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GCSE Essay on Tension in "Turn of the screw"

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Explore the Way that James Creates Atmosphere and Tension in the "The Turn of the Screw" The 'Turn of the Screw', which was written in the late nineteenth century, is acclaimed by critics for the build up of tension and the suspenseful atmosphere that its author, Henry James, creates throughout the novella. James achieves this by exploiting several characters and features of the book. James manipulates the prologue of the novella by creating a group of listeners who are in anticipation for the story; furthermore the character who narrates the story is not immediately able to retrieve the manuscript, this deliberate slow down of tempo, builds suspense preceding the tale and it prepares the reader for a thrilling story. The setting of the novella is also used to build atmosphere, a technique that James regularly employs is contrasting a moment of tranquil with one of danger. This produces a sharp difference and thus makes the scene of peril seem even more suspenseful. The ghosts of Quint and Jessel are perhaps the largest contributors to the atmosphere and tension within the novel; James uses both ghosts to create a threat to the children which causes tremendous tension and it is the central plot in the book. The children themselves are also manipulated by James to create atmosphere, their behaviour is continually reiterated as perfect and virtuous to such an extent that the reader is almost persuaded to think that their is something not quite natural about them. ...read more.


In the pages preceding his apparition there is a vivid description of an idyllic setting such as "the beauty and dignity of the place... golden sky". James does this in order to produce a sharp contrast when the ghost appears, making the emergence of the ghost more of a shock and therefore more terrifying for his audience. With the ghost of Peter Quint now firmly entrenched within the story, James uses him as a key contributor for creating an atmosphere of tension. James uses Miss Grose's detestable presentation of Quint while he was alive in order to create tension. She describes him as "Impudent and depraved", "spoiled", these quotations give a negative impression of Quint and portray him as an antagonist. However perhaps worst of all he is also related by Grose as "clever and deep", exemplifying him as calculating and sinister. Because of his negative introduction the reader is therefore continually persuaded to think of Quint as a dangerous to the children. Upon each appearance Quint is seen closer to the Governess and hence successively more threatening and horrifying. Additionally each time Quint appears he is closer to the children, leading us to suspect that his apparitions are with some sort of intention rather than random. As a result of our perception of him as somebody dangerous and also because he is getting closer and closer to the governess, the reader feels the suspense gradually building since we see him as a threat to both the Governess and the children. ...read more.


A key factor that James uses to build up tension in the novella is the danger that the ghosts pose to the children. The Governess is convinced that the motive of the ghosts is to 'harm' the children, "he wants to appear to them" the use of 'want' insinuates a feeling similar to desire for the children and since we have been given an extremely negative narration of Quint the reader feels a build up on suspense because of the threat posed to them. Furthermore the ghosts are described as having an "intention" and "determination", these phrases reiterates the 'desperation' that the phantoms have for the children. The Governess exclaims, "It's far worse than I dreamed, they're lost". Although the term "lost" is ambiguous it resonates with corruption and evil. James uses this phrase as an essential cause of tension in the novella since it suggests that the ghosts have a dominating influence of malevolence on the children. In conclusion, James successfully creates atmosphere and tension in his novella. Through the exploitation of the prologue, setting and the characters in the story, he is able to maintain this throughout. However a key part of the novella that is central to the reader's attitude to the entire novel; is the reader's interpretation of the Governess credibility. A key question is, do the ghosts actually exist or are they merely imagined by a naive and vulnerable woman? If the latter is believed, then surely she is to blame for the entire chaos created and ultimately Miles' death. ow This create ...read more.

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