The Turn of the Screw


Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

 2 of 5 stars

 When the governess of two small children begins to see strange apparitions around her charges, she suspects there may be evil presences controlling their actions.

It was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be…

True, this novella is not your typical Christmas story.  In fact, the only reason it could be classified as such is because the narrator tells others the tale at a Christmas party, which, presumably, is somewhat of a tradition of the narrator’s (though I have no idea why).  This book is likely a lot more fitting for Halloween, but undoubtedly falls under the category of a classic I had never before read, so I included it in my list.

I spent most of the time reading this book thinking, “WHAT on earth is going on?” only to come to the end and ask myself again “WHAT on earth just happened?”  This is definitely a psychological thriller in the fact that the reader has no idea what is real, what is made-up by the characters, and what is merely in their minds.  And in that aspect, it was interesting… except

There is no real resolution.  The ambiguity of this story leaves nearly everything up to the reader’s interpretation, from the ghostly sightings themselves to the children’s part in them, to the concluding events of the story.  So much of the ‘suspense’ of the story was built up by nothing happening — but by the governess implying or worrying or thinking that something might be happening or could have happened.

Overall: A classic ghost story with a lot of buildup and suspense but very little of anything evil or frightening actually occurring.


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One response to “The Turn of the Screw”

  1. WNK says :

    UPDATE: I recently read a theory about this book that I think fits, and that I’d like to adopt; the theory being that (spoiler alert) the governess is pregnant with the gentleman’s child — the “niece” and “nephew” are perhaps also illegitimate children — and that is why he sent her away to his home in the country and insisted that she not contact him. Her pining for him, combined with her guilt over her indiscretion, causes her to either consciously or subconsciously create the phantoms that she sees, which are really projections of herself (Jessel) and the gentleman (Quint). The ending, the theory states, does not actually involve Miles, but her own child, whom she wants to keep out of the gentleman’s power. Miles is actually Douglas, who kept in contact with the governess (you’ll notice the age difference is the same as Douglas states in the early chapters)

    I thought this theory (which I read in a discussion thread on Goodreads) fits pretty well and would explain some of the governess’s actions which perplexed me.

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