Turn of the Screw Ambiguity

Essay by sarahevelynfHigh School, 11th gradeA+, September 2014

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In the novella Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the owner of the estate at Bly, a bachelor left to take care of his young niece and nephew, seeks a governess who "should never trouble him...neither appeal nor complain nor write about anything; only meet all questions herself, receive all moneys from his solicitor, take the whole thing over and let him alone," (James 122). Either the governess' paranoia over these strange demands causes her to see ghosts, or encounters with real ghosts cause the governess to feel paranoid. Her paranoid behaviors, such as her overanalysis of the children's behavior and delusions of grandeur, can be explained through either form of causation.

Throughout the novella, the governess overanalyzes the children's behaviors. One instance of her paranoia with their actions occurs when the governess believes that Flora tried to distract her from Miss Jessel's ghost and she claims that, "It was a pity I needed to capitulate the portentous little activities by which she sought to divert my attention-the perceptible increase of movement, the greater intensity of play, the singing, the gabbling of nonsense and the invitation to romp," (James 162).

Playing, singing and romping seem like normal activities for a child to be partaking in for his or her own enjoyment, but because the governess received such strange orders from the children's uncle, she may have developed a preconceived notion that the children were mischievous, which explains why he didn't want contact with them. This paranoia over why the bachelor wouldn't want contact with the manor could have escalated, causing her to see ghosts on the grounds. On the other hand, the questionable orders the governess received could have indicated that ghosts really were a concern at Bly. If this motive to his orders is correct, then the...