Hallucinations or Realities: The Ghosts in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw

Shonayfa Mohammed Al-Qurani


The Turn of the Screw is an intense psychological tale of terror. It begins in an old house on Christmas Eve. The story focuses on a young, naïve governess who is confronted by a pair of ghosts that she suspects is corrupting the two young children in her charge. The apparitions are those of Peter Quint, a man formerly employed in the household, and Miss Jessel, the previous governess.
The new governess has profound suspicions that the children are involved with the ghosts; she confronts the children individually and during that inquiring one of the apparitions appears to the governess, bringing the action to a calamity. The girl, Flora, denies having seen the wraiths and, apparently hysterical, is sent to her uncle in London. The boy, Miles, dies in the governess’s arms during the culmination of a psychic battle between the governess and the ghost of Peter Quint.
This paper is an analytical approach to James’s The Turn of the Screw which highlights the contradictory interpretations, as well as the ambiguity of the novella. As its core, and for several reasons that will be explained in more details in this analysis of the narration and the nature of the story The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, it is clear that this story is “psychological thriller” based within the Gothic tradition. Nicole Smith (2011 Fiction) insists that if one wishes to place The Turn of the Screw in the Gothic tradition of literature, it means, by alternative, the elements of ghosts or the supernatural should be present. However, aside from being a mere ghost story or psychological thriller, the fact that the narrator might not be reliable plays into the classification of this story as well and in fact, the question of whether or not the narrator is reliable in James’s story becomes of principal importance. (2011)


Apparitions; Ghosts; Governess; Psychology; Ambiguous; Reality; Hallucination


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/n


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