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Lee, Susan Savage.
The Turn of the Screw's debated phantasms :
b the role of the fantastic in the creation of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel
h [electronic resource] /
by Susan Savage Lee.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: When Henry James sat down to write his "amusette" as he called The Turn of the Screw (1898), he created various ambiguities in the text as a means of confusing and surprising his readers or, in other words, catching them off guard. Over a century later, the mysterious ambiance surrounding the novella has not become any clearer. While critics from Edmund Wilson to Edna Kenton have analyzed the work from a somewhat psychoanalytical perspective, stating that the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are merely figments of the governess's imagination, Tzvetan Todorov and Rosemary Jackson examine James's work through a fantastic approach, putting faith in the governess's narrative. From Todorov's perspective, the fantastic requires: "... the fulfillment of three conditions. First, the text must oblige the reader to consider the world of the characters as a world of living persons and to hesitate between a natural a supernatural explanation of the events described.Second, this hesitation may also be experienced by a character; thus the reader's role is so to speak entrusted to a character, and at the same time the hesitation is represented, it becomes one of the themes of the work- in the case of nave reading, the actual reader identifies himself with the character. Third, the reader must adopt a certain attitude with regard to the text: he will reject allegorical as well as 'poetic' interpretations. (33)" In other words, Todorov's concept of hesitation involves a focus on an external point, the perspective of the reader. Yet, the reader's perspective cannot be separated from the character or thematic value of the work, thus linking the two elements through hesitation itself. Todorov explains that The Turn of the Screw fits the characteristics of the fantastic genre in regard to the reader's hesitation. Indeed, it is that very quality which has created so much critical contention in the past.Because of this hesitation, the reader must determine whether or not to believe the governess and thus, believe in the reality of the ghosts. While I will begin by defining the fantastic from Todorov's and Jackson's perspective, it is my belief that both authors fail to connect all of the elements that appear in James's text without venturing outside of the work. In my thesis, I will strictly adhere to James's novella, focusing only on the content as I connect the governess's experience to an alternative reality rather than a deviation into psychological madness. In this way, The Turn of the Screw will be revealed as a fantastic text, producing its effects on the reader through the evolution of these tendencies within the work.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 42 pages.
Advisor: Nancy Jane Tyson, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
The Turn of the ScrewÂ’s Debated Phantasms: The Role of the Fantastic in the Creation of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel By Susan Savage Lee A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of MasterÂ’s of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Nancy Jane Tyson, Ph.D. Regina Hewitt, Ph.D. Elaine Smith, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 2, 2007 Keywords: henry, james, fantastic, ghosts, governess Copyright 2007, Susan Savage Lee
i The Turn of the ScrewÂ’s Debated Phantasms: The Role of the Fantastic in the Creation of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel Susan Savage Lee Table of Contents Abstract ii Chapter One 1 Chapter Two -Tzvetan TodorovÂ’s and Rosemary Jack sonÂ’s Fantastic 4 Chapter Three -The Critics and the Gove rness 9 Chapter Four -The Turn of the Screw and the Fantastic 24 Chapter Five 39 Works Cited 41
ii The Turn of the ScrewÂ’s Debated Phantasms: The Role of the Fantastic in the Creation of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel Susan Savage Lee ABSTRACT When Henry James sat down to write his Â“amusetteÂ” as he called The Turn of the Screw (1898), he created various ambiguities in the text as a means of confusing and surprising his readers or, in other words, catching them off guard. Over a century later, the mysterious ambiance surrounding the novella has not become a ny clearer. While critics from Edmund Wilson to Edna Kenton have analyzed the work from a somewhat psychoanalytical perspective, stating that the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are merely figments of the governessÂ’s imagination, Tzvetan Todorov and Rosemary Jackson examine JamesÂ’s work through a fantastic ap proach, putting faith in the governessÂ’s narrative. From TodorovÂ’s perspec tive, the fantastic requires: Â… the fulfillment of three conditions. Fi rst, the text must oblige the reader to consider the world of the characters as a world of living persons and to hesitate between a natural a supern atural explanation of the events described. Second, this hesitation may al so be experienced by a character; thus the readerÂ’s role is so to speak entrusted to a character, and at the same time the hesitation is represented, it becomes one of the themes of the workin the case of nave reading, the actual reader identifies himself with the character. Third, the reader must adopt a certain attitude with regard to the text: he will reject allegorical as well as Â‘poeticÂ’ interpretations. (33)
iii In other words, TodorovÂ’s concept of hesitati on involves a focus on an external point, the perspective of the reader. Ye t, the readerÂ’s perspective cannot be separated from the character or thematic value of the work, t hus linking the two elements through hesitation itself. Todorov explains that The Turn of the Screw fits the characteristics of the fantastic genre in regard to the readerÂ’s hesitation. Ind eed, it is that very quality which has created so much critical contention in the past. B ecause of this hesitation, the reader must determine whether or not to believe the govern ess and thus, believe in the reality of the ghosts. While I will begin by defini ng the fantastic from TodorovÂ’s and JacksonÂ’s perspective, it is my belief that both authors fa il to connect all of the elements that appear in JamesÂ’s text without venturi ng outside of the work. In my th esis, I will strictly adhere to JamesÂ’s novella, focusing only on the conten t as I connect the governessÂ’s experience to an alternative reality rath er than a deviation into psyc hological madness. In this way, The Turn of the Screw will be revealed as a fantastic text, producing its effects on the reader through the evolution of these tendencies within the work.
1 Chapter One When Henry James sat down to write his Â“amusetteÂ” as he called The Turn of the Screw (1898), he created various ambiguities in the text as a means of confusing and surprising his readers or, in other words, cat ching them off guard. It has been a long and effective diversion among widely different pe rspective. Already in the 1920Â’s and Â‘30s, critics such as Edna Kenton and Edmund Wils on were analyzing the work from a range of psychoanalytical perspectives all leading to one conclusion: that the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are merely figments of the governessÂ’s imagination. At midcentury, some like A.J.A. Waldock were grantin g her credibility in varying degrees, but there was nothing like consensus. Still, ove r a century later, the mysterious ambiance surrounding the novella has not become any clearer. But there has been no more interesting and significant c ontribution than that of Tzve tan Todorov in the early 1970Â’s and Rosemary Jackson following him in the next decade. These theorists reexamined JamesÂ’s work, putting faith in the governes sÂ’s narrative from a newly configured perspective on the fantastic. Both Jackson and Todorov explai n fantasy literature in terms of an unresolved "hesitation" between the fantas tic and the real. For Jackson especially the process is a subversion of social reality. This hesitation affects the characte rs in the narrative and also touches on the readerÂ’s orientation to the text. What Jackson and Todorov do not
2 consider, in my view, is that it can and does color the criticsÂ’ viewpoint as well. I will begin by defining the fantastic from TodorovÂ’s and JacksonÂ’s pe rspective, but it is my belief that both authors fail to connect all of the elements that appear in JamesÂ’s text without venturing outside of the work. In my argument, I will strictly adhere to JamesÂ’s novella, focusing only on the content as I connect the governessÂ’ s experience to an alternative reality ra ther than a deviation into ps ychological madness. In this way, The Turn of the Screw will be revealed as a fantastic text, producing its effects on the reader through the evolution of these tendencies within the work. After I examine the genre of the fantastic, I will provide a focused perspective on the historical background of The Turn of the Screw Since an element of criticism has been the governessÂ’s position as well as the characteristics of he r personality, it will be necessary to view the govern ess in the context of her st ation in order to see the stereotypes that might be responsible for th e disbelief in the truth of her narrative. From this point on I will examine the cruc ial elements of the novella previous critics have analyzed that claim discrepanc ies in the governessÂ’s account. Afterwards, I will investigate the same elements applying a fantastic perspective in order to prove the validity of the governessÂ’s narrative. Examples discussed will be: the introduction of the novella where the governessÂ’s friend, Douglass, reveals her story, the nature of the governessÂ’s feelings for the childrenÂ’s uncle, the descriptions the governess provides of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, the odd behavior of the children, Miles and Flora, and the role of Mrs. GroseÂ’s servitude For each one of these concep ts, there exist analyses made by critics of how they oppose the truth the governess offers in her narrative, in particular: Edmund WilsonÂ’s and Edna KentonÂ’s psychoa nalytical approach, Oscar CargillÂ’s
3 Freudian methodology, Harold GoddardÂ’s preFreudian reading and Joseph FirebaughÂ’s emphasis on the incompetence of the governe ss and her need for attention. Having defined the fantastic, I will approach the above-mentioned instances within the novella from a fantastic perspective only. In this way, it will become clear that JamesÂ’s novella follows TodorovÂ’s and JacksonÂ’s characterizatio n of the fantastic rather than another method of approach. It is my opinion that other theories bring too much outside speculation rather than focusing on the text its elf and what is contained in it whereas the fantastic proposes an approach that works with what the text pr ovides and nothing else.
