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How does James seek to involve and disturb the reader in The Turn of the Screw?

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How does James seek to involve and disturb the reader in The Turn of the Screw? Even before beginning to read The Turn of the Screw, I had a very specific set of expectations of this Gothic novella, featuring a supernatural atmosphere full of fear, tension and suspense. I had already taken for granted a defenceless, young lady would be one of the main characters too. The fact that it is a novella, told me that it would be suited to creating and sustaining an intensely strained atmosphere, with a powerful impact on the reader, already confirming my expectations. The title, The Turn of the Screw is a metaphor and symbolises the tightening of nerves, and intensifying of fear, once more confirming my expectations. Although these characteristics are evident, James sets out to intensify the reader's experience, without resorting to "clattering chains, demonic noises and other melodramatic techniques" as the back of the text tells us. James intends to subvert the genre, leaving even more powerful impact on the reader. Key devices such as metaphors and circumlocution and ellipses are successfully used to create ambiguity and at the same time to involve and disturb the reader. The Turn of the Screw tells us the story of a young governess, given full responsibility of looking after two children at an isolated mansion named Bly. ...read more.


At first we do feel aligned that the governess is getting a joy from being able to look after the children, but as she continues we begin to feel very disturbed and alienated as the governess says "they had nothing but me, and I - well, I had them." The governess seems desperately attached to the children, with an unsettling level of possession! The governess next "began to watch them in a stifled suspense, a disguised excitement..." this once more unsettles us and alienated us from the governess. She is getting an enjoyment from the children being in danger. In the section of the novella where the governess first sees Miss Jessel our feelings towards the governess do change. Whilst the governess fears the ghost and is worried about whether Flora would see it too, "My heart stood still for an instant with the wonder and terror of the question whether she would see; and I held my breath while I watched for what a cry from her.." we empathise and sympathise with her as the ghost watches her. The governess then chooses to face the ghost, "then I again shifted my eyes - I faced what I had to face." Again we empathise with the governess at this point, she shows great courage in our eyes to face the ghost directly. ...read more.


I decided that he left it open to use the Gothic genre to disturb us even more than usual, but more importantly to force the reader to speculate on what has happened. James knew that the unknown is capable of being more frightening than the known, and he took full advantage of that, leaving us very emotional by the end of the novella. Another important question raised is "Why did James not tell us the name of the governess", I feel this is so we do not feel too aligned with the governess. How is it possible to believe and understand what someone is telling you when you don't even know their name? I feel that the early critics of the text who believes that the governess was a "kind, benevolent character, fighting against evil ghosts to protect Flora and Miles" are totally na�ve, and have misjudged the novella altogether. There is a lot more to this novella than just the governess protecting Flora and Miles. I however do agree with most modern critics that now acknowledge that "the key feature of the text is its ambiguity and that almost every incident can be used to prove both that the governess is hallucinating, and that the ghosts actually exist. James' powerful uses of language should be discussed rather than what is ultimately an irresolvable controversy". It is down to James' powerful uses of language that our thoughts on this novella are so mixed, and I believe the questions will never be satisfactorily answered. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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