Archetype Myths in Turn of the Screw Essay

1119 Words 5 Pages
Archetype Myths in Turn of the Screw In one surface reading of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, the governess appears to be a victim of circumstance. Some critics however, say that she is not without blame in the turn of events that characterizes the story. They claim that leading to her demise are certain character flaws, such as envy and pride. In categorizing her character as such, this novella resonates several themes found throughout literature. In Northrop Frye’s essay The Archetypes of Literature, Frye suggests that there appears to be a relatively restricted and simple group of formulas in literature. These formulas or converging patterns seem to correlate with the natural cycle. Frye considers criticism that searches for …show more content…
This is phase number two, “the zenith, summer, marriage, triumph phase” (Frye,483). At this point the governess has just entered paradise, she is in a lovely setting, and she has a financially and emotionally rewarding job. She was “carried triumphantly,” through her first day.(James, 28) She is “married” in the sense that she has control of the home and the children; the only missing element is the husband, which would be the uncle.

After her encounters with the ghosts, the myth enters phase three, “the sunset, autumn, and death phase” (Frye,483). Her rosy perception is lost. She begins to have fears. This point occurs around the time the governess sees a female ghost appear across the lake, and she is certain that Flora could see the ghost, but chose to say nothing. The governess questions her “summer” like reality, and wonders if Miles also has been consorting with the ghosts. She realizes, “I don’t save or shield them!…They’re lost!”(James,57) She now begins to probe Mile’s character and his expulsion from school. Eventually she realizes that Miles may be working against her and says, “The trick’s played…they’ve successfully worked their plan.”(James,94) Miles and his sister would fit into Frye’s category of a phase three subordinate character, that of a traitor.
The last part of the story, everything after Flora’s disappearance, appears to fit into stage four, “the darkness, winter, and dissolution phase” (Frye,483). It is at this point where the

More about Archetype Myths in Turn of the Screw Essay

Open Document