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The Classics > The Turn of the Screw & other short novels by Henry James

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message 1: by Reggia (last edited Mar 31, 2009 11:11AM) (new)

Reggia | 2365 comments The Turn of the Screw other short novels

***Warning: spoilers ahead!***

Having just answered a question on this on the Neverending Quiz, it seems most agree that this tale of Henry James is indeed a ghost story. It was strange reading it though. The one thing that had me doubting was the governess's ideas of just what the ghosts were after. This never quite came together for me: how could she be so sure they were after anything? After all, they seemed to only appear and watch: must a ghost be up to something rather than merely present?

Also, I don't remember discovering how the gardener (?) and the previous governess died. This may sound fundamental but was it the author's intention to be so vague?

message 2: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2365 comments The book in which I read it The Turn of the Screw had other stories in it as well. I've been wondering about the pic on the cover:


Anyone know which story in the collection it's associated with?

message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2369 comments Reggia, Peter Quint had been the master's valet; he was found dead at the bottom of an icy slope on the road, from a head injury apparently sustained in a drunken fall while he was returning from the pub. The previous governess, Miss Jessel, had been sent away before she was reported dead, and the master had not told Mrs. Grose anything about the cause of death --leaving her to make dark surmises. We understand that Miss Jessel had an improper relationship with Quint and was dismissed because she was found to be pregnant by him, but in Victorian fashion, that isn't explicitly stated.

The governess' inference that the ghosts are drawn to the children, "For the love of all the evil the pair put into them. And to ply them with that evil still, to keep up the work of demons," is based on intuitions from the childrens' secretive behavior and their reactions to various incidents, coupled with Mrs. Grose's revelations about what went on during the evil pair's lifetimes. Understandably, a conclusion largely based on intuition seems suspect to many modern readers, but you have to understand that this is characteristic of James' style; his fiction is filled with characters who apprehend all sorts of significant truths by intuiting them. And in this case, the intuition also communicates itself readily to the reader --or, at least, to this reader! :-)

message 4: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2365 comments Thanks, Werner! I had forgotten that the valet's death was attributed to the drunken fall and never knew what to make of Mrs Grose's "dark surmises" wondering if she was just encouraged by the governess's fears.

I'm so glad you explained about the intuitiveness. That is what had me confused. While I didn't doubt she was seeing ghosts, I couldn't follow how she perceived what it was they were after. To me, it felt like going from A-C. LOL, I fear I cheated myself of a more thrilling read by trying to remain so clear-headed about it. A little ironic as I often read with my emotions fully with me and not in check. :p

message 5: by Reggia (last edited Feb 03, 2009 07:43AM) (new)

Reggia | 2365 comments The picture on the book cover above (clicking 'view image' shows it larger) might be from The Altar of the Dead. It's the only other title in this collection that remotely sounds like a ghost story.

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