4 Chapter Two -Tzvetan TodorovÂ’s and Rosemary JacksonÂ’s Fantastic For Tzvetan Todorov genre is the relay point linking literature with the world (8). As a consequence the fantastic exists for the theorist, as a genre ra ther than a literary technique or theme. In fact, TodorovÂ’s entire de finition of the fantastic links the text itself not only with the surrounding environment, but with the reader involved with the work through the means of Â“hesitati on.Â” This process requires: Â… the fulfillment of three conditions. Fi rst, the text must oblige the reader to consider the world of the characters as a world of living persons and to hesitate between a natural and a supe rnatural explanation of the events described. Second, this hesitation may al so be experienced by a character; thus the readerÂ’s role is so to speak entrusted to a character, and at the same time the hesitation is represented, it becomes one of the themes of the workin the case of nave reading, the actual reader identifies himself with the character. Third, the reader must adopt a certain attitude with regard to the text: he will reject allegorical as well as Â‘poeticÂ’ interpretations. (33) In other words, TodorovÂ’s concept of hesitati on involves the necessity for a Â“visionÂ” to be presented, followed by the reaction of the protagonist, leaving the reader to ultimately choose between manners of interpreting the text Yet, the readerÂ’s perspective cannot be
5 separated from the character or thematic valu e of the work, thus linking the two elements through hesitation itself. Todorov explains that the fa ntasticÂ’s hesitation for the character of the text is created through a Â“necessary ambiguity.Â” In this instance, the character doubts the reality of what he or she witnesses, questioning hi s/her own sensibility. At times, the vision or suspected illusory chain of events is confus ed with madness, albeit not to the point of certainty on the protagonistÂ’s part. Ambigu ity, stylistically, is created through the Â“Â…imperfect tense and modali zationÂ” (38). In each inst ance, the certainty of the characterÂ’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs is never quite substan tiated clearly enough to present to the reader what exactly has occurred within the text. As a result, the ambiguity transfers from the perception of the character of the text to the reader involved in the textÂ’s meaning. Because of TodorovÂ’s specific representati on of the fantastic, other literary and non-literary tendencies are excluded. Many lite rary critics have confused the fantastic approach with the marvelous; however, as Todorov explains, the di fference lies in the readerÂ’s interpretation of the text: Â“At the storyÂ’s end, the reader makes a decision even if the character does not; he opts for one soluti on or the other, and thereby emerges from the fantasticÂ…If, on the contrar y, he decides that new laws of nature must be entertained to account for the phenomena, we enter the ge nre of the marvelousÂ” (41). The fantastic, then, avoids permanent alteration of realit y, while the marvelous adopts new laws that explain the ambiguous events of the text. The fantastic is also limited to type of text. Todorov observes that the fantastic exists only in the world of fiction, rather than poetry since poetic imagery cannot be
6 translated into sensory items (60). Because of this, the reader cannot bring the image Â“to life,Â” but rather, must allow the image to remain in its metaphorical state. To do otherwise would corrupt the interpretation of the text. Furthermore, the perspective of the prot agonist involves the us e of first rather than third person. Todorov claims that firs t person permits an easier identification between protagonist and reader. For this reason, generally third person is utilized in texts representative of the marvelous. At the same time, the identification between the inside and outside domains of the text is an inherent aspect of the work itself. In other words, the reader identifies wi th the protagonist through a Â“struc tural concomitantÂ” rather than a psychological motive. Through the pursuit of psychological interpretations, psychoanalysis for one, the reader converts himsel f into a translator. If the text inherently produces the hesitation Todorov has repeatedly mentioned, then a linguistic or imagery related translation would violat e the internal mechanisms of the work, thus avoiding the specific characteristics as signed to the fantastic genre. In this way, TodorovÂ’s analysis of what constitutes the fantastic rather than the marvelous or psychoanalytic approach explicitly defines the limitations of the literary fantastic. Rosemary Jackson, in contrast, e xplains that th e fantastic or phantasticus (Greek for that which is made visible, visionar y or unreal), Â“Â… is produced within, and determined by, its social contextÂ” (3). The social context in question is a humanistic vision, one where the fantastic is able to tran scend reality. As a resu lt of building reality on a particular context, the former cannot be isolated from the latter. The consequence of such manipulation of reality is an Â“unreality Â” where what has been made invisible or unsaid within a culture appears as the predomin ate reality of the text (4). The fantastic
7 becomes then a search for truth instead of an em bodiment of it as it subsequently violates the accepted Â“possibilitiesÂ” or Â“truthsÂ” of reality. Jackson obs erves that, Â“Breaking single, reductive Â‘truths,Â’ the fantastic traces a sp ace within a societyÂ’s cognitive frame. It introduces multiple, contradictory Â‘truthsÂ’: it becomes polysemicÂ” (23). In short, the fantastic works within a societyÂ’s reality as it violates the limits the society traces. Another aspect of the fantastic for Jack son as for Todorov, is a specific level of uncertainty as it occupies a space between tw o realms, that of the fantastic-uncanny and that of the fantastic-marvelous. For this re ason, Jackson eliminates the fantastic as a genre (classified as such by Todorov), explaining that the pur ely fantastic functions as a literary mode between the marvelous and th e mimetic. While the marvelous involves a passive participation on the readerÂ’s part, th e mimetic merely imitates the Â“real,Â” stating from the beginning through a third-person m outhpiece the imitative value of the work (34). In comparison, the fantastic produces a Â“n arrative instabilityÂ” as both the reader and the protagonist face uncertainty about the realit y of what is seen and heard, although they experience a supposed validation of the reality of specific events. Instability presents the possibility of the fantastic as a mode. As in TodorovÂ’s analysis, Jackson cites sp ecific tendencies in the creation of the fantastic in a text. She observes that, Â“Â… it is remarkable how many fantasies introduce mirrors, glasses, reflections, portraits, eyeswhich see things myopi cally, or distortedly, as out of focusto effect a transformation of the familiar into the unfamiliarÂ” (43). Although Jackson illustrates the problem of vision and the eye, in a fantastic work, vision eventually becomes the only manner of Â“s eeingÂ” the unreal or making the invisible visible.
8 Thus Jackson notes specific themes associated with the fantastic such as invisibility, transformation, dualism, and good versus evil. Various motifs are generated through the thematic elements of the fantasti c: ghosts, shadows, vampires, werewolves, doubles, partial selves, reflections, enclosures, monsters, beasts, and cannibals (49). Each motif works at subverting the ge neral order of a r eality, creating the possibility for gender inversions at times and the prospect of Â“unrealisticÂ” visions becoming real. The development of multiplicity and transformation eradicates the surety of the eye and the visible while simultaneously erasing the st ability of knowledge. The fantastic, thus, explores the relationship between the Â“IÂ” of the narrative and the Â“otherÂ” created by the unreal. Jackson further explores TodorovÂ’s lack of connection between the fantastic and the psychoanalytical. Psychoanalysis, in her op inion, directly correlates to the mode of the uncanny in the emergence of the unc onscious. Through the mode of the uncanny, language poses a problem, prohibiting the expr ession of the characte rÂ’s desire. Jackson suggests that the psychoanalytic (ignored by Todorov because of his emphasis on structural effects) must be considered when analyzing the fantastic in a text because of the necessity both areas share in developing an utterance for desire lacking in linguistic methodology. The fantastic seeks, then, to make the Â“heartÂ’s darknessÂ” visible as it subverts the cultural order a nd transcends the limits of societyÂ’s constructions.
