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A Psychological Perspective Of The Turn Of The Screw

2121 words - 8 pages

A Psychological Perspective of The Turn of the Screw


     Henry James was one of the famous writers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was known as an innovative and independent novelist. One of James' novels, The Turn of the Screw (1898), has caused a lot of controversy among many critics, and each of them has had a particular interpretation. James' creative writing built a close connection between his novel and his readers. The reactions of the readers toward The Turn of the Screw can be researched psychologically by analyzing how James developed his story using questionable incidents, an unreliable narrator, unexpected changes, an interesting prologue, and effective images and words.

The influences of James's writing on his readers can be explained clearly from a psychological perspective. Readers have their individual perceptions and experiences which are defined as ego. Sigmund Freud pointed out that under the effects of the external world, the ego starts to react in various forms such as storing, adapting, learning, or fighting against external events (2). The external world includes all the things happening outside human minds such as activities in real life, in movies or in books. When readers react to the behaviors of the Governess and other characters in The The Turn of the Screw, it means their ego responds to the story that is the external world in this case. Since the perception and experiences of each person are different from the other, the reactions to this novel are varied. Moreover, James's story was written in a very sophisticated way, which is likely to lead to complex reactions.

Henry James skillfully has his readers integrated into his story. While the readers are reading The Turn of the Screw, they feel a need to raise more and more questions as the story evolves. For example, at the very beginning of the novel, Douglas started telling the story and said the Governess was in love (James 293). Readers might wonder with whom she was in love. Then the Master told the Governess about the previous governess and her death (James 296). The readers probably want to know the reason of the previous governess' death. When the Master talked about the duties of the Governess, he required her not to contact him in any way (James 297). We do not know why he made that requirement. As the story continues, the readers have many more unsolved questions such as why Miles was dismissed from school, why the Governess could describe Peter Quint exactly though she never meet him, and why the Governess thought that ghosts wanted to catch the two children. Ned Lukacher thinks that "[the way James] has said something also becomes a way of not having said something else" (132). For instance, James revealed some hints regarding the reason Miles was dismissed. We know that "[Miles]'s an injury to the others" (304) and Mrs. Grose thought Miles was "no boy for [her]" (305). However, these hints do not help the readers...

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