The Turn of the Screw by Henry James Review

The Turn of the Screw is a novella written by American author Henry James and published in 1898.

Image: Terror Time (Tom Holland) 2018

It began with a short chapter with a group of people listening to a re-telling of the story, but they are not introduced very much, they are just the introduction. The rest of the book is told from the perspective of the governess of the house. She is hired to take care of two children by their uncle who is too busy with work and uninterested. It’s a ghost story that does not reveal very much about the characters but focuses on the tension between the governess and her uneasiness.

The main focus is on the children because they, along with the housekeeper Mrs Grose, claim they cannot see the ghosts, only the governess can. It can be interepreted in different ways and it is not clear whether it was a haunting or whether the ghosts are in the governess’ imagination because she is the only one who can see them. Other than the governess the children, who have minor speaking roles, can also see the ghost, but the housekeeper Mrs Grose, cannot. She does not believe the governess at first but steadily begins to believe her that there is something wrong with the atmosphere of the house. Her character asks a lot of questions but is slow to reveal information about the house to the governess as she doesn’t trust her.

The governess, a main character, is nameless except for this job title and does not have much description of her appearance either she is referred to as a young woman but doesn’t reveal much about her background and her actual job in the house is not explained because she does not take them anywhere or cook. The governess’ paranoia and distrust of the children is a large part of what makes her suspicious of the ghosts. Her isolation is apparent as the owner of the house does not want to be bothered and the other staff do not believe her until the drastic conclusion at the end.


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