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The Turn of the Screw is one of the greatest literature works created by Henry James. Henry James was an American born writer and up to now he is regarded as one of the most influential people of the 19th century’s literary realism. The author wrote several novels, novellas, and short stories during his life and career. Actually, James is one of the prominent people of the transatlantic literature. The Turn of the screw’ is a novella based on a ghost story that was first published in 1898. In the story, a nameless governess reports on the incidence of two ghosts haunting two children left under her care. The most challenging thing about this novella is the fact that the reader is left wondering whether the governess was reliable or her claims were the mere imagination due to some psychological problems. This suspense portrays James’s skills in developing the fiction ghost related stories that were not only entertaining but confusing and scaring (Zielina, 2008).
The story starts with the friends round the fire on Christmas Eve sharing with their ghost stories. One of the guests among the friends tells a story about a governess in the country house that had been infested with supernatural visitors that were only seen by her. The governess is employed by Miles’ and Flora’s uncle to take care of them after their parents had passed away. The uncle lives in London far from home, and he wanted someone to take care of Miles and Flora. Miles is a student, and he does not stay at home. It is his younger sister Flora who stays at home with the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. The governess is given the full control over Miles and Flora, and she moves to her employer’s country house. As the story continues, Miles is expelled from school, and he is not willing to speak about this, and the governess is cautious too (James, 1975).
As time passes, the governess starts seeing images of a man and a woman which she is not familiar with. The images appear and disappear without being noticed by anybody else other than the governess. To her they seem supernatural. She later learns through Mrs. Grose that Miss Jessel, who had been the governess before her, had the intimate relationships with Peter Quint, another worker, before his death. The governess is convinced that two ghosts are Jessel and Quint, and since they had been close to Miles and Flora before their death, the governess also believed that children under her care as well should know of the existence of these ghosts. However, when the governess confronts Flora, she denies this, and she says that she did not want to see her anymore. Flora is taken to her uncle’s place by Mrs. Grose, and Miles is left to spend that night with the governess. That night the two discuss the dismissal of Miles from school when the ghost of Quint appears. The governess tries to protect Miles but he dies (James, 1975).
The major theme of the story is the presence of ghosts. All through the story, the author focuses on the presence of ghosts that according to the governess are responsible for the abnormal behavior of Miles and Flora. Another theme is that of the intimate relationships pointed out by Mrs. Grose in the story of Miss Jessel and Quint. The governess also has been trying to establish the sexual relationships with her master, the uncle to Miles and Flora, without any success. The imagery is also used in The Turn of the Screw. For instance, different lighting is used by the author in different scenes to show the different ghostly forces (Zielina, 2008).
According to Henry James, popularly known as a king of nuance, the tale of terror is like a beautiful jewelry of the sexual and psychological ambiguity. Similarly, in the novel The Turn of the Screw, the governess could be suffering from her sexual and psychological ambiguity. She is the only one seeing the ghosts and the only one suspecting that the previous governess and her lover are disturbing the two orphaned children under her care in their spirit form. Generally, the book is a favorite text to those academics subscribing to the new criticism. The Turn of the Screw has been interpreted differently and so far it is not clear what exactly the nature of the evil in this novella is (Zielina, 2008). The book is the rich text for the lovers of fiction works, especially those involving some superficial beings such as ghosts.