Ambiguity In The Turn Of The Screw

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Throughout the novel The Turn of the Screw, through careful word choice and plot structure, Henry James has readers wondering whether the ghosts alluded to in the story are actually present in the house or whether they are a creation of the governesses’ overactive imagination. Throughout the book, James conveys a certain level of ambiguity that keeps readers intrigued, long after they finish reading. In the 1961 film version of the book entitled The Innocence, director Jack Clayton works to convey the same amount of obscurity in a 100 minute film that James projected within his novella. Because of the cinematic effects used throughout the movie, Clayton more effectively portrays the ambiguity of the ghosts’ presence in comparison to James’ novel.
In only one scene during the entire movie, Clayton depicts this sense of obscurity when Ms. Giddens, the governess of the family, is playing with Miles and Flora, the two children she looks after. The scene shows one of the ghosts, Quint, but only Ms. Giddens can see him. The fact that only Ms. Giddens can see the ghost depicts ambiguity because we are not sure whether he truly exists or whether is a product of Ms. Giddens’ imagination. Another aspect of this scene that renders obscurity is that the door to the house is open when Ms.
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Clayton has the ability to portray ambiguity in many ways throughout the movie, such as with cinematic effects. James has less of an opportunity to demonstrate obscurity through his writing and readers are responsible for using their imagination to decipher the ambiguity. In film version, the obscurity is much clearer because Clayton has the ability to dictate many aspects of the film including character facial expression, setting, sound, and many more. James can only portray a sense of obscurity through his writing and by reader
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