9 Chapter Three -The Critics and the Governess The central criticism of JamesÂ’s The Turn of the Screw lies in the governessÂ’s perspective. However, before examining the analyses of the critic s taking a non-fantastic approach, it is necessary to concisely scru tinize the position JamesÂ’s governess would have had in the late nineteenth -century time period of the novella. According to T.J. Lustig in Henry James and the Ghostly the position of governess could be compared to the perilous occupati on of tightrope walker. In his 1957 analysis, Lustig explains that, Â“An outsider within the family, often a foreigner within the familiar, she did not quite belong either above or be low stairs, either with the adults or the children, either amongst men or with other womenÂ” (150). In short, the governess occupied a position both inside and outsid e of the family, placed neatly above the servants Â“below the stairs,Â” yet hardly an e qual to the family she worked for. As a result of this ambiguous position, fear developed as to the nature and nece ssary Â“educationÂ” of a governess. Families desired women from middle-class backgrounds, rather than the vulgar and low-born. However, despite the Â“requiredÂ” middle-cl ass position of a governess, her natural disposition was ofte n associated with Â“Â…disorder, misrule, inversion, and ultimately with the manifestations of social or literary crisis outlined by Girard in his account of sacrifice and Todorov in his analysis of th e fantasticÂ” (Lustig
10 151). It is no wonder then th at the governessÂ’s perspectiv e in JamesÂ’s novella has been called into question by a great number of critics. Yet, despite the plet hora of objections to the reality of the ghostsÂ’ presen ce, these critics often disengage themselves from the text, at times avoiding concrete evidence in th e novella while at others recreating textual elements with little factual background. While all the analyses ev entually lead to the question of the governessÂ’s truthfulness and the ghostsÂ’ r eality, the critics inevitably begin w ith the narrator responsible for shedding light on the governes sÂ’s experience, her friend, Douglass. After an evening of listening to ghost stories, the narrator encounters a man who explains that he knows of a true Â“horrorÂ” story involving his sisterÂ’s former governess (a woman that remains unnamed through out the novel). For the past twenty years, this man, Douglass, has kept the governessÂ’s testimony. He promises to send the manuscript to the narrator who then reads about the woma nÂ’s experience through her own words in first person. At the beginning of the novella, however, Dougl ass describes the governess as Â“Â…awfully clever and niceÂ…the most agreeable wo man IÂ’ve ever known in her positionÂ…and worthy of any whateverÂ” (James 130). In this way, James introduces the governessÂ’s voice with the reference of Douglass, a man half in love with her. Yet, two decades before LustigÂ’s account Edmund Wilson in Â“The Ambiguity of Henry James,Â” proposes that the governessÂ’s credibility is only a stylistic measure on JamesÂ’s part meant to throw the reader off (385). Wilson continues his analysis of the governessÂ’s credibility explai ning that her ghostly visions are nothing more than the sexual repression of an Anglo-Saxon spinster. In other words, the governess merely transfers her sexual attraction toward the master of Bly, the childrenÂ’s uncle, to a physical
11 embodiment of sexually deviant Â“ghosts.Â” Dougl assÂ’s affirmation that the governess is a trustworthy witness of evil in carnate at Bly means absolute ly nothing as Wilson attempts to compare manipulative twists in other novels and short stories with similar strategies in The Turn of the Screw Yet supporting evidence from with in the text does not present itself, implying that this part icular aspect of WilsonÂ’s analysis, DouglassÂ’s Â“inadvertentÂ” promotion of the governessÂ’s credibility, is only manipulated to accommodate his theory. Along the same lines in the 1960s, Oscar Ca rgill in Â“Henry Ja mes as Freudian PioneerÂ” compares The Turn of the Screw (in particular, the governessÂ’s madness) with a case studied by Freud and Breuer, Â“The Case of Miss Lucy R.Â” In his comparison of the two texts, Cargill relates that both cases ar e presented as reports or case histories. In The Turn of the Screw Douglass provides the governessÂ’s experiences, while in Lucy R.Â’s history, her case is documented through FreudÂ’ s and BreuerÂ’s work in psychoanalysis. Douglass relates through his intr oduction of his friend, that the latter fell in love with BlyÂ’s master, as Lucy R., another governess, did with her own employer. In Lucy R.Â’s case, however, the young governe ss experienced strange smells and depression while in control of her charges. Afte r several interviews Freud de termined that her sensory experiences were somehow linked to her feelin gs for the master of the house. Her first Â“imaginaryÂ” smell, a burned pastry, was later substituted after a few sessions with Freud with the smell of a burning cigar. As Freud delved deeper into the governessÂ’s neurosis, he determined that the smells were a repl acement for a specific memory the governess had witnessed one evening during a social gath ering when a gentleman visitor kissed the governessÂ’s charges. Later on in the same even ing, a lady visitor also kissed the children. In both instances, these gestures of affection were witnessed by the childrenÂ’s father. Up
12 to this point, through the governessÂ’s romantic fantasies, she had convinced herself that the childrenÂ’s father loved her and that he r presence in the household was due to her prolonged waiting for his amorous confession. However, after the father witnessed the two visitorsÂ’ actions, he exploded with ra ge, blaming the governess for permitting such an occurrence. The governess suddenly realiz ed that the childrenÂ’s father lacked an amorous affection for her, and, at the same time, her Â“imaginedÂ” olfactory perceptions consequently disappeared. As she conscious ly acknowledged her fant asies, her physical symptoms appeared corrected. Although Lucy R.Â’s case occurred in 1895, three years before the publication of The Turn of the Screw Cargill offers little evidence as ide from chronology that Henry James was influenced by such a psychoanaly tic case history enough to base the novella on it. In fact, in Henry JamesÂ’s letters wher e he explicitly developed his ideas through his correspondence with other writers as well as fr iends, he never mentions FreudÂ’s theories or cases once. In fact, he explains in a le tter to Edmund Gosse that the source of his novella is a story heard from Archbishop of Canterbury: To think of the good old Addington Arc hbishop (by a vague fragment of a tale he ineffectually tried to tell me ) having given me the germ of anything so odious and hideous! Â…The difficulty, the problem was of course to add, organically, the element of beauty to a thing so foully uglyand the success is in trust if I have done it. But I despise bogies, any way. (81) In short, although Cargill links the narrative technique (D ouglassÂ’s presentation of the governessÂ’s case) of The Turn of the Screw with Lucy R.Â’s psychoanalytic sessions, as well as the two historiesÂ’ chronologies, Jame s distinctly explains that the idea for the
13 novella did not come from psychology, but rath er was a ghost story told by a friend. In short, Cargill posits a theory with little factual research behind it. The other structural thread connected to the governessÂ’s credibility is her romantic feelings for the ch ildrenÂ’s uncle, the master of Bly. Edmund Wilson postulates that the governess has merely transferred her feelings for the master into a physical apparition. He calls attention to the scene wher e she walks, dreaming of the masterÂ’s face before her, only to stumble upon the figure of Peter Quint. Wilson explains, Â“She is never to meet her employer again, but what she does meet are the apparitions. One day when his face [the masterÂ’s] has been vividly in her mind, she comes out in sight of the house and, looking up, sees the figure of a ma n on a tower, a figure which is not the masterÂ” (386). However, the figure in quest ion is not dressed as a gentleman and what has specifically attracted the young woman to the master in the first place is the gentlemanly qualities the uncle possesses to wh ich she is not accustomed in her previous experiences. Although Wilson attempts to conn ect the ghostÂ’s Â“smart clothesÂ” with QuintÂ’s previous habit of st ealing the masterÂ’s belongings, the governess explicitly states that the man she saw was not a gentleman, stol en clothes or not. In short, again Wilson futilely attempts to force JamesÂ’s descriptions into a psychoanalytic approach despite the discrepancies in JamesÂ’s work a nd the criticÂ’s de veloped theory. In Â“Another Turn on JamesÂ’s Â‘The Turn of the ScrewÂ’Â” appearing in 1949, Glenn A. Reed observes that the govern essÂ’s feelings for the master are inserted on JamesÂ’s part in order to provide explan ation for later actions: In the second place, it is difficult to s ee how a girl of tw enty with little knowledge of the world since she comes to her first job of governess fresh
