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The Influence Of Henry James’s Life On Turn Of The Screw

1158 words - 5 pages

Peoples’ lives hold the greatest power over their works. From the people around them and their interactions, to the places they grow up in and the perspective of the world it give them; peoples’ lives shape everything they do. There is no more of a perfect example of this then the fiction of Henry James Jr. Henry James Jr.’s withdrawal from society and his relationships with his siblings create the backing force for his settings and plot in his short fiction, Turn of the Screw.

James’s narrating character the Governess matches his personality, as they are both involved in the story but connect better with an bystander's point of view rather than a person actively involved. Within his ...view middle of the document...

resided in Sussex, Rye in his prefered country of residence, England. “He claimed, the vigorous social life of London was draining his energy and time from his writing.” (McEwen.) In Turn of the Screw, the governess is banished immediately to Essex, to her employer’s country home. She and the children are to remain there the whole time as their uncle thought “the proper place for them being of course the country.” (James 15.) The common setting of the old mansion/ country residences in James’s life certainly make him a natural of using them as the background for his gothic fictions.

James’s differing relationships with everyone in his life greatly influenced his writing, a fact attested by the relationship of the children and their uncle. He was distant from his siblings in an emotional sense, “effervescence of his siblings helped to develop in Henry a tendency toward observation rather than participation.” (McEwen.) Henry James Jr. was only close to his elder brother, William, and his younger sister, Alice. His lack of true closeness to his younger brothers, Garth Wilkinson and Robertson, was attributed to his inability to serve with them in the American civil war (McEwen.) However there is no real evidence that James had any deeper connections to anyone else other than that of a mentor or colleague, “Highly social, he was nevertheless extremely private and reserved.” (Wolf.) He mentored several writers throughout his career, even helping them financially as “His fondness for congenial associates, particularly literary ones, did not, however, blind him to their weaknesses nor subdue his pride in his accomplishments.” (McEwen.) McEwen lays out that James’ life in Europe was mostly work and friendships with prominent figures. Likewise in his short fiction, the uncle is rather distant from his niece and nephew as observed by the governess, “ The awkward thing was that they practically no other relations and that his own affairs took up all his time.” (James 15.) His, the uncle, absolute resolve that he should not be notified of any change in his legal wards’ status- “ ‘This, I recognise, is from the head-master, and the headmaster's an awful bore. Read him, please; deal with him; but mind you don’t report. Not a word. I’m off!” (James 21.)- falls right into place with James’s reserved and rather distant personality from the people around him. Perhaps the children are made to represent those...

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