Ambiguity: Is the Turn of the Screw Based on a True Story or Is It a Tale of Insanity?

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mstefanos
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ENC 1102
02 December 2010
Ambiguity: Is The Turn of The Screw based on a true story or is it a tale of insanity?
The ambiguous writing style used by Henry James in The Turn of The Screw leaves the story open to the interpretation of the individual reader. I will show how this ambiguous writing style does not lead the reader to any specific interpretation, but it is actually used by James to deliberately confuse the reader and foster an atmosphere of uncertainty. This purposeful lack of facts by James throughout the story makes the reader draw his own conclusions about what actually takes place.
Many critics have analyzed The Turn of The Screw and most of them have come to the same conclusion; that the story is littered with ambiguity, but this is where the consensus ends. Nearly everything that takes place in the story can be interpreted in more than one way (Beidler 189). This novella penned by James has generated more than three hundred books, articles, and doctoral dissertations over the last forty years (Teahan 349). One critic, Edmund Wilson, wrote in his evaluation “There is a very good reason, however, in the fact that nowhere does James unequivocally give the thing away: everything from beginning to end can be taken equally well in either of two senses” (172).
Just a few of the many unanswered questions that get asked are: Why did Miles really get sent home from school, is he as angelic as he is originally portrayed or is he a bad boy? Why does the uncle not want to have anything to do with Bly or the children, does he know what’s really going on there and avoiding it? Then there are the main questions which are asked; is the governess mad or is she truly seeing ghosts and just trying to protect the children from them, and if she is seeing them why does no one else? Or do they see them and they are just not admitting what they have seen…...

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