How far and in what ways do you regard “The Turn of the Screw” as an appropriate title for the novella?

Topics: Henry James, Ghost story, Ghost Pages: 3 (1272 words) Published: September 23, 2013
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James forms a Governess’s account of her ghostly encounters in a country house called Bly, whilst raising two orphaned children, Miles and Flora. The title, “The Turn of the Screw” is referenced twice during the novella, firstly, in the prologue in which Douglas states that, “If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children-?” The second occasion refers to Governess’s commitment to give more of her “ordinary human virtue” to protect the children from the ghosts. The use of the title in the prologue is to a great extent appropriate for the novella as it implies a sense of heightened tension as if the title referred to the tightening of physical thumbscrews. Douglas says that as the child in the story has the effect of turning the screw and increasing suspense for the reader, how much more apprehension is created by the involvement of two children, both Miles and Flora. Tension is also increased in the opening chapter through the use of emphatic and hyperbolic language to prepare the reader for a traditional ghost story. For example, the narrator describes the Governess’s tale as “quite too horrible” and containing, “dreadful – dreadfulness!” James uses such ardent language to encourage the reader to arrive at preconceived conclusions about the direction of the novella in conjunction with other traditional horror stories such as Dracula and Frankenstein. However, this can act as a trap for the unwary reader as the novella contains layers of deeper meaning which offer alternative explanations for the ghostly apparitions such as the emotionally unstable mind of the Governess. Furthermore, James creates the sense of sustained and accumulative tension as the plot develops; this could be represented by a physical turning of a screw which twists in the same way that the plot thickens, revealing different perspectives of the Governess and the state of the children. Prolonged suspense is also generated...
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