Essay on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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How far does The Turn of the Screw conform to the conventions of the
Victorian ghost story genre? What alternative interpretations does it lend itself to?

‘The Turn of the Screw’ was written by Henry James in the nineteenth century, when the belief that living people were in contact with the dead was prevalent. In the Victorian era the advance of science was undermining religious beliefs, because evolutionists were saying that the world had not been created in 4004BC, as the bible suggests.
Therefore, the possibility of contacting the spirits restored some faith in the non-material world. The era it was written in does suggest that ‘The Turn of the Screw’ is merely a classic ghost story, but Henry James has integrated
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When the reader then discovers that the manuscript is kept in a ‘locked drawer’ and has ‘not been out for years’ due to the ‘dreadful-dreadfulness!’ of the tale, the mysterious atmosphere is strengthened. It is at this point in the novel that
Henry James ensures that the reader will finish reading the book, because they will want to know what the Governess is hiding and why.
One of the obvious reasons for this, to the reader, is that the
Governess did not want anyone to hear her story due to it’s hard-hitting content. This reason is made apparent to the reader from the metaphor ‘Turn of the Screw’, which gives the impression that the story will have a deep emotional impact on them like a screw being forced into a wall. Adding a ‘particular touch’ to the story are the two children, who give the ‘effect of two turns’. This shows the reader that the story will have a deeper impact on them than they originally thought, because the depth of the screw is dictated by the amount of turns forced upon it and also represents the impression made on the reader. Consequently, if the screw is turned twice then the story will have twice the impact. Douglas’ ‘wincing grimace’ at the thought of the story supports the reader’s assumption that ‘The Turn of the Screw’ is a horrific ghost story, but nothing more psychological than that. However, alternative interpretations suggest that the prologue is used

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