PDA

View Full Version : the turn of the screw by henry james SPOILERS



mister_noel_y2k
07-10-2005, 03:28 AM
my god henry james. i thought i'd learnt my lesson after washington square but im a sucker for punishment and yesterday i read the turn of the screw soley because it was a ghost story and my gothic lit teacher recommended it. well as you might imagine it was a tough slog (james is no easy read i tell you) and more than once i thought to myself WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE!?!?! and WHY SHOULD I CARE!?!?

SPOILER BEGINS

from what i gather there is a governess who is crazy and sees the ghosts of a former manservant and a maid who had an affair and died. how they died and why is beyond my understanding but dead they are and they appear to her. the two children in her charge are able to see them (or so she says) and conspire with them to get rid of her (i think anyway). then at the end the girl gets scared and refuses to see the mad governess (who is the narrator of the story too) and in the climactic scene the governess and the boy sit down to have dinner and she sees the ghost of the man and the boy falls down dead.

SPOILER END

now, just for my own edification, if anyone out there has read this yawnfest and/or studied it, then can you enlighten me? cheers

:banana:

mono
07-11-2005, 01:11 AM
Yes, I also found The Turn of the Screw very difficult to read, especially as compared to Henry James' earlier story, The Aspern Papers. I had to read the ending several times, and put a lot of thought into it before coming to, what I think of as, some sort of understanding; regardless, I found it the most intelligently written 'ghost story' I had ever encountered.
Ironically, while first reading it, I began a thread also, which I gained little from, but I happened to find a helpful website, which, even more ironically, I still happened to have in my 'Favorites List' of websites. The essay, though a little long, offers quite an explanation with an interesting history of the story:
http://www.davidappleyard.com/scribbles/hjames.htm
Good luck! :)

mister_noel_y2k
07-11-2005, 02:26 AM
i thought so, the governess was a madwoman who killed the boy. man, what a waste of time that novel was. THE most boring "ghost" story ever written without a doubt and damn near unreadable.

:banana:

mono
07-11-2005, 11:35 PM
what a waste of time that novel was. THE most boring "ghost" story ever written without a doubt and damn near unreadable.
Needless to say, I found The Turn of the Screw aggravatingly hard to understand; all throughout the story, I had very little trouble keeping up, but once the ending approached, I felt entirely confused. It seems so different from the classic 'ghost story,' which seem relatively easy to understand - for example, works by Washington Irving and Ambrose Bierce. To me, however, this seemed Henry James' goal - to entirely deviate from the typical 'ghost story' plot, still give the reader a decent fright, and toss in the most unpredictable conclusion as possible, forcing the reader to think.
All in all, I found the concept genius, despite having to do a fair amount of research, and loved the story in the end; but, no worries, different readers have different tastes.
If you still seem, at least, partially interested in Henry James, mister noel, I would highly recommend The Aspern Papers. It reads much easier, yet still with a mysterious, darkly humorous plot.

mister_noel_y2k
07-12-2005, 03:02 AM
well mono, having read both washington square and the turn of the screw i can say ive had enough of henry james to last me a lifetime and i will never read his work again. there are too many interesting writers out there to be bothering with this "literary" fop.


:banana:

Sitaram
07-28-2005, 03:39 AM
Yes, I also found The Turn of the Screw very difficult to read, especially as compared to Henry James' earlier story, The Aspern Papers. I had to read the ending several times, and put a lot of thought into it before coming to, what I think of as, some sort of understanding; regardless, I found it the most intelligently written 'ghost story' I had ever encountered.
Ironically, while first reading it, I began a thread also, which I gained little from, but I happened to find a helpful website, which, even more ironically, I still happened to have in my 'Favorites List' of websites. The essay, though a little long, offers quite an explanation with an interesting history of the story:
http://www.davidappleyard.com/scribbles/hjames.htm
Good luck! :)


Mono, reading your thoughtful posts is such a breath of fresh air for me.

There are certain things which must be said from time to time; things which we cannot pass through life leaving unsaid. And so, I have slightly altered the words of a popular song, and offer them as my

"Hymn in Praise of Mono"



That I put into words,
How wonderful life is,
Now you're in the world.



I am anxious to visit the link you post and read that essay.


It is difficult for me to believe that you are what you are at such a young age.

And you don't even seem to work up a sweat. But then, that is the real performer and athlete. They make it appear effortless, but it is really at times an excruciating effort, backstage, and in the gym.

I feel that you will say and write some things in the next few years which will have some lasting impact upon future generations. That is to day, you are destined (or doomed) to think thoughts which will take on a life of their own and life on after you.


