Insanity In Henry James's The Turn Of The Screw

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Palmer Reynolds English 310 Honors Dr. Zubizarreta 29 October 2014 The Unreliable Narrator Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw is a psychologically thrilling novel that leaves readers from beginning to end wondering the solution to a single question: is this novel a story of ghosts or of mental illness? The question has kept readers in an air of mystery for centuries and may possibly never arrive to an agreed upon denouement. In a straightforward sense, the story features a new on the job governess who is greeted by a male and female ghost. However, a comprehensive analysis will prove a different side to the story. There is an array of evidence that leads the deeper reader to observe the story of a young woman who is driven to insanity. When…show more content…
One such case can be found in Chapter X. In this chapter, Flora was found out of bed and Miles on the lawn. This scene in particular evokes a chilling response as the governess relates, “(Flora) was face to face with the apparition we had met at the lake, and could now communicate with it as she had not then been able to do. (72)” With even more petrification the governess states, “the presence on the lawn—I felt sick as I made it out—was poor little Miles himself. (74)” The narrator used this circumstance to further her mindset that the children were being controlled by Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. The governess argued to the reader that the eerie event took place because of the possession of the children by the ghosts (71-74). Suppose, however, that the narrator of Turn of the Screw was one of the children. Would we read about a plan carried out only to play a funny prank on their governess, where Miles was to sneak out of the house at night? Similarly in Chapter XX, the governess assumes that Flora is being possessed by Miss Jessel because Flora has becomes afraid of her (116-121). The governess may argue possession, one must consider the outside perspective. Would not a sane individual be able to realize that any child would be afraid of her care taker acting out in such a manner, demanding to know about the existence of ghosts?…show more content…
However, there are some suggestions as to what took place. There is a possibility that Miles could have known that the governess thought she was seeing Peter Quint and that he only exclaimed Quint’s name in order to appease, or possibly prank the governess. There even exists a theory that, “the Governess ' anxiety-driven hysteria causes her to refuse to give up on the possibility that Miles is somehow connected to the ghosts, ultimately ending his life to fulfill her personal desire for the psychological truth. (Herold)” Either way, there is sufficient evidence to provide that in this scene Miles was not aware of any kind of supernatural presence. The governess even takes realization to this idea when she states, “wasn’t he looking through the haunted pane for something he couldn’t see? (147)” This theory could be supported by Mile’s change in demeanor in the scene, “more and more visibly nervous” and “suddenly afraid” because his governess was acting mad (149). The narrator in The Turn of the Screw bestows the reader with the tale of a boy possessed by ghosts. However, vigilant reading of the passage will provide a reader with the story of a boy who is terrified only because he is in the same room as someone suffering a mental

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