the country home, and her story begins as she arrives there alone. She meets Miles and Flora, the two children of the household, along with Ms. Grose, who is the maid. As time goes on, the governess begins to experience strange things. She first encounters a mysterious man, who we later find out to be the dead Peter Quint. Soon after, she also faces the ghost of Miss Jessel, the previous governess of the household. She comes across the two ghosts multiple times throughout the book, and begins to draw up the conclusion that the children, too, have seen the ghosts. As the book goes on, the governess sees the apparition of Miss Jessel by the lake again and points it out to Ms. Grose and Flora, who claim the governess as being mad. The next day, Flora becomes sick and is brought to her uncle's care by Ms. Grose, leaving Miles and the governess in Bly. As the governess and Miles converse after dinner about her missing letter, which Miles admits to taking, She sees the ghost of Peter Quint staring from the other side of the window. As Miles turns to face Quint, he abruptly falls into the arms of the governess, dead. We are then brought back to what we started with--the governess, alone. Tone As the story is being told through the point of view of the governess, we get to experience the emotions and thoughts of the governess, giving the book a direct, personal tone. This also gives the book a more biased tone as we only get to see the governess's side of the story from reading her thoughts and feelings from the manuscripts that were written by her. Through the tone, we see Henry James as an exceptional writer who is able to create a life-like, straight-forward, and emotional character. The Critique The Governess- A young woman who is hired and sent to Bly as the governess of the house. She is inconsistent in her emotions as she shows affection for the children, yet grows paranoid about the connection between the ghosts and the children throughout the book. She can been seen as young and determined, but also secluded and naive. The story is told from her point of view, and the reader is not told her name.
Miles- His outer demeanor gives him an air of innocence, along with his unusually good behavior. There is a sense of deceitfulness to him as the governess believes him to be planning evil deeds with the ghosts, along with his expulsion from school and stealing of her letter making her suspicion rise. She concludes him to be slightly heinous.
"He was incredibly beautiful, and Mrs. Grose had put her finger on it: everything but a sort of passion of tenderness for him was swept away by his presence. What I then and there took him to my heart for was something divine that I have never found to the same degree in any child – his indescribable little air of knowing nothing in the world but love."
Flora- The governess believes Flora to be charming, innocent and is the most beautiful child she has met. Flora can be described as angelic, being well-behaved like her brother and optimistic. The governess also assumes Flora to be scheming and deceptive just like her brother.
"But it was a comfort that there could be no uneasiness in a connection with anything so beatific as the radiant image of my little girl, the vision of whose angelic beauty had probably more than anything else to do with me restlessness that, before morning, made me several times rise and wander about my room to take in the whole picture and prospect."
Mrs. Grose- A long-time servant of the household. She listens to the governess and is skeptical of the assumptions she makes, though she devotedly provides the governess with her full attention throughout the book. Set in the 1840s in Bly, a home out in the country in Essex, England
The rich usually lived in large houses in the country
The 1840s was the era of the Industrial Revolution
Large numbers of people worked in domestic service
Servants, tenants, and other types of workers
Many women were hired to work privately in a household as a governess to care for and teach children
They are comparable to nannies found in households today
The poor often worked in factories or mines for 10 or more hours a day The Foundation The Turn of the Screw by Henry James Let's take a look inside the house... Presentation by Christine Nguyen Main Characters Marion A. Davis provided a literary review on the novel, giving mainly a positive critique overall. Although I do not agree with all of the points made in the critique, I do agree with some of the given comments. Marion Davis believed that by “considering the setting in which the story is told, the narrator’s own confessions, and pieces of the unconscious’ effect emerging, the governess can be identified as an unreliable narrator”. I fully agree with this because of the fact that the story is in the point of view of the governess, giving only her thoughts about what happened in the story. We do not learn about the thoughts of the other characters in the story and we only get to hear one side of the situation. The governess is also unreliable because of the fact she was slightly unstable and her emotions were all over the place as well, making her constantly over think the situations. Marion Davis also believed that the speculation of the ghosts’ intentions is to get a hold on the children as a “very illogical theory” for the conflict in the book, which I disagree with. Throughout the book, the children had shown signs that they were hiding something from the governess, and lead her to believe they were plotting something with the ghosts, making me think the idea of the ghosts trying to take the children being a possible theory. Though the paranoia the governess constantly feels and the fluctuating emotions make her unreliable as a narrator, those characteristics do give the story a conflict to resolve and makes it more appealing to the reader, making the reader wonder if the governess is truly insane and highly influenced by her emotions, or if the ghosts were truly there. Marion Davis went on further and explains “the governess appears to be experiencing an inner battle that is affecting her perception of reality" then continued on and explained how that could “make the reader doubt the story’s validity”. I agree that the governess is shown to experience a battle with herself from being over-emotional and that affects her sanity, but disagree with the fact that it would make the reader doubt the validity because I believe that if someone is accused of being insane for being sure of seeing something out of the ordinary, it would make the person confused and doubt their thoughts, even though they were sure it happened. By doing this, I believe Henry James makes the novel more relatable to the reader. Overall, I agree with the critic on about half of their given points, and disagree with the rest. The book, in my opinion, was an entertaining and different read, which I enjoyed. I liked how the governess was portrayed as a character, and the ability to know what she is going through really kept me attached to her and able to sympathize her. The constant build up of suspense and mysteriousness kept me hooked up until the unexpected end, which really affected me. I had fun reading the book, and enjoyed the writing style of Henry James. Link to the Critique: http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/65/literary-analysis-turn-of-the-screw Time to close the curtains "What it was most impossible to get rid of was the cruel idea that, whatever I had seen, Miles and Flora saw more – things terrible and unguessable and that sprang from dreadful passages of intercourse in the past."
The governess begins to suspect Miles and Flora. "Both the children had a gentleness – it was their only fault, and it never made Miles a muff – that kept them (how shall I express it?) almost impersonal and certainly quite unpunishable. They were like those cherubs of the anecdote who had – morally at any rate – nothing to whack!"
The governess explains how oddly innocent the children seem. Too innocent, perhaps? "His face was close to the glass, yet the effect of this better view was, strangely, only to show me how intense the former had been. He remained but a few seconds – along enough to convince me he also saw and recognized; but it was as if I had been looking at him for years and had known him always. Something, however, happened this tune that had not happened before; his stare into my face, through the glass and across the room, was as deep and hard as then, but it quitted me for a moment during which I could still watch it, see it fix successively several other things. On the spot there came to me the added shock of a certitude that it was not for me he had come there. He had come for someone else."
The governess describes seeing Peter Quint. ""Why, of the very things that have delighted, fascinated, and yet, at bottom, as I now so strangely see, mystified and troubled me. Their more than earthly beauty, their absolutely unnatural goodness. It's a game," I went on; "it's a policy and a fraud!""
The governess believes the children are up to no good. "Dark as midnight in her black dress, her haggard beauty and her unutterable woe, she had looked at me long enough to appear to say that her right to sit at my table was as good as mine to sit at hers."
The governess describes seeing Miss Jessel.
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