Literary Techniques In The Turn Of The Screw

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Literary Techniques and the Horror of The Turn of the Screw

One purpose of Henry James’ gothic novella The Turn of the Screw is to instill fear in the reader. There are several features of this work that make the story horror inducing; first, James’ deals with the idea of the corruption of innocence of children. In the story’s opening chapter, the observation is made that the corruption of a child in a ghost story “adds a particular touch” (James 115). Fear is also associated with the novella because it forges a personal connection with the reader by the use of the universal themes of death and the unknown. James uses several literary techniques in order to convey these facts including the narration, his ambiguous writing style and the
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The Turn of the Screw focuses on the idea of what we are told and what is left unsaid. Because of this, critics have read The Turn of The Screw in two ways. The classical reading has us accept that what we read is true, the ghosts are real and the Miles’ death is as a result of their evil corruption. The alternative is that the governess is mad and that the story is a psychological investigation into the governess’ actions. In his famous essay The Ambiguities of Henry James, Edmund Wilson asserts that "the young governess who tells the story is a neurotic case of sex repression, and the ghosts are not real ghosts at all but merely the governess 's hallucinations" it is Wilson’s suggestion that Mile’s is frightened to death by the governess at the end of the novella (Parkinson 3). As a reader, we can consider that there is evil supernatural forces at work or we can choose to believe that it is the women who has been trusted to care for the young children whose indiscretions result in the death of the young boy. James’ writing allows the reader to choose which of these equally horrifying plots to believe. The effect of this is that The Turn of the Screw has the potential to terrify a wide range of …show more content…
In his essay, The Structure of the Turn of the Screw, Donald Costello draws attention to the distinct arrangement of the plot. Throughout the story, the governess reports the ghostly phenomena, interprets what has happened and then acts on it (Costello 313). The effect of this sequence on the reader is mystification and horror. We are horrified by the ghosts and then frightened and mystified by the governess’s interpretation of them and her subsequent actions. An example of this is the appearance of Miss Jessel in the schoolroom, which causes the governess to conclude that Miss Jessel suffers the torments "Of the lost. Of the damned" and that "she wants Flora" (James 198). The action taken is for the governess to remain at Bly after all and write to the Master. The final sequence concludes with the death of Miles, we are left to interpret this ourselves and there is no further action, thus the story ends. This structure is used by James to convince the reader of the reality of the ghosts whilst also causing us to question their ghostly motives and the governess’s reality (Costello 321). This helps James to make the reader fearful of the ghosts and challenge the governess’s interpretations, consequently heightening the sense of

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