14 from a country parsonage, could be a version of the frustrated AngloSaxon spinster, particularly when he r relationship with the Master is developed no further than a schoolgir lish crush and is in serted into the story, it seems to me, partly to motivate her acceptance of a position peculiarly encumbered and partly to explain her reluctance to consult the master when she is hard pressed. (418) In other words, although the governess disclose s her feelings for the uncle, her Â“romantic intentionsÂ” consist of nothing more than the exposure of an inexperienced girl to the sophistication of wealth and culture. At the same time, according to Reed, once she accepts her position as governess, she longs to please the master by controlling Bly in an efficient manner, without the necessity of calling upon him as per his instructions. After the appearance of the ghosts and the witnessing of the child renÂ’s inappropriate behavior, her respectful feelings for the uncle prohibi t her from corresponding with him and asking his advice. While Reed disagrees with psychoanalyti c or other theories that question the governessÂ’s credibility, he considers the ghos tsÂ’ appearance one element of JamesÂ’s Â“fairy tale.Â” He thus links all the questi onable Â“ambiguityÂ” of other analyses to the structural techniques of the BrothersÂ’ Grimm stating that, Â“There is the same objective horror with no attempt to explain it awayÂ” ( 417). Yet, the entire nove lla functions as an explanation from DouglassÂ’s introduction to MilesÂ’s sudden death. In short, JamesÂ’s Â“amusetteÂ” meant to Â“catch those not easily caugh tÂ” implies that the explanation has been provided, but those not paying close enough attention will lo se the clues structurally
15 threaded throughout the novellaÂ’s development. To discard the possibility of explanation eradicates the opportunity to t horoughly understand JamesÂ’s creation. Another element of the text analyzed by critics has been the description of the ghosts by the governess. For many, her entire cred ibility lies in these de scriptions of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. Edna Kenton in her article Â“James to the Ruminant Reader: The Turn of the Screw Â” (one of the first articles appr oaching the govern essÂ’s situation, appearing in 1924) quotes long passages of th e text in her efforts to exemplify the governessÂ’s madness and the illusion of th e ghostsÂ’ presence. However, she never addresses how exactly the gove rness came to know so distinctly what Peter Quint and Miss Jessel looked like. She observes: Not the children, but the little governess was hounded by the ghostsÂ…After her startling materializations of Pete r Quint and Miss Jessel, Bly became a nest of lurking shapes, and she walked softly, in terror, expectantlyÂ…So she made the shades of her recurring fevers dummy figures for the delirious terrifying of others, pathetically trying to harmonize her own disharmonies by cr eating discords outside herself. (254) According to Kenton, the governessÂ’s recognitio n of the ghosts is simply the projection of her own madness, yet the explanation of ma dness determines only so much in JamesÂ’s text. Mrs. Grose shockingly c oncurs that the governessÂ’s desc riptions of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel correspond concretely to the former employees of Bly, so much so that the former is immediately convinced that the gho sts of these two deviants are now haunting the property. If the governess were mad, how could she possibly describe down to the
16 color of their hair, two people that she has never met in her life? Edna KentonÂ’s argument lacks conviction wit hout exploration of JamesÂ’s de velopment of the governessÂ’s experience. In A.J.A. WaldockÂ’s examination of the novella in 1947, Â“Mr. Edmund Wilson and The Turn of the Screw,Â” he posits th e question in response to Edmund WilsonÂ’s argument of the governessÂ’s madness and self -projection of the ghosts: Â“How did the governess succeed in projecting on vacancy, out of her own subconscious mind, a perfectly precise, point-by-point image of a man, then dead, whom she had never seen in her life and never heard of? What psychol ogy, normal or abnormal, will explain that? And what is the right word for such a vi sion but Â‘ghostÂ’? (334). However, WaldockÂ’s examination of The Turn of the Screw simply expresses the c oncept that the ghosts are real once compared to the analysis of Wilson who ignor es specific details while fabricating others in order to prove his psychoanalytic approac h. At the end of the article, Waldock fails to provide explanation for why the ghosts present themselves to the governess or what the reader should gather from the novella outside of the belief that the governess has indeed experienced a moment of Â“horror.Â” The odd behavior of the children, Miles a nd Flora, directly corresponds to the governessÂ’s reliability as witness to the stra nge events occurring at Bly. As the governess minutely watches the changes in the childrenÂ’s behavior from their disappearing acts in the middle of the night to the obscure conversations filled with double meanings, she becomes convinced that Pete r Quint has corrupted Miles while Miss Jessel has tainted FloraÂ’s purity. The governess bases her beli ef in the childrenÂ’ s corruption on these eccentric, somewhat unexplainable acts. According to Edmund Wilson, though, the
17 children Â“Â…are able to give plausible explanation of the behavior that has seemed suspiciousÂ” (388). And what precisely are th ese explanations? When the governess leaves the room she shares with Flora in the middle of the night, she returns to find FloraÂ’s bed empty. Flora is hiding behind the bed and she ju mps out to frighten the governess. When the governess asks the little girl if she was looking for her out of the window assuming that the former has been walking on the ground s, Flora assents that she has been looking out the window, adding ambiguously, Â“Well, you know, I thought someone wasÂ…Â” (James 178). Given that the scene occurs in the middle of the night, what exactly seems plausible about FloraÂ’s explan ation? Who else would she be expecting to see at night walking the grounds of Bly? In another scene with Miles, the governess visits him on ce he is tucked into bed. By this point, her conversations have beco me a method to divine the truth about the ghosts and the childrenÂ’s involvement with them Miles explains that he has merely been thinking while lying in bed. The governe ss asks him what he is thinking of. Â“What in the world, my dear, but you?Â” Â‘Ah, the pride I take in your apprec iation doesnÂ’t insist on that! I had so far rather you slept.Â’ Â‘Well, I think also, you know, of this queer business of ours.Â’ Â‘Of what queer business, Miles?Â’ Â“Why, the way you bring me up. And all the rest!Â’Â” (203). However, Miles never reveals what Â“the restÂ” is after he alludes to her style of teaching and raising children. In fact, the majority of the conversations that the governess has with Miles involve Â“double-talk,Â” a manner of speech quite unusual for a young boy to use in
18 his everyday dialogues. Still, Wilson insists that Miles and Flora are nothing more than children with the sad misfortune of living w ith a sexually represse d Anglo-Saxon spinster in love with their uncle. In Muriel G. ShineÂ’s analysis The Fictional Children of Henry James (1969), she determines that James offers little concludi ng evidence that the children are or are not corrupted. She observes that, At no point in the story does James have Flora or Miles do anything that might not be construed as perfectly no rmal behavior for children of their class and obvious intelligence. The read er can never, with any degree of certainty, say what the children really are, only what they could possibly be. Miles could be the soul of corr uption, and, by the same token, he could be a typical little Victorian gentle man who minds his mannersÂ… (138). She further claims that the decision concerni ng the childrenÂ’s corrup tion is based solely on the readerÂ’s state of mind, ignoring JamesÂ’s basis of the text, the ghost story of horror combined with the concept that childhood is not sacred (James 84). If childhood loses its purity, the horror becomes more than the a ppearance of ghosts, a hackneyed plot in fiction, but rather a story of extreme deviance as th e two children lose themselves because of the lecherous psychologies of their former Â“friendsÂ” and servants, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. In ignoring the possibility of a concrete conclusion about the childrenÂ’s state of mind, Shine, as with Cargill, oversimplifies Ja mesÂ’s work, thus seriously misreading the text. Terry HellerÂ’s Bewildered Vision (1989) offers the interpretation that the children have become corrupted because of their f ear that their presen t governess has been
19 converted into Miss Jessel. Mi ss Jessel has been describe d as somewhat melancholy by Mrs. Grose and so Heller assumes that Jess elÂ’s behavior and moods influenced the childrenÂ’s behavior during her employment at Bly. Now, as they witness their current governessÂ’s preoccupation and misery, the tw o children become Â“convincedÂ” that they have seen the ghosts the governess so ent husiastically points out to them. As a consequence to the psychological disturban ce consistently present in the house (from Miss JesselÂ’s time period to the narrating gove rness), Flora wishes to be removed from the young ladyÂ’s presence, while Miles dies for f ear of the consequences of his behavior in this stressful situation (235). Unfortunate ly, HellerÂ’s analysis develops implications with little foundation. Although Miss Jessel exhibited questio nable tendencies in regard to her relationship with Pe ter Quint, Mrs. Grose does not hold the former governess responsible for improprieties, but rather, th e valet, the young man who stole his masterÂ’s clothing. Again, while HellerÂ’s theory illu minates a possible interpretation, once scrutinized the theory proves lacklust er in textual evidence and support. Robin P. Hoople provides a contemporary perspective in 1997, claiming that the children exhibit corruption because of the ghos tsÂ’ presence. He explains that, Â“Closely related to the study of character in the novella is the asso ciation of horror with character creation. The writer for Literature is appalled at the particul ar horror of the possession of the children by the ghosts, at the obscen e cooperation between the ghosts and the childrenÂ” (42) According to Hoople, the magnificence of Ja mesÂ’s novella is this unique twist in the thematic development of horror. While he investigates the possibility of approaching The Turn of the Screw from a fantastic perspective, the central premise of his text is a comparison of various criticisms since the first publica tion of the novella in
