I vaguely remember a quote from a movie according to which (the quote, not the movie), “everything is Shakespeare,” meaning, presumably, that all life and all over the world are collected in the work of Shakespeare. Well, I do not know if “everything is The Turn of the Screw” because it contains all in itself and also the potential to lead to all, because, apparently, all kinds of interpretations, allegories, symbolism and exegesis can and do have place in this classic novel by Henry James. A plunge into the network gives an idea of the amount of theories, theses, and entire books that have been written trying to explain what James meant when he wrote his book, a book with the capacity to obsess anyone, it’s enough with having a mind slightly analytical and insatiable quest for answers.
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In effect, according to Google, The turn of the screw is or can be, without the order affects the importance, a ghost story, a story about madness and hysteria, an allegory against sexual repression, an allegory about latent homosexuality of Henry James, a precursor of the exorcist, a reinterpretation and re-narration of the biblical story of Genesis and the garden of Eden … and I stop here because continue enumerating similarities would occupy the best part of this review.
Now then, it’s time to go to the novel synopsis.
The narration of this classic starts in a conventional manner: a group of friends share ghost stories around the fire on Christmas night. One of them will tell the story of a young and inexperienced governess who agreed to take over two children, Miles and Flora, in a remote mansion in the English countryside. When arriving at the house, the young woman will feel overcome with a feeling of uneasiness and the disquieting feeling that an evil presence lurks the children to corrupt them. The protagonist will feel increasingly anxious, trapped in a struggle that seems unreal.
The turn of the screw is unanimously regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic literature; It is one of the most famous ghost stories of world literature and one of the most chillingly ambiguous. A subtle exploration of the very fertile Victorian topic: the Haunted House, in which also resonate social and sexual malaise of the era.
The Turn of the Screw is a work whose ambiguity -magistral achievement of James, not only in this work- gives room to misunderstanding and uncertainty-and to the inability of the reader to unravel that lack of definition- on the moral quality of our characters, all characters. It is stated in such-and-such that is noble, angelic, full of goodness, but none of the dialogues allows us to see it clearly; it is possible that we intuit another personality, more contemporary, grayer, but, again, we have no evidence to underpin it. Another character seems harmless typical bit player, “Sancho-Panzesque”, but may actually be crafty and hypocritical. Lucidity and courage may be such, or perhaps gallantry is the mask they want to show us of a crazy with hints of sanity face, that runs the worst atrocities.
It has been written a lot about what Henry James meant with his novel too, but it would be better to write about what the text really means; leaving aside the possible implications, possible unprovable parables, and focus more on the richness of language, in the length of sentences, in the infinite expressive resources in the fineness of characterization, which is perhaps a non- characterization that puts the reader in front of the master portrait: a blank sheet only slightly smudged with an equivocal figure.
Doesn’t it seem to be a bit of a mess? If so… it’s time to challenge your mind and interpretation method by reading it.