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Turn of the Screw

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Are the Governess and her narrative reliable? 04/04/07 Inform your response with reference to the novel's narrative structure, James' use of language to characterise the governess and your knowledge of the text's historical, cultural and critical context This essay will argue that neither the governess nor her narrative is reliable. This essay will argue its case by looking at the narrative structure, Henry James's use of language to characterise the governess and will also refer to other historical, cultural and critical opinions of the novel. Through all this, the essay will show how the story we are reading is not an ideal source of true events and then by looking at the psychological state of the Governess, this essay will show why she shouldn't be believed either. The story starts of with a man named Douglas telling a story to guests at a dinner party. It is from a manuscript passed down to him by the governess before she died. The manuscript tells us the main story of the governess. The story is set in the late 19th Century and is about the governess who is now in charge of the care of two orphans. ...read more.


She casts herself as the gothic heroine as she has an obsession with protecting the children "offering myself bravely". Women in the Victorian period, where this book is set, would read lots of books of this genre and this is why the governess would write her story in this style. She probably makes up most of these themes to turn her narrative into a gothic novel with her as the gothic heroine "strangely at the helm" The use of taboo and lacunae by the Governess and Mrs Grose means we do not get all of the details also. "Mrs Grose had kept back" . Women of the period were not meant to be heard saying things that were considered to be a taboo and as most of the story contains taboo, we are not told most of it. We are not told why Miles is expelled from school. Many of the conversations between the Governess and Mrs Grose are very ambiguous because they are both afraid of saying certain things that would be classed as a taboo. Therefore their conversations are often quite ambiguous and we are not always sure what the two women are talking about: " 'But aren't they all - ' ...read more.


Because her vocabulary changes due to her suppressed emotions we know that she has a mental imbalance. She takes advantage of Mrs Grose because she is not as educated as her "My councillor couldn't read" "dropped on me a foolish face". She does to give herself the impression that she has class and is therefore acceptable for the master. You could also argue that she creates the ghosts in her mind to fulfil her desires. She sees Quint as a sexual alternative to the master. She says that she wishes that he "would stand before me and smile and approve" when she first sees the ghost of Quint. The ghost of Jessel acts as an imaginary rival that she can compare herself to "always with the same lady". The ghosts can't be real as the chances of their characters matching her exact desires are incredibly slim. Another way in which the governess tries to get rid of these feelings is by casting herself as the gothic heroine of the story "for my part, let myself go" "we can prevent". To do this she has to change her narrative structure. By changing her character, she undermines her reliability to tell us the truth. * Adam Green 30-LIV 22/04/07 ...read more.

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