’ Sanity And Early Ghost Appearances Essay, Research Paper
The Scooby Doo Theory: The Governess’ Sanity and Early Ghost Appearances
in The Turn of the Screw
Many works of literature throughout history have addressed the workings of the mind, both sane and insane. Browning’s “My Last Duchess” is a good example, as is “The Buried Life” by Matthew Arnold. James’ The Turn of the Screw is another example of literature as an exploration of psychology.
In James’ book, the unnamed governess, who is the narrator and main character, repeatedly “sees”, and is made afraid, by ghosts. However, throughout the book, none of the other characters seem to see them, and seem to only grow more and more afraid of the governess.
The governess herself is a character given to bouts of fantasy. Shortly before she first “sees” the ghost of Quint, she is walking the grounds, dreaming that “someone would appear there at the turn of the path and would smile at me and approve” (James 15). In a twisted way, that is what she gets on the next page when she sees Quint’s ghost for the first time and the share a “straight mutual stare” (James 16).
Shortly thereafter, she encounters this apparition again. While searching for her gloves in the dining room of the house, the governess sees a man, the same man she had seen on the tower days before, staring in through a window. She almost immediately knows that he is looking not for her, but that “he had come for someone else” (James 20). In a self-proclaimed fit of “duty and courage” (James 20), she charges outside to confront the man, only find him gone.
The Governess’ Attraction to The Guardian
Throughout the novella, the governess drops hints about her attraction to the guardian, who hired her. Early in the story, before she even meets the children, she is told she will be carried away by them. Her reply is “I’m rather easily carried away. I was carried away in London!” (James 8), referring to the place where she was interviewed by the guardian for the job as governess.
She admits to being an avid reader of gothic romances, in which a setting like the one she was in would be the site of ghostly encounters and budding romances. It is obvious she feels that by doing her job superbly, she could possibly win the guardian’s heart. Such motivations would explain her overreaction to things around her. For example, the second time she sees Quint’s ghost, rather than running and hiding, she runs out to meet the man out of obligation to the job, or more…
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Goddard, Harold. “A Pre-Freudian Reading of The Turn of the Screw.” The Turn of the
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James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. The Turn of the Screw: Norton Critical Edition.
Ed. Deborah Esch. New York: Norton, 1999. 1-85.
Wilson, Edmund. “The Ambiguity of Henry James.” The Turn of the Screw: Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Deborah Esch. New York: Norton, 1999. 170-172.