I like this (from that essay link):



the artist is to be discovered in his work; but that the work must be created as an 'invulnerable granite' to the seeker"




James and his governess were further united in the sense that both were victims of an indifferent world; James yearned for the recognition of his readership and theatre audiences (EDEL p. 28), and the governess for the romantic recognition of her employer.

mono
07-28-2005, 12:51 PM
Wow, thank you, Sitaram, I feel greatly flattered. :D I would like to think I could write some brilliant piece someday, but we will see what happens, keeping modesty intact.
No matter what, Henry James' The Turn of the Screw I continue to call one of the most difficult novels (could one call it a short novel?) I have read, along with works by Aleister Crowley (also very, very difficult, but philosophical). I remember when a former college English professor first recommended it to me; before class began, I arrived early, and quietly opened my book of collected short stories by Ambrose Bierce. He asked if I enjoyed reading the works regarding supernatural phenomena, and I answered that I liked the challenge of trying to understand them; he recommended me this, and, good grief, what a recommendation! :p

diceman81
05-19-2006, 03:52 AM
Hi folks,

Firstly, this book is the reason I found this great forum. Secondly, it is the first book I immediately returned to page 1 when finished. Thirdly, it is the first book since studying english in high school that I have gone through with a pen, in fact whiling away hours in coffee shops when I should be working on my thesis(science not lit. by the way).

All in all, what a book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Granted it is difficult and on numerous occasions I think : WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!!!
You need to be focused when reading, not the best after a hard days work.

But that is what is best about it, its ambiguity. There are so many interpretations that it is mind boggling. However it potrays the nature of human consciousness and evil in a beautiful and colourful way like all good ghost stories should. But, it is extremely subtle, not like the usual slasher stuff. It seems James spent ages of thought into a book just over 100 pages, he is careful over every word, like a poet.


Would love to hear any comments about this book , good , bad or indifferent!

Donal.

mono
05-19-2006, 10:03 PM
Hello, diceman81, welcome to the forum! ;)
As I certainly agree that there could exist a chaotic number of interpretations of The Turn Of The Screw, I thought this as Henry James' intention, as I said above, in a much earlier post, to entirely deviate from the typical 'ghost story.' Realizing this possibly incorrect interpretation of my own, it, however, has inspired me greatly.
Reading it for the third time not long ago, I finally thought of it as a jigsaw puzzle missing several, crucial pieces to identify the full picture; the reader can obviously perceive the shape and size of the pieces, but he/she must fill them in independently. Regardless, I continue to find The Turn Of The Screw as an overwhelmingly genius work! :nod:

diceman81
05-20-2006, 09:43 AM
Hi mono,

I agree with your point about deviation from standard ghost story. This I think is it's greatness and also it's source of frustration with many readers.

One of my favorite themes it that of human consciousness and God.

I have picked out numerous passages where each character could be thought of symbolically.

Eg Employer – God
Governess – Human Self Consciousness
Flora and Miles – Mankind
Mrs Grose – Mother Nature
Quint/Jessel – Evil resulting from self consciousness, sexual in nature?
House – Earth
Etc.

I could give many quotes from book. Have you given this theme much consideration? To be honest, on first view I was so enthralled by the suspense that I did not give it much thought. As is the case with horror movies, my involuntary fight or flight response must first be relaxed before any intellectual evaluation!

By the way, have you seen the film version ‘The Innocents’? I highly recommend it.

Also, I have not read anything else by James. You mentioned ‘The Aspern Papers’. Is it a worthwhile read from a laypersons point of view?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Donal.

mono
05-20-2006, 02:19 PM
One of my favorite themes it that of human consciousness and God.

I have picked out numerous passages where each character could be thought of symbolically.

Eg Employer – God
Governess – Human Self Consciousness
Flora and Miles – Mankind
Mrs Grose – Mother Nature
Quint/Jessel – Evil resulting from self consciousness, sexual in nature?
House – Earth
Etc.
Very impressive, diceman! I admit that I have not delved into this subject of The Turn Of The Screw, nor any possible interpretation related. I can certainly see your interpretation's validity, and agree with it on first look, but would have to put a lot more thought into it, as I see you already wisely have. As I posted earlier, the short novel, itself, I think can function a lot like a vast puzzle with pieces missing, leaving an astoundingly wide range for individual interpretation (a lot also like Finnegans Wake by James Joyce).
Perhaps, this, too, as with James Joyce, seemed another intention of Henry James - to encourage the reader to explore his/her own mind, filling in the missing gaps of the story, testing in the most psychological manner of what lies deep in the mind when given a scenario, characters, and a mysterious plot. I have pondered this much, and wonder of its validity, thinking also of the era of Henry James (and James Joyce) - an era of breakthrough research and theories in psychology, sociology, and parapsychology.
I do not argue against your interpretation, and, in fact, find it a good one worth meditating. You mapped out the characters in a personal 'dramatis personae,' almost representing them as Jungian archetypes. Beautifully done, and I applaud your effort and logic!

