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The Turn of the Screw
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Monthly Reads > The Turn of the Screw - 02 - Part Two

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message 1: by Zeljka (last edited Feb 24, 2012 11:40AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Zeljka (ztook) | 2937 comments Mod
The second part of the book reading goes from the chapter XIII till the end, naturally – so beside the quotes here you may post your opinions and questions about the whole book and what have you felt after reading the last sentences. You know, standard stuff that defines any book discussion ;-)


Denis (crnisokol) | 15 comments Finished it. Pretty good premise wasted with lack of spooky/scary atmosphere and simplistic characters.


message 3: by Zeljka (last edited Mar 20, 2012 12:56AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Zeljka (ztook) | 2937 comments Mod
Agreed - good premise, but spoiled with so much ambiguity and uncertainty that in the end I felt simply annoyed with the story. The character wasn't a sane one no doubt - in other cases I might even consider interesting to have read the book from that perspective. But in this case not so, I got tired of the governess pretty soon. Every chapter she went to the extremes with her observations, without any substantial proofs, and what is even worse, without making any real, concrete actions to try to prove them. Aaaaaaargh! How that annoyed me! Sister, why you didn't simply contact the headmaster and ask him what the heck was wrong with the kid? Even better, why it was so difficult to ask the kid himself? I sensed there was obviously some perverse reference to the victorian moral self-restraints and false scruples, but I fail to see how these suggestions improve this kind of story. I mean, she had to figure out what was wrong with Miles. Why avoiding so much to discuss the real issue? Why, because Miles was so angelically/infernally beautiful? Oh dear... That tells me more about the author, actually. And also that the story was the least thing he cared about in this case.
I hated governess's wild conjectures, irrationality and aggressiveness in the way she behaved to the kids and Mrs Grose. No wonder they were so scared and willing to avoid her.
Well... In short... I didn't like it. I guess the movies will be pretty much the same, but I hope they'll manage to tell the story better.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments I just finished Chapter 19, and I was amazed reading the Sparknotes that it was not suggested until many, many years after the initial publication that she was in fact imagining these ghosts? Every chapter I read, the woman is clearly more out of her mind! What, the girl is missing? CLEARLY she is with the ghost, who has stolen her away! The only thing that makes the story work at all is that she has to be dilusional. And she's in love with but also afraid of her employer, way beyond to a fault! I'm curious how the film adaptations approach this, but I'm afraid most of them will just be horror movies and I just don't do those...mostly to preserve my own sanity.


Zeljka (ztook) | 2937 comments Mod
Alana wrote: "I just finished Chapter 19, and I was amazed reading the Sparknotes that it was not suggested until many, many years after the initial publication that she was in fact imagining these ghosts?..."

Really? That suggestion hadn't occurred to any reader? Maybe that has to do with Victorian mentality, or at least storytelling -- I've just finished reading Dorian Gray, and there were so many things Wilde omitted to say simply because it wasn't allowed to be said aloud at these times. But here I thought it was pretty obvious that something was wrong with the governess...

I've seen most of the movies mentioned in the adaptations thread - no real horror stories. I heartily recommend you to watch only one though, The Innocents, really good film.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments Well, that's just what the context section of the sparknotes said, that no one had put forth the suggestion that it was all in her head until well after it was published. That makes no sense to me, though, since she's clearly dilusional, but maybe that's because I've been exposed to similar works and I'm looking at it from a future perspective? Maybe it was a newer idea at the time? I don't know, but it's pretty obvious to me.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments The Turn of the Screw first appeared in Collier’s Weekly in twelve installments between January and April 1898. Not until after World War I did anyone question the reliability of the governess as a narrator. With the publication of a 1934 essay by the influential critic Edmund Wilson, a revised view of the story began to gain currency. Wilson’s Freudian interpretation, that the governess is a sexually repressed hysteric and the ghosts mere figments of her overly excitable imagination, echoed what other critics like Henry Beers, Harold Goddard, and Edna Kenton had previously suggested in the 1920s. Throughout the course of his life, Wilson continued to revise and rethink his interpretation of The Turn of the Screw, but all criticism since has had to confront the central ambiguity in the narrative. Is the governess a hopeless neurotic who hallucinates the figures of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, or is she a plucky young woman battling to save her charges from damnation? Adherents of both views abound, though the former take on the story is rarer. Other critics maintain that the beauty and terror of the tale reside in its utter ambiguity, arguing that both interpretations are possible and indeed necessary to make The Turn of the Screw the tour de force that it is.