20 1898. At the same time, Hoople connects various theories with the concrete construction of JamesÂ’s work, allowing for possibilities such as horror and the fantastic while excluding psychoanalysis as an approach to the text. In short, Hoople does not distinctively choose one perspective to follow, but instead, offers an array of analyses for JamesÂ’s Â“ambiguousÂ” novella. The final element linked to the governessÂ’ s experience is her counterpart, Mrs. Grose, a woman that submissively seems to follow the governessÂ’s lead. Robert Heilman in the same decade as Waldock describes Mrs. Grose as Â“Â…the commonplace mortal, well-intentioned, but perceivi ng only the obviousÂ” (278). But Mrs. Grose does not always acquiesce when it comes to the actions evident in Bly. Glenn Reed explains that Mrs. Grose is entirely aware of th e past corruption of the former governess and valet and when the new governess appears, she attempts to erad icate all trace of evil and diabolical deeds from BlyÂ’s surface (421). In each of these ar guments, the manipulation of Mrs. GroseÂ’s placement within the text occu rs in order to prove that The Turn of the Screw presents itself with Christian overtones (according to Heilman) or as conclusively ambiguous and unnecessary to define (Reed). This problema tization of Mrs. Grose continues in other analyses of her character. In 1953 Charles Hoffman describes Mrs. Grose as a minor character, but an important one (102). He explains that at the beginning of the novella Mrs. Grose is a functioning, completely sane woman, possessed w ith realistic rather than superstitious tendencies. From HoffmanÂ’s perspective, Mr s. Grose provides important collaborative testimony, supporting the governessÂ’s belief in the ghostÂ’s reality (102). Belief in the governessÂ’s perspective proves central to Ho ffmanÂ’s argument because he believes Henry
21 James has developed a novel based around th e battle between good and evil. The ghostsÂ’ presence provides the necessary evil that will eventually corrupt the purity of the children. While Hoffman supports the notion of the ghostsÂ’ reality, his conclusion that James developed a battle between Â“sinfulnessÂ” and Â“lightÂ” or Â“God as the creatorÂ” seems far-fetched when placed within the context of the novel. After all, Mrs. Grose presents herself as realistic and rati onal, only believing in the ghos ts once she witnesses enough strange behavior in the house, behavior th at mimics the deviancy present when Miss Jessel and Peter Quint were alive. Never, in the evolution of the action of the text, does a notion of Christian allegory emerge. In f act, the novella appears strangely void of religious connotations taken in its totalit y. It would seem then, that although Hoffman remains true to the nature of Mrs. GroseÂ’s character and her reliability, he embellishes in terms of thematic content. John Silver in his article from 1957 Â“Fre udian Reading of Â‘The Turn of the ScrewÂ’Â” explains that Mrs. GroseÂ’s belief in the governessÂ’s testimony is not adequate enough for the reader to be taken in by the de velopments at Bly (208). In fact, Silver proclaims that Mrs. Grose will not Â“tell her supe riorÂ” that the latter is crazy. Furthermore, the governess only manages to Â“bullyÂ” Mrs. Grose into be lieving that the ghosts have appeared at all: Â“In Chapter VIII we are told that the gove rness and Mrs. Grose have had a talk in which Mrs. Grose, not yet fully cowed into belief in the ghosts, asks the governess how she can be sure that what she ha s seen were not, in effect, hallucinations. The governessÂ’s reply is typica l of the half-truth s she uses to bend Mrs. Grose to her willÂ” (209). Mrs. Grose, then, is simply a puppet to the governessÂ’s manipulation. Silver observes that not once does Mrs. Grose ever actually see the ghosts that the governess
22 describes, illustrating concretely the lack of any supernatural occurrence. However, SilverÂ’s analysis of The Turn of the Screw is only meant to s upport Edmund WilsonÂ’s and Edna KentonÂ’s analyses, calling into question the various obje ctions pertaining to these two criticsÂ’ articles. John Silver offers explanations where Wilson does not, concluding that the governess was able to describe Pe ter Quint and Miss Jessel because she had previously heard of them elsewhere. Again, though, as with WilsonÂ’s and KentonÂ’s argument, Silver does not concretely illustra te through textual analysis proof that the governess overheard or learned of the two employeesÂ’ physical de scriptions before arriving at Bly. Likewise, his e xplanation that Mrs. Grose su ffers from an attitude of Â“servitudeÂ” violates the descrip tions previous critics have utilized in order to illustrate that Mrs. Grose provides the voice of reas on through her realistic perspective. At the same time, she has sensed, long before the arrival of the present governess, something amiss in the former employees, something dia bolical and strange, enough so as to try and cover up all appearance of it before the new governess ha s the chance to sense anything amiss. As a consequence, although she does not visually observe th e ghostsÂ’ presence on the grounds or in the house, the governessÂ’s mi nute description of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel functions as viable evidence to convince Mrs. Grose, servant or not, that the ghosts are materializing. At the same time, Mrs. Gr ose cannot help but c onsider the governessÂ’s recent arrival at Bly and her in experience in the area as well as her blatant incapacity to conjure up so realistic and Â“truthfulÂ” a desc ription of two people she could hardly have known or heard of in her distant parsonage. It would seem then that SilverÂ’s attempt to eliminate the criticism of WilsonÂ’s and KentonÂ’s analyses only furthers the possibility of
23 another, quite different approach to JamesÂ’s text, one in which fundamental evidence is provided. In each of the above-mentioned analyses of JamesÂ’s The Turn of the Screw the various theories, from WilsonÂ’ s Freudian perspective to Ho ffmanÂ’s Christian battle of good and evil, appear misshapen and unfounded, because of serious misreading, textual information forced into an already divined th eory and the consistent use of extraneous, Â“inventedÂ” information not contained in Ja mesÂ’s work. In contrast, in the following section, I will examine each element conn ected to the governe ssÂ’s perspective and credibility, applying a fantastic approach wit hout deviating from the text James created.
24 Chapter Four -The Turn of the Screw and the Fantastic Janice M. Bogstad posits that the fantasti c has become rather difficult to define; however, much like Todorov and Jackson, she connects the fantastic with the social realm of individual identity (81). Todorov and Jackson, though, provi de greater synthesis in their attachment of literature and to the society surrounding it. Applying this syncretism to The Turn of the Screw supplies the reader with the answers to JamesÂ’s apparent Â“ambiguitiesÂ” that have stumped cr itics and previous readers since the novellaÂ’s release. In this chapter, I will connect the same problematic concepts discussed in the previous chapter. However, instead of a ddressing them as discrepancies introduced by critics, I will treat them in the context of the narrative. In this way, it will become apparent how necessary a fant astic perspective is when ev aluating the Â“amusetteÂ” James has so cleverly created. Douglass is the second narrator of th e text followed by an unnamed man who happens to overhear ghost stor ies at a social event he atte nds. The narrator explains that, Â“I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a childÂ” (128). Douglass, who likewise attends the party, sp eaks up, explaining that he knows of a case involving two children. All of the people in the house, includ ing the narrator, exclaim that they would like to hear the story. Unfortunately, they cannot because the tale is contained in a
25 manuscript Douglass has kept in another locatio n ever since his sisterÂ’s former governess gave it to him. From the beginning, then, Dougl assÂ’s participation in the text seems more than a manner of introducing an Â“untruthÂ” or the Â“madnessÂ” of a young woman already deceased. Instead, when applying TodorovÂ’s firs t point of the three conditions for the fantastic, DouglassÂ’s involvement brings to life a vibrant world fu ll of Â“real, livingÂ” characters. Likewise, from th is introduction a balance between the world of the supernatural and the natural appears as the na rrator delves into a manuscript, confronted by the appearance of two ghosts who corrupt th e young people they associated with when they were living. Todorov also links his first point with a Â“verbal aspect,Â” one in which Â“visionsÂ” occur. The manuscript given to the narra tor by Douglass is th e governessÂ’s testimony, written in her own hand in first person. Each element of her experience functions as a series of visions that she attempts to so rt through, while the narra tor, presumably, does the same. Yet, her precise Â“manifestationÂ” of her personal experiences falls under scrutiny because the text itself has become ine xorably linked with the societal structure in and around it. In other words, as premised by Rosemary Jackson, Â“Â…the literary fantastic is never Â‘freeÂ’Â” (3). Literature cannot be sepa rated from the society outside of it; for this reason, the fantastic fails to disconnect from the structural elements of the time period and the society inhabiting the historical moment of its creation. Given the criticism concerning the governessÂ’s state of mind when describing her life at Bly, critics also, whether consciously or subconsciously, insert societal Â“judgmentsÂ” into the text, thus transforming the textÂ’s meaning into Â“untruthsÂ” in an effort to explain the complicated ambiguity of JamesÂ’s work. Jackson explains that the fantastic works to transcend the
