Never too Late to Read Classics discussion

The Turn of the Screw
This topic is about The Turn of the Screw
59 views
Archive Horror > 2017 The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Comments Showing 1-50 of 60 (60 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Oct 02, 2017 09:20AM) (new)

Lesle | 5347 comments Mod
The Turn of the Screw, originally published in 1898, is a novella written by Henry James. The story, a part of gothic and ghost story genres. An unnamed narrator listens to Douglas, a friend, read a manuscript written by a former governess whom Douglas claims to have known and who is now dead. The manuscript tells the story of how the young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. He lives mainly in London but also has a country house, Bly. He is uninterested in raising the children.


message 2: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
I have read the section which deals with the pre-story mentioned above. There is a little detail that has bearing on the young governess' decision to take the position. The previous governess died in mysteriouse circumstances....


message 3: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 33 comments I really like The Turn of the Screw and am happy to re-read it as a group read. The whole novella is quite ambiguous and it'll hopefully start an interesting discussion.


Kathy | 1070 comments I just finished the Prologue and it surely has drawn me into the story. The title of the book itself is intriguing.


message 5: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
In chapter 1 the tale begins, from the point of view of the governess. We get her first impressions of the country house called Bly, which seems wonderful to her, and we meet Flora, a beautiful little girl and the welcoming housekeeper, Mrs. Grose.


Kathy | 1070 comments As the governess tells her story, she is looking back on her first days at Bly and telling about how much she loved it but, from a distance, she sees ominous signs.


message 7: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
How would you describe the setting and the characters of the novel? What is your impression of her employer?


message 8: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
I finished this book in one day, since I am going to be busy the rest of the week, and I really wanted to know how the book ended. I am not sure if I liked the story or not, but it was certainly well written.
I look forward to reading your comments. There is a lot of material for discussion here.


Kathy | 1070 comments I thought the same thing, Rosemarie - about the book being well-written but not knowing if I liked it or not. Just having finished the book, I feel like I didn't understand it fully. Sometime I just didn't know what the characters were trying to say.

The setting is wonderful for the story - dark nights, windows, countryside, schoolroom. I think that every part of the setting means something more!


message 10: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
I am sure it does, Kathy. Any book with an unreliable narrator tends to do so, but I am not sure quite what. Was she imagining the whole thing? But then, how do you explain the ending?


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

The Prologue is a good story in itself, certainly it sets a scene of approaching menace.


message 12: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 33 comments I'm in the middle of re-reading the novel and like how James sets the mood in the prologue. Everybody is expecting now a "tale of horror". I noticed that he pretends to establish the governess as a rather reliable narrator in the prologue, but most readers will start to doubt her reliability when reading her records.
The governess herself starts her notes with something about how her feelings and impressions were up and down like a see-saw, which is a rather fitting description of how James plays with the reader. One time it seems like the governess is just a deluded and lonely woman who is imaging most of the things she reports. And other times it seems like there's really something supernatural going on.
I love how the governess already manipulates the dialogues she describes: most of the time she doesn't even give her conversation partner the chance to finish their sentences and just interprets whatever the might have want to say.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Perhaps the more the narrator is set up as reliable, the more we readers should distrust her?


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Come to think of it, how do we know Douglas is reliable?


message 15: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 33 comments Well no, we don't know if Douglas is reliable, but I don't think there are any clues given that we should somehow doubt his narration. When I wrote that James tries to establish the governess as a reliable narrator I referred to Douglas' description of the governess as "the most agreeable woman" and as somebody who is "awfully clever and nice". He completely blames her employer for seducing her and therefore taking on the job against better judgement.
So before the reader starts to read the governess' notes, we get the impression that she is a perfectly stable woman who experienced something horrible in her youth. But then you start reading her tale and she comes across rather unstable (I thought so at least). For example, anything that doesn't fit into her picture of the extremely angelic children is dismissed as false. Like the mysterious incident at school that led Miles to be expelled.


message 16: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
I also noticed that she does not challenge the children and plays along with their wishes.
Do we ever find out what Miles did at school?


shannon  Stubbs | 203 comments I haven't finished the book yet but i was wondering what Miles did also. It had to be something bad.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, but was it natural badness, or did a supernatural force drive him to it?


shannon  Stubbs | 203 comments Hmm. Lets find out.


Trisha | 822 comments This sounds interesting! I wasn't planning to read this, but the discussions here have changed my mind. I'll have to catch up...


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

The film, The Innocents, based on the book, is a good dramatisation, and certainly scared me!