(Spark Notes)


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments On the surface, the conclusion of The Turn of the Screw seems to resolve the question of the governess’s reliability in her favor. When Miles blurts out “Peter Quint, you devil!” he seems to acknowledge his awareness of the ghost, and he also seems anxious, or perhaps terrified, to see Quint himself. When Miles dies, there seems to be little explanation for this occurrence other than the governess’s—he has been dispossessed, and this has killed him. However, if we reread the concluding chapters skeptically, as James has taught us to do, this certainty may melt away. Miles’s outburst proves only that he knows that the governess thinks she sees Quint and that she thinks Miles sees him too. His words don’t really prove that he has ever seen Quint himself. Readers who view the governess as mad tend to speculate that perhaps the governess killed him by hugging him too hard and smothering him. This theory resonates with what the governess has told us about her tendency to hug the children too much and with our impression that her affection is “suffocating,” but apart from that, the idea that she literally smothers him is something of a stretch. Miles’s death is the last unsolvable enigma of the story.

Seriously, he just dies, out of nowhere? I feel like this was some twisted version of A Streetcar Named Desire where we are watching Blanche slowly lose her mind. This was just more torturous to get through. I liked it more or less until everything after finding Flora by the pond, then it just got ridiculous. I see what you all meant about it getting repetitive. I don't know that I disliked it overall and it certainly leaves a lot to think about as far as what was real and what wasn't, but I'm certainly glad it wasn't a longer book or I might have had to pluck my eyes out by the time I got done with it.

Did anyone else notice how some of her more insane moments seem to come right after she is disturbed enough that she chooses not to go to church? As if she is declaring herself the savior of the children? This happened twice and I'm sure it's not coincidence that it was mentioned.

Also, I wonder what the significance of the absent employer was, aside from her infatuation with him. Was it simply to make her over-objectify him and set up this dreamy determination to make herself look like the great martyr for the children? Was it simply a tool to get him out of the picture so the real story could unfold without us asking why he's not involved? Why doesn't Ms. Grose ever write to him that's she concerned about the state of mind of the governess? Does she REALLY think these children are lying?

The whole thing is just odd, and I'm not sure what to think of it.


message 9: by Zeljka (last edited Dec 05, 2012 01:16AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Zeljka (ztook) | 2937 comments Mod
I just read Spark Notes you posted... My first thought was... These professional reviewers really OVER-think some things :) They really went into vivisecting the story very thoroughly, but obviously without getting into any conclusion. I bet James is right now very much amused, seeing us, reviewers and readers alike, so dumbfounded.

I generally dislike stories written only to provoke, without any higher value and purpose, and it's quite obvious this one forcefully plays with our perceptions. Every single sentence was ambiguous and every time when the story seemed like it would advance a bit, we would be brought to sudden stop and even going backward. At least that was the frustrating feeling I had. That was probably James's intention, to make the story interpretable (is this real word?) in different ways, but in the end that made me only to lose interest in the whole :/

The questions we ask press only more questions - as every answer may be correct. Yours are interesting - I don't think I ever pondered the question of governess's not going to church linked with her insanity - and you are probably right by saying that this wasn't coincidental.

Ha, Spark Notes do help us in understanding the story, but not much, obviously :) Thank you for posting them, though. Very interesting read!


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments Your comments making me think of the discusssion on Dorian Gray. That books seems to have been written, as you say, "only to provoke" so I wonder what you thought of that in comparison? I think Dorian Gray is a little less ambiguous though... some of his deeds are, but his degradation as a whole is made quite clear.


Zeljka (ztook) | 2937 comments Mod
Alana wrote: "Your comments making me think of the discusssion on Dorian Gray. That books seems to have been written, as you say, "only to provoke" so I wonder what you thought of that in comparison? I think Dor..."

Oh no, I was thinking provoking more in a sense that the book (or story in this case) has no deeper meaning and value beside that one to make us frustratingly scratch our heads in figuring out what author tried to achieve with his work. I mean sure, some would say the story was brilliant exactly because of all the points we mentioned above, but to me they do not have any appeal. I guess I wouldn't agree well with those who advised l'art pour l'art from the beginning of the 19th century ;)


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments I thought you meant socially provoking. Yeah, confusion for the sake of confusion does seem rather pointless. There didn't seem to be any "message" to The Turn of the Screw other than "is she crazy or isn't she?"


Zeljka (ztook) | 2937 comments Mod
Eh, maybe I ought to give him more credit. I guess we all agree it wasn't really bad, just that it does not suit all the tastes. I myself frown mostly because I like all the characters and stories I read to make sense (I do not necessarily have to like them). In this one, it seemed to me logic (is better to say consistency?) of characters and story development was purposefully sacrificed for the sake of mystery and ambiguity.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments Well, I stated in my review of it that I didn't know how to rate it for that reason. I just couldn't decide if I actually liked it or not. The governess was so overdramatic, but that works if she really is crazy. Otherwise, she's just a terrible character. O well, it's one more to check off the list, lol.


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