26 reality of society by voicing what has been sile nced in this Â“acceptedÂ” reality. In terms of the governess, a woman whose occupation de nies her equality as well as passive subservience, her written test imony voices her Â“absenteeismÂ” fr om Victorian society. As a consequence, from criticsÂ’ analyses of her truthfulness, the second narrator, Douglass, faces the same scrutiny as his friend because of his faithfulness in a Â“governessÂ’sÂ” state of mind and voice. From the synthesis of TodorovÂ’s and JacksonÂ’s hypotheses of the fantastic, Douglass and the governess both elicit credibility as they transcend the strict norms and mores of an inflexible, slightly intolerant societal system of belief. Before the arrival of the manuscript, Douglass introduces further the governessÂ’s character and state of mind regarding the uncle. He de scribes her as Â“Â…young, untried, nervous: it was a vision of se rious duties and little company, of really great lonelinessÂ” (134). Despite the somewhat melancholic charac teristics associated w ith an existence at Bly, the governess cannot separate her future position from the Â“bachelor in the prime of his lifeÂ” a figure the young woman has not had the capacity to imagine in Hampshire. Combined with the sophisticated counten ance of the childrenÂ’ s uncle, the governess receives an offer from him of a substantia l salary, a secondary unf amiliar element in her range of mastered expertise. From the novellaÂ’s onset then, the governess stands vicariously between everything she has intima tely witnessed and that of the elusive. Todorov explains in his second point of the elements of the fant astic that a level of hesitation is experienced in a character of the work. As a result, the reader parallels the internal mechanisms of the text, sufferi ng hesitation through his/ her connection to the thematic appearance of Â“hesitantÂ” situations Before the narrator begins to read the governessÂ’s manuscript in The Turn of the Screw Douglass and other lis teners absorb the
27 nature of the governessÂ’s feelings for the ch ildrenÂ’s uncle. Through DouglassÂ’s adjectival phrases, even in conversation, the other char acters of the text as well as the reader experience the governessÂ’s trepidation and a pprehensive constitution. Yet, the theme of hesitation, on the young womanÂ’s as well as the readerÂ’s part, sustains itself in her testimony once she begins to observe the stra nge happenings at Bly and the mysterious figures that present themselves to her as she watches over Miles and Flora. Jackson develops the concept of Â“narrative instabilit yÂ” where the reader and the character both inhabit a region of uncertainty as they progr ess through a series of destabilized actions and occurrences. The governessÂ’s feelings for the uncle metamorphose beyond a delicate Â“minorÂ” detail of her character, thus simultaneously producing the intricate, destabilized tone of an uncertain environment as the reader proceeds through the manuscript. Once the governess arrives at Bly she in itially experiences wonderment at the beauty of the children as well as the extrav agance of Bly itself. Even Mrs. Grose, a Â“Â…stout, simple, plain, clean, wholesome womanÂ” (136) capt ures her attention as she attempts to incorporate herself into a seem ingly Â“utopicÂ” environmen t. However, at the beginning of the second chapter, the hesitati on first experienced by the governess as she considered the position at Bly, returns once ag ain within a distinguishable context. She explains that she is Â“full of distress.Â” Her reasons for anxiety eventually expand beyond the intimidating nature of her position towards a simple lack of counsel. Faced with the formidable task of managing an expansive estate as well as two very young precocious children, the governess begins to recognize how truly lonely she will be in her occupation. She even hesitates in speaking w ith Mrs. Grose once Mi les is expelled from school. It is then that she completely indoc trinates herself into the strangeness of Bly,
28 where a young boyÂ’s misbehavior becomes the subscribed method of protocol (according to Mrs. Grose.) Through her general sense of hesitation a nd the overwhelming nature of her vocation, the governess unites herself with Mr s. Grose, the only inhabitant of Bly that illustrates Â“normal, realisticÂ” tendencies. Th e chapter closes with the mention of the former governess, Miss Jessel, and her tragic desperate end. In Mrs. GroseÂ’s words once more, she explains that Miss Je ssel Â“went off to die somewhere. Â” It is no wonder, at this point that the governess begins to witness the diabolical, ghostly figures roaming through BlyÂ’s seemingly Â“pleasantÂ” grounds. In chapter three, the governess, impressed by MilesÂ’s beauty as much as FloraÂ’s, decides to take a walk where she daydreams about the present rather congenial conditions of her life in contrast with her previous Â“shieldedÂ” experi ence. She thinks, Â“I learnt somethingat first certainlythat had not been one of the teac hings of my small, smothered life; learnt to be amused, and ev en amusing, and not to think for the morrowÂ” (144). At Bly, she begins to disregard the general characteristics of her nature, her methodical manner of approach and her concern fo r the future. It is in this state, as she imagines again the handsome uncle, that she first sees Peter Quint: It produced in me, this figure, in the clear twilight, I reme mber, two distinct gasps of emotion, which were, sharply, the shock of my first and that of my second, surprise. My se cond was a violent perception of the mistake of my first: the man who me t my eyes was not the person I had precipitately supposed. Ther e came to me thus a bewilderment of vision of which, after these years, there is no liv ing view that I can hope to giveÂ…I had not seen it in Harley StreetI had not seen it anywhere. (146-7)
29 The governess at first mistakes Peter Quint fo r the image she has conjured in her mind of the uncle, but then she immediately, from th e unnatural feelings she experiences as well as from his physical descrip tion, recognizes that the figure before her is completely unknown. To see such a man on the property ca lls her to question the reality of his existence when she thinks to herself: Â“It lasted while I just bridled a little with the sense that my office demanded that there should be no such ignorance and no such personÂ” (147). In short, such a creature wandering the manicured grounds seems an impossibility. Consequently, she does not tell Mrs. Grose at first about what she witnesses. Instead, she steadily depends on her interior monologue as she endeavors to find a logical explanation for the grim strangerÂ’s presence. In the following chapter, she again witnesses Peter Quint. Only in this instance, the valet surfaces outside of MilesÂ’s bedr oom window. As the governess watches him, feeling distinctly the same sort of uneasy wariness she experienced before on the grounds of Bly, she notices more in his demeanor. She explains that, Â“On the spot there came to me the added shock of a certitude that it was not for me he had come there. He had come for someone elseÂ” (152). Amidst the peculiar sp ell that Miles casts on her with his beauty and distinctive charm, the governess inheren tly understands a conn ection, or a Â“spellÂ” existing between this anonymous man a nd the young boy. The governess, moved to examine the place that Peter Quint has former ly occupied, hurries outside only to find herself staring into the boyÂ’s bedroom window, faced with Mrs. GroseÂ’s fearful countenance as a reflection. It is then, em powered by her concern for the childrenÂ’s welfare, that the governess de scribes the figure with Â“red hair, very red, close-curling, and a pale face, long in shape, with stra ight, good features and little, rather queer
30 whiskers that are as red as his hair. His eyebrows are, somehow darker; they look particularly arched and as if they might move a good deal. His eyes are sharp, strangeawfully; but I only know clearly th at theyÂ’re rather small and very fixedÂ” (156). In other words, after the governessÂ’s elaborate descrip tion of the ghostly red-headed figure, Mrs. Grose recognizes him as Peter Quint, voi cing the unknown manÂ’s formal name. At the same time, she reveals that Peter Quint, like the former governess, is already dead. Before applying TodorovÂ’s third point to the governessÂ’s pr eliminary experience with the ghosts, it is necessa ry to expand on an aspect of his second point in terms of illustrating the thematic hesitation of the wo rk. Todorov explains that the second point requires a syntactical aspect, or what he terms, the characterÂ’s Â“reactionsÂ” and the semantic aspect, or the presentation of a problematic element of perception in the text. The governessÂ’s experience elicits an immediat e reaction on her part as she attempts to determine the identity of the man she s ees on BlyÂ’s grounds and outside of MilesÂ’s window. However, the thematic value of hes itation extends itself as she hesitates to believe in his existence and as she hesitates to reveal wh at she has witnessed to anyone else, even Mrs. Grose. It is only when the Â“normalÂ” reality of he r situation, her position as protector of the children, re-enters that she experiences motivation in her efforts to prohibit Quint from harming Miles. At the same time, in terms of TodorovÂ’s semantic aspect, the governess hesitates to believe in QuintÂ’s existe nce because of the unlikelihood that a stranger would careless ly wander BlyÂ’s grounds. The thematic hesitation of the text attaches itself to TodorovÂ’s concept of syntax and seman tics, and as a consequence, thoroughly illustrates the th eoristÂ’s second characteri zation of the fantastic.
