Examine the ways in which instances of inverted order in 'The Turn of the Screw' disrupt prior assumptions about humanity, art, moral or aesthetic values etc.

Essay by deborahukUniversity, Bachelor's March 2007

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‘The Turn of The Screw’ was written during a time in which society was rapidly changing; old views and attitudes were being replaced by the new and challenges arose against what had previously been deemed the acceptable social norm. In ‘The Turn of The Screw’ James presents the reader with a story that is inescapably and purposely ambiguous, or even contrary, to the moral, gender and social assumptions held on to by the society of his time. Subtly challenging these social boundaries, James used literature as a way through which he was able to explore humanity and dissect prevalent social presumptions.

A sense of ‘inverted order’ runs throughout James’s novella and is at times more apparent than at others. The inverted state of being in Bly in relation to the characters and their actions – something that will be analysed in greater detail in forthcoming paragraphs – is preceded and amplified by the way in which James presents the story itself.

Despite being asked by a periodical of the time to create a seasonal tale, James ‘transforms the tinselly genre so as to render it barely recognisable’ . In fact, James does not adhere to the defined conventions of any prescribed genre, instead amalgamating elements from the genres of ‘ghost story’, ‘fairy tale’ and the ‘governess’ novel. This early sense of ambiguity is reinforced by the way in which James presents – or specifically does not present – the ‘author’ of the tale. The telling of the story is done through a complex web of narrators and intermediaries; there is a distinct lack of clarity as to whom the story really ‘belongs’ and who should be looked upon for answers to forthcoming moral and social questions. Using this initial framework – noticeably not called a prologue...