Monday, September 14, 2009

Another twist and turn in The Turn of the Screw?

Hi everyone =]
As I was walking back to my dorm, I kept thinking about what we were discussing in class today regarding The Turn of the Screw and the death of Miles. Personally, I think that it is reasonable to come to the conclusion that the governess had indeed smothered Miles to death. I think that Miles said “Peter Quint-you devil” (236; ch.24) not because he had actually seen him, but to please the governess with the idea that Miles could actually see Peter Quint; the governess may have gotten so excited to hear Miles acknowledge Peter Quint, that she held Miles close enough and tight enough that she ultimately smothered him to death (but I want to make it clear that if this be the case, that she did smother him to death, I don’t think it was intentional). The jerks he gave could have been an attempt to release himself from her grasp and his final cry could have been his final attempt to get her attention.
As I was trying to come up with more explanations for his death, I began to question the story itself. What if the story that Douglas recounts was really just a made up story by the governess or by Douglas himself? What if when the governess went to Bly to look after the children, she found it quite boring and in her free time wrote this story? How do we know that any part of the story Douglas recounts actually happened and why do we give him so much credibility? Judging by the fact that Douglass had said that the governess wrote the story, I find it just as likely to believe that the governess could have fabricated the entire story to escape boredom as I am likely to believe that that the events she describes actually happened. I find it equally likely that Douglas himself may have written an elaborate ghost story about children and placed a woman from his past as the main character because, after all, it is Douglas who begins telling the ghost story. Douglas could have thought up this intricate scheme to get people to believe the story he was about to tell was real in hopes of creating a greater impact on his audience. How do we know that Douglas isn’t just some actor and storyteller who likes making up ghost stories for the sheer enjoyment of scaring other people?

Just a thought
Comment please! I’m interested in knowing what the rest of you think. “Good point” or a good effort. =]


  1. I think that Henry James purposely left the end of his novel completely ambiguous. Not only with Miles death and Peter Quint fading in and out of existence but also by not returning to the original audience listening to Douglas' story. To me it made the whole novel tie together thought because a lot of his chapters also ended with cliffhangers or ambiguously making me want to continue reading to find out. By making the end of the novel like the end of the chapters it ties the whole thing together nicely too me.

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  3. I agree with Keefe. I think that James's ambiguity makes the story more engaging and discussion-promoting. The ambiguity makes it possible to believe that the story is more realistic. Had the story been unambiguous, it would have been obvious to us that the story was a work of fiction. If this was true, then our opinions and emotions would most certainly would have been different, especially in regard to the governess's supposed insanity.

  4. Good point! =] I also agree that James' ambiguity makes the story that much better. If he had told us the reason behind Miles' death it would have taken the suspicion out of the story. Realistically, Miles would die because the governess smothered him. Since it is not written in the story, we can still hang onto the idea that maybe there really were ghosts and maybe Peter Quint did take Miles's soul.


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