Ghost story, or Study in Libidinal Repression? Sumia S. Abdul Hafidh gives an account of Henry James's novella The Turn of the Screw, showing that its psychological depth makes it far more than just a 'ghost story'. (1,750 words)
The never-ending question about the novella “The Turn of the Screw” is if the governess actually sees the ghosts she claims to have seen. The article “Narrative Games: The Frame of The Turn of the Screw” provides support from experts on narrations, that the governess is not a reliable narrator. Henry James ends The Turn of the Screw with and ambiguous and a wide-open closing scene. The open-endedness leaves us with unanswered questions and what really happened.
Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw may be Henry James's most widely read tales. Certainly, these swiftly moving accounts of failed connections are among the best examples of his shorter fiction. One represents the international theme that made him famous; the other exemplifies the multiple meanings that make him modern. The introduction to this 1993 volume locates his fiction in the context of the family that conditioned his concern with the sexual politics of intimate experience. In the four essays that follow, Kenneth Graham offers a close reading of Daisy with an emphasis on Daisy; Robert Weisbuch examines Winterbourne as a specimen of James's formidable bachelor type; Millicent Bell places the ghost story governess in the traditions of English fiction and society; David McWhirter then provides a critique of female authority. Deftly summarising earlier criticism, these essays demonstrate the continuing appeal of Henry James in our time
First appearing in print in 1898, The Turn of the Screw, Henry James's classic horror story, has inspired a variety of films, plays and novels and even a Benjamin Britten opera.
the Henry James scholar's Guide to Web Sites * R. Hathaway
Wilson revised his essay for inclusion in the 1938 edition of The Triple Thinkers. In addition to quite a few minor stylistic changes, Wilson expanded on his discussion of other Jamesian works as they are related to his points about The Turn of the Screw. He provides examples of how each novel of James's first major phase "begins strangely to run into the sands" at some "point--usually about half way through" so that "the excitement seems to lapse at the same time that the color fades from the picture; and the ends are never up to the beginnings." For example, in the first half of The Tragic Muse, "Miriam Rooth . . . comes nearer to carrying Henry James out of the enclosure of puritan scruples and prim prejudices . . . than any other character he has drawn." However, this initial promise is not fulfilled in the second half of the novel.
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The conflicts in James's psyche, according to Wilson, explain both his evasive answers to questions about The Turn of the Screw in his correspondence (396) and his "special resentment" toward Flaubert which "seems to have been particularly inspired by L'Education Sentimentale." Terming Frederic "a perfect young man out of Henry James," Wilson offers this pithy interpretation of James's antagonism:
L. C. Knights, in 1938, without specifically discussing The Turn of the Screw, listed a host of "trapped spectators" in the Jamesian canon, each of whom is "merely a watcher, unable to participate freely and fully in human experience" (602) and contended that this "preoccupation with the plight of the trapped creature" (605) can be at least partially attributed to two elements in the author's history: the tendency of the elder Henry James to "too successfully cultivate in his second son the faculty of detachment" by, among other things, too much exposure to diverse geographical influences; and the fact that, later, "James settled in England . . . but he never became at home there. . ." (601). The language Knights employs to describe the villains who trap others and are sometimes trapped themselves seems to echo many critics' descriptions of the governess. Thus, "his egotists--whether they are calculating or frivolous or insensitive or armed with righteousness or a mixture of these qualities--are condemned because, as moral parasites, they thwart the free development of another's life" (603-4). One paragraph is worth quoting at some length:
Literary Network - Robert Louis Stevenson
... Turn of the Screw by Henry James showcases the narrator's futile attempts to carry out her plans. With every turn of the screw, the story goes deeper, and truth fades into transparency. At face value, the story shows ghosts corrupting the house's youth. However, the Governess ...