Kathy | 1070 comments I'm enjoying the comments here because they help me understand what I read. I found myself irritated with the governess because she kept thinking something was evil about the children and I coudn't understand her explanations.


message 23: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 33 comments Trisha wrote: "This sounds interesting! I wasn't planning to read this, but the discussions here have changed my mind. I'll have to catch up..."

It'd be great to have you join the discussion! It's only a short novella, so no problem to catch up :-)


message 24: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 33 comments Mark wrote: "The film, The Innocents, based on the book, is a good dramatisation, and certainly scared me!"

Yes, totally agree! That's a really good movie version of the book.
And even though it's quite an old movie, the scary parts still work.


message 25: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 33 comments Kathy wrote: "I'm enjoying the comments here because they help me understand what I read. I found myself irritated with the governess because she kept thinking something was evil about the children and I coudn't..."

The governess irritated me early on: sometimes you just want to shake her and yell "stop being hysterical", but then this would mean that you think she is just that: hysterical! And not that there are actually ghosts and supernatural elements messing with her.
I guess if you read it as a purely supernatural tale you might feel sorry for her.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Hysteria (literally a disorder of the womb) was common at that time, see the work of Breuer and Freud. Although a hysterical person might imagine supernatural events, she might also be subject to "real" supernatural events,


shannon  Stubbs | 203 comments Is she lucid dreaming or are there really ghosts?


message 28: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
That is my question too. It is a very ambiguous tale.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

I think James intended the ambiguity. His brother William was very interested in psychology, and spiritualism was popular then.


shannon  Stubbs | 203 comments When he is bad he is really bad. That comment gave me the creeps.


message 31: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
Especially since we never get to hear the details of what actually occurred.


message 32: by David (last edited Oct 21, 2017 04:41PM) (new)

David (davidil28) | 1 comments Mark wrote: "I think James intended the ambiguity. His brother William was very interested in psychology, and spiritualism was popular then."

Henry James himself was a Swedenborgian mysticism follower, so it's not strange to see a supernatural element in his work.


Catherine I loved the ambiguity of the story, it made this one stand out from standard works in this genre and it got me thinking about governess, her motives and the structure of the story itself.


shannon  Stubbs | 203 comments Just finished the story. I had to read the ending twice to make sure i read it right. It was good.


message 35: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
I am glad you enjoyed the story, Shannon and Catherine, and all our other members too, of course.
I think that she really saw ghosts, but it is never stated in so many words.
If anyone has read Macbeth, you know that Macbeth is the only person to see Banquo's ghost. Everyone else does not see him. So this could be the case in this story.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Although if only one person sees a ghost, it could be imagination.


message 37: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
That is why this story is so ambiguous; she could just be imagining things.


Trisha | 822 comments I loved the introduction, it was so interesting & set the scene for a great book. But after that I was very disappointed- didn't like the book at all, didn't find it scary just boring & weird. It left me wondering why I'd read it - only finished it because I don't like giving up on a book. Perhaps ghosts are just not my thing - sorry.


message 39: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
Trisha, it could also be Henry James's style, which can be convoluted at times. Too bad you didn't like this one. Now you can say you have read it.(smile)


Trisha | 822 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Trisha, it could also be Henry James's style, which can be convoluted at times. Too bad you didn't like this one. Now you can say you have read it.(smile)"

Thank you - that makes me feel better about not liking it!


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Rosemarie wrote: "That is why this story is so ambiguous; she could just be imagining things."

Certainly this is not a story for people who like nice clear endings, as with most whodunnits. Here there are at least two possible endings:
1) It was the ghosts whodunnit.
2) It was her imagination thatdunnit.


shannon  Stubbs | 203 comments Mark wrote: "Rosemarie wrote: "That is why this story is so ambiguous; she could just be imagining things."

Certainly this is not a story for people who like nice clear endings, as with most whodunnits. Here t..."


Yes, it definitely is one of those stories.


message 43: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5347 comments Mod
Thank you Rosemarie for Hosting, not sure I would ever read this one but I followed the comments, great discussions.


message 44: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
You're welcome.
I am still not sure whether I liked it or not, but I do believe there really were ghosts.
All in all, it was a strange little story.


message 45: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8711 comments Mod
I would like to thank Eva for co-hosting and encouraging me to try reading a "horror" story. This story was not horror, but it sure was creepy.
Maybe next Halloween I will read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. That one is supposed to be scary.


message 46: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5347 comments Mod
I actually have The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson!

Scary is fine with me, horror not so much.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Same here, too much disembowelling makes me feel ill.


message 48: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5347 comments Mod
Oh not even a little for me Mark!


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Ha ha, okay. Probably best to keep away from the Horror Channel then!


message 50: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5347 comments Mod
Definitely!


« previous 1
back to top