31 Jackson similarly asserts the necessity for a syntactical and semantic aspect within a fantastic work; however, she develops these concepts through Â“insta bility.Â’ For Jackson, both the reader and the protagonist respond or Â“reactÂ” to specific even ts with uncertainty, disbelieving in what they witness until they receive later validati on. In the case of the governess, once she describes minutely Peter Qu intÂ’s appearance, breaking her silence to Mrs. Grose, the latter identifies the ghostly man walking the premises. In this instance, the validation the governess has been searchi ng for appears and the instability disappears momentarily. In fact, with the certainty that Peter Quint exis ts, the governess, upon seeing Miss Jessel during an afternoon by a pond with Flora, immediately believes in the former governessÂ’s appearance when she observes: The way this knowledge gathered in me was the strangest thing in the world-the strangest, that is, except the very much stranger in which it quickly merged itself. I had sat down with a piece of work-for I was something or other that could si t-on the old stone bench which overlooked the pond; and in this position I began to take in with certitude, and yet without direct vi sion, the presence, at a distance, of a third personÂ….There was no ambiguity in anythi ng; none whatever, at least, in the conviction I from one moment to another found myself forming as to what I should see straight before me and across the lake as a consequence of raising my eyes. (162) In other words, through the validation of the ghostÂ’s existence, the true center of the novella develops as the governess fights to remove this diabolical presence from the
32 childrenÂ’s lives. In short, the young woman now Â“trulyÂ” attemp ts to illustrate her full capabilities as governess at Bly. From this point on, the reader is left to discover the childrenÂ’s fate, thus illuminating TodorovÂ’s third point concerni ng the fantastic. Todorov observes that, Â“Â…the reader must adopt a certain attitude with regard to the text: he will reject allegorical as well as Â“poeticÂ” interpretations.Â” In The Turn of the Screw the reader cannot help but ignore possibilitie s of allegorical or poetic ma nifestations because of the culmination of the ghostsÂ’ significance and real ity thus far within the text. In this way, the reader must accept that the governess truly has witne ssed the ghosts and that the children are slowly b ecoming corrupt due to their expos ure to such dubious presences. In chapter seven, after the governess w itnesses Miss Jessel by the pond watching Flora, she returns to the house and explains to Mrs. Grose th at the children remain quite aware of the two ghosts. As the governess desc ribes Miss JesselÂ’s Â“f ixed lookÂ” on Flora, the components Mrs. Grose attempted to hide at the beginning of the novel slowly emerge. The humble servant admits that Peter Quint and Miss Jessel were in a relationship and that the nature of Miss Jessel could only be described as Â“infamous.Â” In fact, the relationship the children experienced with the two former employees admittedly involved vulgar and equally diabolical mome nts, thus further validating the governessÂ’s sensations. In these moments, because of the true commitment the governess and Mrs. Grose elicit regarding the children, the reader should avoid other inte rpretations in favor of belief in the supernatural occurrences and the implications of these events presented to him/her. In short, James carefully weaves, in the governessÂ’s testimony, all the elements
33 necessary in eradicating any doubt about her credibility, in pa rticular in relation to the nature of the ghostsÂ’ appearance. While Todorov focuses on the reaction of th e reader in his third point, Jackson explains that the fantastic often utilizes specific figurative and symbolic devices. Many fantastic works introduce mirrors, reflections, port raits, eyes or some variation of Â“visualÂ” distortion. From the moment that the governe ss first sees Quint, she cannot forget the nature of his eyes, how they transfer a fee ling of uneasiness from him to her. Likewise, when she sees Miss Jessel for the firs t time by a pond, again she concentrates her attention on the eyes, noting the Â“fixedÂ” e xpression of them. The governessÂ’s third experience with Peter Quint functions in the same manner as the others: Without it, the next instance, I saw th at there was someone on the stair. I speak of sequences, but I required no laps e of seconds to st iffen myself for a third encounter with Quint. The ap parition had reached the landing halfway up and was therefore on the spot nearest the window, where, at sight of me, it stopped short and fixed me exactly as it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden. He knew me as well as I knew him. (176) In this moment, characteristic of the othe rs, the governess calls attention to the Â“fixednessÂ” of QuintÂ’s stare and his Â“visualÂ” recognition of her through his eyes. At the same time, the great detail and thematic repe tition of Â“recognitionÂ” illuminates a certain degree of truthfulness in the gove rnessÂ’s tale, forci ng the readerÂ’s beli ef in her testimony. JacksonÂ’s above-mentioned Â“visualÂ” tende ncies coincide with several other thematic concerns characteristic of the fa ntastic genre such as dualism and good versus evil. In The Turn of the Screw once the ghosts have been acknowledged by the governess
34 and Mrs. Grose, the objective of the latterÂ’s actions become s Â“savingÂ” the children from such dangerous creatures, or a version of JacksonÂ’s theme of Â“good versus evil.Â” Through JamesÂ’s clues and evidence of the ghostsÂ’ Â“horrificÂ” existence, the author inadvertently eliminates a certain level of the hideousne ss of the story by inte grating the ghosts so thoroughly into the Â“normalityÂ” or Â“realityÂ” of Bly. As a result, James must extend the Â“terrorÂ” of the story by tran sferring uncertainty about ghosts that are now certain to children that once appeared Â“innocentÂ” but who are now Â“corrupt.Â” In other words, at the beginning of the tale, the governess, entranced by the childrenÂ’s beauty, assumed their Â“innocence,Â” and now, her recognition of impur ities calls into ques tion their alleged and Â“uncertainÂ” innocence. At the same time, the transference of action from the ghosts to the children prolongs the horror and terror of the story as th e governess and the reader proceed towards the termination of this battle between good and evil. From chapter ten until the conclusion of the novella, the governess and Mrs. Grose attempt to ascertain the degree of gu ilt suffered by the children in connection with Quint and Miss Jessel. Flora has been l ooking out the window, searching for someone. When questioned by the governess, the girl responds with an innocence mingled with precocity, explaining that Â“someoneÂ” might be wandering the grounds in the middle of the night. The governess thinks: Â“At that moment, in the state of my nerves, I absolutely believed she lied; and if I once more closed my eyes it was before the dazzle of the three or four possible ways in which I might take this upÂ” (178). Yet, little time passes before Flora stands before the window again, f ace to face with the Â“apparitionÂ” as she Â“communicatesÂ” with Miss Jessel.
35 Miles likewise offers suspicious behavior combined with his innocent beauty. In an obscure conversation with the governess he worries that she will Â“think me-for a change-bad!Â” (184). However, the story he cryptically tells condemns his Â“honestÂ” reputation once applied to his actions. By c onvincing his sister to stand before the window in order to distract the governess so that he may wander the grounds in the middle of the night, Miles illustrates his cap acity to deceive. A lthough FloraÂ’s previous behavior seems consequently explained, it is only replaced with further doubt as to why Miles would go outside at midnight in the firs t place. One suggestion, then, is planted in place of another. In chapter twelve, the governess after thorough investigation and observance of several strange interludes, explains to Mrs. Gr ose what the ghostsÂ’ intentions are with the children, furthering the fantastic theme of good ve rsus evil: Â“For the love of all the evil that, in those dreadful days, the pair put into th em. And to play them with that evil still, to keep up the work of demons, is what brings the others backÂ” (186). In short, the ghosts have returned in order to expand on the evil they implanted within the children when Quint and Miss Jessel were alive. Mrs. Gros e, uncertain as to the capabilities of the ghosts, asks the governess: Â“But what can th ey now do?Â” (187). The governess responds, Â“Do?...DonÂ’t they do enough?...They can destroy them!Â” (187). In this instance, it is no longer a matter of preventing th e complete corruption of the childrenÂ’s souls, but rather, their deaths. Mrs. Grose wants to notify the uncle about these happe nings at Bly, but the governess, completely aware of the Â“realityÂ” that still exists in Vict orian society, already imagines Â“Â…his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdown of my resignation at being left alone and for the fine machinery I ha d set in motion to attract his
