The Turn of the Screw (Paperback)
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The Turn of the Screw, originally published in 1898, is a ghost story novella written by Henry James. Due to its ambiguous content, it became a favourite text of academics who subscribe to New Criticism. The novella has had differing interpretations, often mutually exclusive. Many critics have tried to determine the exact nature of the evil hinted at by the story. However, others have argued that the true brilliance of the novella comes with its ability to create an intimate confusion and suspense for the reader. Major themes Throughout his career James was attracted to the ghost story genre. However, he was not fond of literature's stereotypical ghosts, the old-fashioned 'screamers' and 'slashers'. Rather, he preferred to create ghosts that were eerie extensions of everyday reality-"the strange and sinister embroidered on the very type of the normal and easy," as he put it in the New York Edition preface to his final ghost story, "The Jolly Corner." The Turn of the Screw is no exception to this formula. In fact, some have wondered if he didn't intend the "strange and sinister" to be embroidered only on the governess's mind and not on objective reality. The result has been a long-standing critical dispute about the reality of the ghosts and the sanity of the governess. Beyond the dispute, critics have closely examined James's narrative technique for the story. The framing introduction and subsequent first-person narrative by the governess have been studied by theorists of fiction interested in the power of fictional narratives to convince or even manipulate readers. The imagery of The Turn of the Screw is reminiscent of the gothic genre. The emphasis on old and mysterious buildings throughout the novella reinforces this motif. James also relates the amount of light present in various scenes to the strength of the supernatural or ghostly forces apparently at work. The governess refers directly to The Mysteries of Udolpho and indirectly to Jane Eyre, evoking a comparison of the governess not only to Jane Eyre's protagonist, but to Bertha, the madwoman confined in Thornfield.
About the Author
Henry James, OM (15 April 1843 - 28 February 1916) was an American-born British writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr. and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James. James alternated between America and Europe for the first 20 years of his life, after which he settled in England, becoming a British subject in 1915, one year before his death. He is primarily known for the series of novels in which he portrays the encounter of Americans with Europe and Europeans. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allows him to explore issues related to consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting. James contributed significantly to literary criticism, particularly in his insistence that writers be allowed the greatest possible freedom in presenting their view of the world. James claimed that a text must first and foremost be realistic and contain a representation of life that is recognisable to its readers. Good novels, to James, show life in action and are, most importantly, interesting. The concept of a good or bad novel is judged solely upon whether the author is good or bad. His imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and possibly unreliable narrators in his own novels and tales brought a new depth and interest to narrative fiction. An extraordinarily productive writer, in addition to his voluminous works of fiction he published articles and books of travel, biography, autobiography, and criticism, and wrote plays, some of which were performed during his lifetime with moderate success. His theatrical work is thought to have profoundly influenced his later novels and tales.