Liminality In James's The Turn Of The Screw

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“I can’t move, breathe, speak or hear and it’s so dark all the time. If I had known it would be this lonely, I would have been cremated instead.” Throughout history, humanity has marveled around the idea of the undead, the in-between of life and death. Whether it is a ghost stuck in a liminal afterlife or Count Dracula in his undead threshold state, the thought of being on the figurative edge has always been enticing. Within the genre of horror writing, this presence of liminality, or limbo, illustrates a dimension few ever experience. It is in this state where man transforms, in the midst of human being and beast. He is neither here nor there but somewhere in the middle, in an almost eerie liminality. In the novella, The Turn of the Screw…show more content…
From the start, James clearly illustrates his intentions of liminality within the book. The greater part of the books setting and close to all of the “sightings” happens at either dawn or dusk, a seemingly in between time. He constantly mentions the light and darkness within the book and how it transitions quite rapidly, especially when it comes to the language he uses to describe the Miss Jessel and Quint sightings. For the first ghost sighting he writes: “Much as I liked my companions, this hour was the thing in the day I like most; and I liked it best of when, as the light faded – or rather, I should say, the day linger and the last call of the birds sounded…” (James 28) He obviously wants the two to coexist, coalescing into a mesh of dusk-dawn brightness, or lack thereof. For the second sighting, we describes how the day was dark and gray yet the afternoon still lingered, enabling the crossing of the threshold (James…show more content…
By nature, ghost are liminal entities, in an eternal limbo between life and death, they are forever stuck on, but not crossing, the threshold to the next plane of existence. A prime example given is when both of the ghosts materialize on the staircase, a transitional area which is on neither one level nor the other (James 76) and yet again in the hallway, a place linking one room to the next (James 79). Emerging from the tower, Quint is in between the earthly level in which live beings are meant to inhabit and the heavenly level, where spirits and extraterrestrial beings are interpreted to inhabit. (James
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