Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw": Are The Ghosts Actually Real?
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Through out the short novella, 'The Turn of the Screw,' by Henry James, the governess continually has encounters with apparitions that seem to only appear to her. As Miles' behavior in school worsens so that he is prevented from returning, and as Flora becomes ill with a fever, the governess blames these ghosts for corrupting the children, Miles and Flora, and labels them as evil and manipulative forces in their lives. But why is it that these ghosts only seem to appear to the governess even when the children are present at the time of the sightings by the governess? Evidence from the short story leads the reader to believe that the ghosts are not real but are merely the evidence of the fragmenting sanity of the governess. When the…show more content…
She describes the encounter as lasting a long, intense moment before the man passes from her view never breaking his stare at her all the while. This ghost is Peter Quint whom Mrs. Grose mentions in chapter two as liking young, fair women as employees as governesses. This appearance of the ghost could possibly be a figment of the governesses imagination because it was just before its manifestation that she was fantasizing about her employer with whom she is infatuated and in her fragile mental state, this could have fostered an appearance of a man who was attracted to his employees, something that the governess may wish upon her situation. The second visitation of the ghost of Peter Quint also occurs while the governess is by herself. As the governess, the children, and Mrs. Grouse are preparing for church, the governess goes back into the house to retrieve gloves she sees a visage of the same man she saw at the tower. When Mrs. Grose sees her face she immediately asks what is wrong. The governess goes on to describe the man that she has seen in an odd mixture of attraction and revulsion. This adds question to the reader on the subject of the validity of the testimony of the visitations
Essay about Henry James' The Turn of the Screw
1588 Words7 Pages
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? As Beidler points out, “It is an amazingly fine creepy, scary, soul-shuddering ghost story or, alternatively, it is an amazingly fine…show more content…
In other words, knowing that the events of The Turn of the Screw are given us from the perspective of human memory, which is fallible, is as important as the events unfolding within the story itself. This paper will argue that what we are told is from the perspective of the governess’s memory; subsequently, the events and information we are given become fallible, and suspect; therefore, the sanity and subsequent culpability of the governess cannot be proven from the text.
Note how Douglas introduces the manuscript from the governess: “It is in old faded ink and in the most beautiful hand” (James 24, italics added). No doubt, the penmanship of the governess was once vivid and clear; but, age has a natural tendency to cause that which is vivid to fade and become illegible. Referring first to his knowing the governess and second to the experience itself, Douglas tells us, “It was long ago, and this episode was long before” (James 24). The narrator in the prologue declares, “Let me say here distinctly, to have done with it, that this narrative, from an exact transcript of my own made much later, is what I shall presently give” (James 26). From these two statements, We see at least two people involved with the manuscript itself: the governess and the narrator of the prologue. We also see that a significant, though undisclosed and undetermined, period of time has passed since the original occurance of the events portrayed in the narrative. It is a common