The Turn of the Screw as a Gothic Novel

After reading “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James it inspired me to have my essay written on the gothic elements. The purpose of this essay is to discuss and evaluate the gothic elements in “The Turn of the Screw” and emotive space of this work of literature. There are many interesting moments that we will analyze in the next research work and it is important to pay attention on fact that Henry James wrote his “The Turn of the Screw” in 1897 when the atmosphere of that period greatly influenced on the author.

At first it is necessary to look at historical context of the time period when the book was written. “The Turn of the Screw” was written during the last decade of the Victorian period and morality of the Victorian-era with the class structure dividing play a meaningful roles in this work of literature. According to Hadley (2002) we should know some things about the Victorian period:

ü    “The Victorian period in Britain lasted during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 ”“ 1901. Victoria’s influence was strong and extended beyond the British Empire to America.

ü    The Victorian period was marked by extremely rigid codes of morality. Purity and restraint were emphasized, especially with regard to sexuality. It was deemed improper to speak of or even hint at matters of sexuality.

ü    Victorian-era morality expected women to remain ideally pure and clean. The role of women was to raise children and to keep house. Women were rarely permitted to hold jobs, usually only as teachers or governesses.

ü    The class system during this time in Britain was also very rigidly maintained. A system of social hierarchies was in place, with the aristocracy at the top and the poor at the bottom.”

I want also to mention that “The Turn of the Screw” had an interesting story of its publication.  Sonstegard (2005) proclaims that “The Turn of the Screw” is one of James’s most widely interpreted but least visually descriptive tales, appeared in illustrated, serialized form in Collier’s magazine from January to April, 1898. A lifelong friend of the novelist, John La Farge, painted a masthead that began nearly every weekly installment. Another illustrator, Eric Pape, painted several dark and suggestive illustrations to accompany the tale. James reprinted the tale later that same year, 1898, without illustrations, as one of two stories in The Two Magics, as if he felt rushed to place it in an unillustrated context as soon as he could. He published it again in 1909, with Coburn’s photographic frontispiece, in the New York edition. Most of the story’s contemporary reviews, and nearly all of the subsequent interpretive controversies, take the unillustrated edition of the tale as the definitive text, neglect Collier’s serialization, and ignore La Farge’s and Pape’s illustrations. The story stands as one of James’s most popular narratives, while La Farge’s masthead and Pape’s paintings rank among the rarest and least reproducible Jamesiana. “As we see from the previous information gothic elements find their reflection also in illustration to this work and it make them rather dark and with horror’s elements.

In relate to “The Turn of the Screw” we can use the term gothic novel. In its origin the term “gothic” was a disparaging term applied to a style of medieval architecture (Gothic architecture) and art (Gothic art). Its definition gothic genre received from the authors interest to gothic architecture and to the picture of the world as arena of eternal fight of Good and Evil, God and devil, and also in connection with an address to the conditional-gothic framing of action, which, as a rule, is opened out in medieval locks, monasteries, caves, that gives works gloomy and enigmatic, even ominous color. Life is in a gothic novel, or, as it was yet named, “novel of horrors”, appears not reasonably understood, but mysterious, complete rock riddles. Unknown, frequently supernatural forces interfere in the fates of people.

Gothic story or novel, in other words can be described as a «black novel», gap-filling mysterious adventures, arose up mysticism as a reaction on attitude and aesthetics of European Inlightening. A gothic novel has the followings distinguishing features:

1. A subject is built round a secret – for example, somebody’s disappearance, unknown origin, unexposed crime, disinheritance. One similar not theme, but combination, is usually used from a few of that. Opening of secret is put aside to the finale. To the central secret second-rate and side secrets, also exposed in a finale, are usually added.

2. A narration is obvolute the atmosphere of fear and horror and opened out as continuous series of threats rest, safety and honor of a hero and a heroine.

3. The gloomy and ominous stage of action supports the general atmosphere of mystery and fear. Many gothic novels have as a place of action ancient, neglected, tumbledown lock or monastery, with dark corridors, forbidden apartments, smell of death and poking about servants – by observers. A situation plugs in itself howling of wind, stormy streams, thick forests, uninhabited uncultivated plots of land, awful graves – by a word, all, that is able to strengthen fear of heroine, and reader.

4. In early gothic novels central character is a girl. It is beautiful, nice, virtuous, modest and in a finale rewarded matrimonial happiness, position in society and riches. But, along with general for all romantic heroines’ lines, they possess “sensitiveness”. She likes to go for a walk in loneliness on forest glades and to dream near the window of the bedroom and cries easily.

5. Nature of subject requires the presence of villain. As far as development of gothic genre villain forced a heroine (always former not so much personality, how many by the set of womanish virtues) out of center of reader attention. In the late standards of genre he finds plenitude of power and usually is the engine of subject.

All these lines knew prose and dramaturgy and before, but preeminently in a gothic novel they entered in so distinct and effective combination, that work which does not have even one of these lines, it is already impossible to attribute to the clean gothic genre.

I want to analyze ghosts’ appearance as a gothic element of the story and I think that Parkinson in his work described this element in very good way. Parkinson shows “The ghosts’ “relation to the children,” however, poses a terrible ethical problem for the governess and for us as we attempt to judge her.

