View Full Version : The turn of the Screw essay. What do u think of this

10-26-2008, 07:47 AM
Who or what is haunting in the “Turn of the Screw”

The “Turn of the Screw” is a “Ghost story” written by Henry James, since it has been published it went through various interpretations and critics, this because of his ambiguity and difference. It is a text that can be interpreted in many ways, It could be seen as a simple ghost story in which there are ghosts hunting a house leading, then, to the death of a child. It could be the story of a hunted woman with hallucinations, seeing things that do not exist people that are not there, she is scared by these demons and she is scared they might hurt the children, with which she had a strong bond, and her fear is reflected to them scaring and confusing them.
This story could also be a very fine thought about the psychology of a frustrated person, giving the story a three dimensionality that is identifiable in the person herself.
All of these statements could be true none of them are false because it depends in which way would you interpret a certain behaviour, certain person would understand that ghost lead to death others frustration others would understand love.
The text of Henry James “The Turn of the Screw” has been judged the “[...] finest he has ever
Done [...]” (pg155) and it was seen as a “... a deliberated, powerful, and horribly successful study of the magic of evil [...]” by the New York times in 1898. Many criticisms talk about “problem of evil” and “evil ghosts” so it seems as if they would be haunting, these pre-Freudian thoughts are: the fears of the people seen as the evil that creeps into our life and we have to protect us and others from it. Here is were another opinion starts in which she is, since the beginning, in love with this great man, the Master: she as a girl from a poor family where her father is thought a person with a “psychically unbalanced nature” (pg 161) and “might even have been insane”. She feels this unnatural bond towards the children and she sees herself as a protector from evil, an evil that is imaginary, the evil is not real and obvious for others, it is an hallucination she creates to protect the children: “Her whole being tingles with the craving to perform some act of inexplicable courage.” These hallucinations may come because “she instantly becomes a victim of insomnia” (pg162).
The Freudian explanation is more complicated and vast because it allow us to see into a matter that comprehends more than just one reality (knowledge) or two realities (the physical and the metaphysical word). Freud introduced a third dimension of reality that is the psychological reality made of memories, dreams, emotions, rooted in the human psyche. In fact Before Freud’s “Traumdeutung” there were only two gnoseologic (the ways of understanding) theories: the dualistic and monistic explanation of reality were confronting each other. The dualistic philosopher saw two parallel realities coexisting, the physical reality and the conceptual reality. According to them (Hegel) the reality is made of the stone as a tangible object and the idea of it (Hegel). The monistic conception of the world was introduced by Aristotle and was dominant until the enlightenment and it recognized just one reality: the metaphysical (nomen est omen).
After Freud’s discoveries evil loose it’s moral meaning as punishment for some guilt. And ghosts are not anymore demonic creatures (Quint, Miss Jassel).
Ghosts may just bee dreams, the dream of a mind that needed to protect the children, an illusion created by fears, frustrated hopes, hope and despair intertwine with each other and are projected from one person to another, with feedbacks and reflections, in a way that makes impossible to separate dreams from hard facts: “Her whole being tingles with the craving to perform an act of unexampled courage”.
The governess is also under the influence of an intense love towards the master, she is dazzled and confused by this different world she finds herself in (coming from a poor, cold and strange family) a world of beauty and perfection. Inside her fantasy she is beaten off by the realization of the impossibility of her love, infact she understands that she will never meet this majestic and secret figure she can only imagine and dream. “The young woman falls instantly and passionately in love with the man who has inserted the advertisement. She scarcely admits it even to he heart she knows that her love is hopeless.” These thought lead to self delusion and to a imaginary world that follows her rules, this world is not a cloud-cuckoo-land but a land of fear and the border between events, ideas and memories/dreams is irremediably blurred and disguised. “She cannot see her own insanity she can see only it reflection, as it were, in the faces, trace its effect on the acts, of others”. (pg.167)
Evil, is the presence of Ghosts, the fact that we are in the end unsure, if they are feared and evocated by the Governess, or effectively seen by the children and this creates an insecurity inside us, we are not sure what to believe, at the beginning we think something and then the complete opposite. But we are definitely sure that it is not an external evil, a curse, a punishment for some distant unknown guilt (the pre-Freudian interpretation) it is the reflection of a darkened mind, a mind darkened by insecurity, love and despair.


In the end James does not tell us what haunts the children and/or Governess.
It is something more subtle.
There are the fears of the children, originated by the premature loss of their parents, and their pain of growing.
But there is also the Governess loneliness and lack of warmth and protection from her family.
Her frustrated desire for a (protected and solid) family, for which she is prepared to all sacrifice.
And there is something bad that actually happened at Bly.
So, fears, frustrated hopes, hope and despair intertwine with each other, are projected from one person to another, with feedbacks and reflections, in a way that makes impossible to separate dreams from hard facts. The border between events, ideas and memories/dreams is irremediably blurred.
The evil, is, the impossibility to keep the distinction between the facts, ideas and emotions.
Evil is life seen through the mirror of a darkened mind.

Pre Freudian
Evil creeps,

Freudian recognizable
Freudian wrote about the existence of different realities, because everybody has realities defined by theire youth.

07-10-2010, 09:36 PM
What about the opinions of the other characters in the story, or are they also considered to be part of the governess's hallucinations? The introduction to the story, told by the narrator, lets us know that he knew the governess to be a straightforward type of person, that her word could be believed. Why put that in if James intended it all to be about a repressed woman and her hallucinations.

I believe it is and was intended to be a ghost story. There are many points in the novel that indicate that the housekeeper was nervous and fearful BEFORE the governess arrived, that she knew something was not right. She believed the governess as well, though we don't know if she ever saw any apparitions herself..

Seems to me that an entire novel based on the delusions of a sexually repressed woman would be a huge waste of time for someone like James to write. He was interested in the supernatural, and has alluded to it in other works...and even if the governess was nuts, or just suffering from lack of male attention, what would be so different or exciting about that? Probably 90 percent of women in the time period of the story were sexually frustrated.

I just think too much time has been invested in looking for all these motives, instead of just enjoying the story for what it was - a good story!