The Female Malady : Women, Madness, And English Culture Essay

875 Words Jul 8th, 2015 4 Pages
The female malady. This term has been used to describe the affliction of being a woman. According to Elaine Showalter’s aptly named The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980, “Women, within our dualistic systems of language and representation, are typically situated on the side of irrationality, silence, nature, and body, while men are situated on the side of reason, discourse, culture, and mind” (Showalter 3-4). Henry James’s governess in The Turn of the Screw exemplifies a woman represented in exactly this way. Subtle clues in the novella’s language and organization lead to conclusions to be drawn about exactly how stable the governess’s mental state is, and, thus, how credible her claims of seeing ghosts are. The Turn of the Screw is not, however, a ghost story; instead, it acts as a psychological analysis of the root and progression of the decline of one woman’s psyche. The governess stands as an example of a woman silenced by men, cut from interpersonal communication, who must still answer to man’s authority; hence, a buildup of suppressed emotions leads to hysteric behaviors and other qualities characteristic of the female nervous disorder.
The Turn of the Screw’s author, Henry James was all too familiar with female psychological disorders. In fact, his sister, Alice James, suffered from bouts of depression and even attempted suicide (Beidler 4). After her death in 1892, Alice’s journals chronicling her emotional struggles were…

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