Tuesday, August 18, 2009

181. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

History: Published in 1898, it is a ghost story.
Plot: An unnamed narrator listens to a male friend reading a manuscript written by a former governess whom the latter claims to have known and who is now dead. The manuscript tells the story of how the young governess is hired by a man who has found himself responsible for his niece and nephew after the death of their parents. He lives in London and has no interest in raising the children. The boy, Miles, is attending a boarding school whilst his sister, Flora, is living at the country home in Essex. She is currently being cared for by the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. The governess's new employer gives her full charge of the children and explicitly states that she is not to bother him with communications of any sort. The governess travels to her new employer's country house and begins her duties.
Miles soon returns from school for the summer just after a letter from the headmaster stating that he has been expelled. Miles never speaks of the matter, and the governess is hesitant to raise the issue. She fears that there is some horrid secret behind the expulsion, but is too charmed by the adorable young boy to want to press the issue. Shortly thereafter, the governess begins to see around the grounds of the estate the figures of a man and woman whom she does not recognize. These figures come and go at will without ever being seen or challenged by other members of the household, and they seem to the governess to be supernatural. She learns from Mrs. Grose that her predecessor, Miss Jessel, and Miss Jessel's illicit lover Peter Quint both died under curious circumstances. Prior to their death, they spent most of their time with Flora and Miles, and this fact takes on grim significance for the governess when she becomes convinced that the two children are secretly aware of the presence of the ghosts.
Review: 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.
Opening Line: “The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be.”
Closing Line: “We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.”
Quotes: "If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children-?"
Rating: Not good.

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