Also, I have not read anything else by James. You mentioned ‘The Aspern Papers’. Is it a worthwhile read from a laypersons point of view?
No doubt, if you liked The Turn Of The Screw, you would most likely enjoy The Aspern Papers, as well. This story seems a lot easier to understand, and follows a more linear, clear plot, full of very sardonic and dark humor. I would recommend it to anyone. :nod:

diceman81
05-22-2006, 05:40 AM
Hi mono,

'You mapped out the characters in a personal 'dramatis personae,' almost representing them as Jungian archetypes.'

Very interesting point. I have just recently started reading about Jung especially his study of the symbolism of the tarot and alchemy, the archetypes present in the human subconsciousness common to us all.

Indeed, the more I consider this aspect of the story the more resonance it has with my own subconsciousness and awareness. As one critic put it, the story acts like a 'time bomb' long after reading. My opinion is that this mind play works on many levels, superficially as an ambiguous ghost story. Also, perhaps it acts on the subconscious, generating these 'ghostly' archetypes, which linger and haunt.

Another thought I had in relation to Jung, is that Quint and Jessel represent the 'shadow' of the governess' mind. The 'horror' arises due to her repression of her shadow. The shadow then finds an outlet and projects itself through the children with tragic consequences.

I have been trained as a scientist and never gave much thought to the supernatural and inevitably dismissed it due to my rational minded approach. Now, I'm not so sure, and James,Jung etc. are opening doors previously under lock and key by my scientific conditioning.

It is of course difficult to express this in words, as it is non verbal knowledge. The best I can describe it is a expansion of awareness, even a 'ghostly' experience!

Donal

sarahd
08-12-2006, 08:43 AM
I am reading the Turn of the Screw and find it very hard going but I am enjoying the challenge. I saw the film, 'The Innocence' years ago and class it as one of the best films ever made and suggest that anyone who has to study The Turn of the Screw see this movie.The adaption is excellent and being in black and white adds to the atmosphere especially when the figure appears on the lake .I am not a learned person but this story just fascinates me and by what we know today about the human mind I am sure a remake of the film would be interesting.

Gothic Fan
01-16-2008, 08:39 PM
Mister Noel,

I just finished reading the Turn of the Screw and all I can say is that you must be supremely uneducated and non-intuitive to call it a "Yawn Fest", Literary Fop and the Most Boring Ghost Story You have ever Read".

James is perhaps the most brilliant writer I have ever read and this story is absolutely fascinating and suspenseful all the way up until the end. I have to re-read it to figure out everything but anyone who dislikes this story may as well dislike Shakespeare.

Are you entitled to your opinion? Sure.

Is your opinion intelligent? Definitely NOT.


You might as well say Beethoven can't compose.

The book was NOT a difficult read in my opinion.

Confusing as to the overall explanation, yes, and that is one of the things which makes it so brilliant.

One of the top ten greatest Gothic/horror stories I have ever read.

At the moment I don't enjoy listening to classical music, but I would never say that it is poorly composed.

Literary Fop??!! Man, people like you should never be reading in the first place.

kohutek
03-02-2008, 03:47 PM
I have read The Turn of The Screw and have a paper due on it in a couple of weeks and my topic is how: The governess in “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James may seem a normal caregiver, however through foreshadowing, and turn of events her sanity is unraveled making an unstable environment for the children. I think I have the book covered with quotes but i cant find any credible sources to back me up. Can you help me or give me some advice i'm desperate and since this is the grade that decides if i fail or pass it very important. I have a user name on this web site kaylakohutek please help

Eef's
03-12-2008, 06:03 PM
Hi, I think the equivalent of Henry James in French literature is Flaubert (ex : Mme Bovary).
Those two spent a lot of time rewriting their story, in that way, they are to be called "great stylists".
Reading James is so interesting, you can read many stories through one!
The ambiguity is kept till the end and lies in the use of pronouns ( 'you' 'he' ...we don't who they refer to) and hyphens.
The best example as far is a Miles quotation at the very end "Peter Quint - you devil !"

Till the end, we don't know whether the ghosts actually existed or were imagined by the governess...