36 attention to my slighted charmsÂ” (188). In other words, the govern ess cannot present the case of ghosts and madness to the reality that ex ists outside of Bly. In that Â“otherÂ” reality, she will only suffer rejection and negativity at her inability to a) perform her duties and b) remain rational and Â“realisticÂ” in an extremely lonely and stressful situation. The reality of society is thoroughly rejected in her decision to remain sile nt as far as the uncle goes, while consequently positioning her as the center of good against evil. However, the governess does not need his intervention once the intensity of the childrenÂ’s behavior grows. In chapter fourteen, Miles pleads to retu rn to school. He expresses disdain at remaining in a ladyÂ’s presence, yet up until th is moment, he has not complained about his protectress. He wants to be with his Â“own sort,Â” an amus ing concept from the governessÂ’s perspective. The importance of the chapter rema ins in MilesÂ’s desire that his uncle visits in order that he should know Â“the way IÂ’m going onÂ” (187). For the governess, his agitation only illustrates his already developed Â“planÂ” regarding his future actions. The young woman determines to call the childrenÂ’ s uncle, regardless of how she will be perceived in doing so. Her actions lead to another obscure conve rsation with Miles regarding, once more, the elusive future. Miles again begs her to re veal everything about what has been going on as well as how she has been raising him and his sister. He explains: Â“Well, donÂ’t you understand that thatÂ’s exactly what IÂ’m working for? YouÂ’ll have to tell himabout the way youÂ’ve let it all drop: youÂ’ll have to tell him a tremendous lotÂ” (196). Yet the subject of each of the conversations seems undetermined. Clearly, Miles conceives of a plan, yet hi s Â“reasoningÂ” raises questions as to the truth of his intent. In the preceding days, Miles depicts only fondness for the governess, positioning his
37 request as a means of Â“saving himselfÂ” from the terrors he encounter s at Bly outside of the governessÂ’s presence. By th e end of the story, Miles re mains the purer of the two siblings as he continually trusts in the govern essÂ’s character in contrast with his sisterÂ’s loathing of the young woman. The root of FloraÂ’ s resentment arises from the disturbing events of chapters ei ghteen and nineteen. In these chapters, Miles and Flora at tempt to confuse Mrs. Grose and the governess in order that Flora can escape to see Miss Jessel. The governess and the servant follow the young girl out to th e lake again, where they find the child ominously waiting for them: Â“While this dumb convulsion last ed I could only watch it-which I did the more intently when I saw FloraÂ’s face peep at me over our compani onÂ’s shoulder. It was serious now-the flicker had left it: but it st rengthened the pang with which I at that moment envied Mrs. Grose the simplicity of her relationÂ” (212). Not long after the reunion, the governess spies Miss Jessel near th e lake and once more the ghost presents herself to the child. When the governess expect s a response from the lit tle girl, both Flora and Mrs. Grose deny Miss JesselÂ’s presence However, the childÂ’s reaction suddenly turns sinister as she begins to vehemently request to be removed from the governessÂ’s sight. It would seem after a series of tricks and preconceived plans on the part of Flora and Miles that her reaction concre tely fits into the pattern of their strange behavior. Flora, in short, has little choice but to turn agai nst the governess in or der to preserve her previous Â“deceitfulÂ” actions. At the same time, in the following chapter, after Mrs. Grose spends some time with Flora, the servant repo rts to the young woman that the little girl has been speaking Â“horrors.Â” Yet, the horrors in question only justify the governessÂ’s case. Despite Mrs. GroseÂ’s failure to s ee the ghosts, the thoroughness of the childÂ’s
38 corruption presents undeniable evidence of her participation in all the strange and devilish aspects of the ghostsÂ’ appearance. In the final chapters, the governess experi ences further revela tions as she pieces together each moment of her time at Bly si nce the ghostsÂ’ first appearance. Mrs. Grose leaves with Flora while the young woman rema ins behind with Miles. In their final conversation, Miles explains that, Â“I will tell you everything!Â” (229). He consequently admits to stealing the governessÂ’s letter to th e uncle and he concedes that his expulsion at school was for saying horrible things to Â“t hose he likedÂ” (233). The governess asks him what the Â“thingsÂ” were he told the other students. Miles does not have a chance to respond as the ghost of Quint appears at the window again. Without mentioning his name, the governess gets Miles, in complete honesty, to name the figureÂ’s identity. Miles exclaims: Â“Peter Quint-you devil!Â” (234). W ith the revelation of the ghostÂ’s name, the governess embraces the young boy, quite certain th at by revealing his name and MilesÂ’s Â“devotionÂ” to him, the young boy will finally Â“dispossessÂ” himself of the evil. However, the price of reclaiming his purity is death. Thus ends JamesÂ’s novella as the battle between good and evil comes to a close, th e governess triumphing ag ainst the dangerous, corrupt presence of spirits through the sacrifice of a young boyÂ’s life.
39 Chapter Five Although a variety of explanations su rface when analyzing JamesÂ’s novella The Turn of the Screw when applying TodorovÂ’s and JacksonÂ’ s concepts of the fantastic to the text, the work gathers gr eater purpose while diminishing in Â“ambiguity.Â” Through a fantastic approach, the novella divides into two counterparts, t hus expanding on the Â“terrorÂ” produced in the text In other words, while at the beginning of the work, the governess ascertains the Â“realityÂ” behind the gho stsÂ’ appearance, once her suspicions are confirmed, the latter half of the novella portr ays an explicitly clea r battle between good and evil, the same challenge enumerated by Jackson in her analysis. Without this perspective, the text would appear hackneyed and clichd in its efforts to Â“surpriseÂ” a reader not easily caught. The truth, then, behind JamesÂ’s novella is not the cr edibility of the governess, repeatedly discusse d in previous analyses, but ra ther the terrible possibility of a childÂ’s corruption through unexplainab le and unpreventable means outside of accepted Â“reality.Â” If one is to accept JacksonÂ’s contrast betw een the Â“IÂ” as mere witness and the Â“other,Â” this other that questions the nature of society and so cietal constructs of reality, what then, is being questioned in JamesÂ’s text? It would seem that the boundaries between reality itself, so thoroughly regulated in Victorian society, are th e questionable aspects of th e novella. If the governess, a woman placed precariously between the Â“accepte dÂ” and Â“ignoredÂ” of reality due to her
40 occupation, remains the true witness, expres sing her testimony with complete validation, then already the boundaries of belief system s experience a threaten ing possibility of extinction. Her validation is th e ghostÂ’s appearance at Bly a nd so, the destabilized reality is the Â“acceptedÂ” reality, one in which ch ildren remain unquestionably pure while the servants are held responsible for indiscre tions and inconsistencies. James, however, proposes a reality where the Â“questionableÂ” elicit credibility a nd trust, while the Â“unquestionable,Â” young, beautiful children, fall in to disgrace because of their attraction to the diabolical and disgraceful elements of society, two previous servants of little virtue. Through a reversal or destabilization of societal norms, the limits of social boundaries crumble even if momentarily in the small space of a single community. James arranges this momentar y configuration of reality excha nge through a simple Â“ghost storyÂ” of limitless magnitude. In this way, through a fantastic presentation of his novella, he does indeed capture those Â“not easily caught.Â”
41 Works Cited Bogstad, Janice M. Â“Fantastic Fictions at th e Edge and in the Aby ss: Genre Definition and the Contemporary Cross-Genre Novel.Â” Patterns in the Fantastic II Ed. Donald M. Hassler. Washington: Starmont, 1985. Cargill, Oscar. Â“Henry James as Freudian Pioneer.Â” Chicago Review 10 (1956): 13-29. Firebaugh, Joseph J. Â“Inadequacy in Eden: Knowledge and The Turn of the Screw .Â” Modern Fiction Studies 3 (1957): 57-63. Goddard, Harold G. Â“A Pre-Freudian Reading of Â‘The Turn of the Screw.Â’Â” 20th Century Interpretations of The Turn of the Screw and Other Tales Ed. Jane P. Tompkins. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice, 1970. Heilman, Robert. Â“ The Turn of the Screw as Poem.Â” The University of Kansas City Review 15 (1948): 277-89. Heller, Terry. Turn of the Screw: Bewildered Vision Boston: Twayne, 1989. Hoffman, Charles G. Â“Innocence and Evil in JamesÂ’s The Turn of the Screw .Â” The University of Kansas City Review 20 (1953): 97-105. Hoople, Robin P. Distinguished Discord: Disconti nuity and Pattern in the Critical Tradition of The Turn of the Screw London: Bucknell UP, 1997. Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion London: Methuen, 1981. James, Henry. Complete Notebooks of Henry James Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987. James, Henry. Henry JamesÂ’ Letters Ed. Leon Edel. 2 vols. London: Belknap P, 1984. James, Henry. The Portable Henry James Ed. John Auchard. New York: Penguin, 2004. Kenton, Edna. Â“Henry James to the Ruminant Reader: Â‘The Turn of the Screw.Â’Â” The Arts 6 (1924): 245-55.
42 Lustig, T.J. Henry James and the Ghostly Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. Pigeon, Elaine. Queer Impression: Henry JamesÂ’ Art of Fiction New York: Routledge, 2005. Reed, Glenn. Â“Another Turn on JamesÂ’s The Turn of the Screw .Â” American Literature 20 (1949): 413-23. Shine, Muriel G. Fictional Children of Henry James Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1969. Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre London: P of Case Western Reserve U, 1973. Waldock, A.J.A. Â“Mr. Edmund Wilson and The Turn of the Screw .Â” Modern Language Notes 62 (1947): 331-34. Wilson, Edmund. Â“The Ambiguity of Henry James.Â” Hound and Horn 77 (1934): 385406.