“If the children are already in their power, the governess is morally responsible for counteracting their machinations; indeed, she should take any risk, for all is lost if she does not succeed. If, on the other hand, the children are ignorant of their existence, the governess has no right to unveil their eyes to such evil: who would ever absolve me, who would consent that I should go unhung, if by the faintest tremor of an overture, I were the first to introduce into our perfect intercourse an element so dire Hence her dilemma. If the children would freely confess to their association with the ghosts, her moral course would be clear. But how can she obtain from them a confession they decline to offer without herself speaking of the ”˜element so dire’? If she does speak first – even if she then secures a confession from the children, who may see only because she has helped them to see – she will never know whether she has offered salvation to captive spirits or whether she is beyond absolution for her sin (181-82).”

The next part of the work will be devoted the problem of analysis of emotive space of this work of literature. The questions, related to determination of different sort of emotive senses in a text included both in structures of characters’ images and in author’s image. The analysis of scientific literature in this question shows that this problem is insufficiently known to date, however for different researchers the different going is revealed near its determination. The purpose of the next research is an analysis of emotive space of “The Turn of the Screw” where we can find many emotive and gothic elements that are the object of our research.

As Sawyer (1993) marks, by the fundamental categories of artistic texts by being transmitters subjective and objective, there are an author and character, which always occupy central position in work of literature. Senses which the author adds to characters appear in text as objectively existing in actual fact, and senses tested and expressed by the author have the subjective coloring. In integral text such characters’ senses (level of characters) and author’s senses (level of author consciousness) aggregate and make the kernel of emotive maintenance of text in a way when they interlace harmonically.

In fiction double psychology of the characters and the author, being in difficult is revealed in at times antagonistic relations. In this connection at relatively boundless variety of text emotive senses it is possible to select two typological varieties: emotive senses, plugged in the structure of images of character, and emotive senses, plugged in the structure of image of the author.

It is necessary to mark that character in literary work is a chart, skeleton which becomes overgrown with the flesh of sense only in the context of all work and foremost in the context of author intensions, because an author intones every detail of own hero, every his line, every event of his life, every his act, his ideas and senses. Emotive senses, plugged in the structure of images of a character divided into a phrase, fragment and general text. The presence of author’s point of view during a narration is carried out same in number of different ways lexical development of emotive vocabulary in text: from a minimum context to the text fragment.

“The turn of the Screw” has deep emotive senses and they give the general picture of rich set of emotions, which create the difficult psychological portraits of characters, form emotive semantics of this story. In our case prevails on frequency and on text meaningfulness vocabulary of mystery, and sometimes and to the gloominess: “”¦agitation”¦;”¦all the rest of the scene had been stricken with death”¦;”¦ My heart had stood still for an instant with the wonder and terror”¦; ”¦it’s too monstrous”¦”

The analysis of emotive senses shows in the structure of images of characters, that James uses the most various lexical, syntactic, actually text methods of reflection of emotions. For example, phrase emotive senses, fixings all instantaneous emotive reactions of characters on what be going on events, are extraordinarily actively presented: “”¦Mrs. Grose took it as she might have taken a blow in the stomach”¦;”¦

This drew from me, in the state of my nerves, a flash of impatience”¦”

The emotive dialog is actively used for the transmission of the internal state of main heroine after meeting with the other world forces: “She has told you?” she panted. “Not a word ”“ that’s the horror. She kept it to herself! The child of eight, that child!” Unutterable still, for me, was the stupefaction of it.  Mrs. Grose, of course, could only gape the wider. “Then how do you know?” “I was there – I saw with my eyes: saw that she was perfectly aware.” “Do you mean aware of him?” “No – of her.” I was conscious as I spoke that I looked prodigious things, for I got the slow reflection of them in my companion’s face. “Another person – this time; but a figure of quite as unmistakable horror and evil: a woman in black, pale and dreadful – with such an air also, and such a face! – on the other side of the lake. I was there with the child – quiet for the hour; and in the midst of it she came.”Â  “Came how – from where?” “From where they come from! She just appeared and stood there – but not so near.”Â  “And without coming nearer?” “Oh, for the effect and the feeling, she might have been as close as you!”

A presence in this fragment of plenty of the emotionally painted words, and also presence of exclamatory suggestions talks about the anxious internal state of both heroines. The emotive sense is related to the global situation to lead – by the situation of “the turn of the screw” in life of governess and two children, who is related to the effect of secret and vagueness, applied by the author.

The large spectrum of words is present there with a special meaning that allows clearer to expose image of the author through his work. For example, in many descriptions we can trace as through the reflection of main heroine the author tries to pass the emotional key of what be going on events. The author as though enters into a narration, using the emotionally painted words, picking up words so that a reader perceived the tragedy of impossibility of understanding of situation as part of narration. Thus even in the reflections of governess a vocabulary has a bit gloomy or oppressive character, emphasizing the basic atmosphere of this work of literature.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned we can conclude that “The Turn of the Screw” is a brilliant gothic story by Henry James. The story “The Turn of the screw” became the “visiting-card” of short-story James-writer and awarded numerous screen versions. Original interpretation of reason of meeting with ghosts approached a story to popular in the epoch of James parapsychology range of problems. I think that this story became more than ordinary gothic novel with deep emotive sense, but it also grew into a philosophical etude about complication of world creating and paradoxes of human perception, and its author close got around the technique of “stream of consciousness”, to getting development in modernistic prose.

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