Turn Of The Screw Essay On Ambiguity Meaning

Turn Of The Screw Ambiguity Essay

In the novella Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the owner of the estate at Bly, a bachelor left to take care of his young niece and nephew, seeks a governess who "should never trouble him...neither appeal nor complain nor write about anything; only meet all questions herself, receive all moneys from his solicitor, take the whole thing over and let him alone," (James 122). Either the governess' paranoia over these strange demands causes her to see ghosts, or encounters with real ghosts cause the governess to feel paranoid. Her paranoid behaviors, such as her overanalysis of the children's behavior and delusions of grandeur, can be explained through either form of causation.

Throughout the novella, the governess overanalyzes the children's behaviors. One instance of her paranoia with their actions occurs when the governess believes that Flora tried to distract her from Miss Jessel's ghost and she claims that, "It was a pity I needed to capitulate the portentous little activities by which she sought to divert my attention-the perceptible increase of movement, the greater intensity of play, the singing, the gabbling of nonsense and the invitation to romp," (James 162). Playing, singing and romping seem like normal activities for a child to be partaking in for his or her own enjoyment, but because the governess received such strange orders from the children's uncle, she may have developed a preconceived notion that the children were mischievous, which explains why he didn't want contact with them. This paranoia over why the bachelor wouldn't want contact with the manor could have escalated, causing her to see ghosts on the grounds. On the other hand, the questionable orders the governess received could have indicated that ghosts really were a concern at Bly. If this motive to...

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Narrative Frames and Ambiguity in Henry James' The Turn of The Screw

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Narrative "frames" and Ambiguity in The Turn of The Screw

Since it was written, Henry James' The Turn of The Screw has been acclaimed by numerous critics to be one of the most immaculate, engrossing and terrifying ghost stories ever produced. Harriet Waters Preston described it as, "a sheer mortal horror, like the evil dream of a man under the spell of a deadly drug"1, and Gertrude Atherton said, "[it] is the most horrifying ghost story ever written!"2

I will argue that it is the narrative frames enclosing The Turn of The Screw that are largely responsible for the reception the book has received. They serve two main purposes; one, to build up an element of suspense and tension before the governess's account actually…show more content…

These layers serve to establish tension and suspense before the story actually begins. There are many dramatic devices employed in these outer frames to heighten this sensation.

At the outermost layer of all, the title of the text itself, "The Turn of the Screw", imparts an ominous atmosphere. Whether or not the "screw" refers to a sinister thumb-screw for torture purposes, or merely to a simple fastening device, the implication is that a ghost story involving children is a degree more oppressive than one that concerns only adults.3 In the second paragraph of the text, Douglas says, "If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children-?"4

The very setting of the fireside at which Griffin's guests swap stories establishes an atmosphere with which many of us are familiar. We can all relate to sitting around a fire exchanging ghost stories. By employing this particular narrative frame James encourages the reader to abandon their scepticism and give themselves over to a belief in the ghosts. The reader shares in the eagerness of the guests to be frightened; to be delighted by horror. Upon seeing Douglas' distress at the thought of the tale he must tell, and its "dreadful - dreadfulness", one of the female guests actually cries, "Oh how delicious!"5

Douglas' own elusiveness and

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