‘The Turn of the Screw is essentially an ambivalent text. Its narrative prompts divergent, even opposite readings, but does not reconcile them. What happens remains irrevocably uncertain’
James uses the prologue to the novel to introduce the themes with in this Novella but more importantly he encourages the readers to be active in reading between the lines , and not to accept what is said at face value , James achieves this by surrounding Douglass with a group of people who are clearly and intently open about reading into the manuscripts further , they are critical and sceptical, James also encourages the readers to search for sexual insinuations as Mrs Griffin does about the sexual history between Douglas and the governess in the manuscript. The ‘set up’ that James creates in the prologue is evidence in itself that the novella creates an essentially ambivalent fell. This conflict of feelings makes us feel that nothing is certain,
James doesn’t allow us to trust anyone in the novella which is in essence the main reason behind the feelings of uncertainty and the simultaneous conflicting feelings towards the novella and its characters. The first example of this is the mistrust of our guide through the novella, the governess. In the very opening lines of the first chapter we become aware of the shift in the polarities of her attitude and tone. We see her irrationality and deem her over emotional and sensitive, this paints her as untrustworthy. What she perceives is painted by her emotions, and as she is over emotional, we other see and rapidly over exaggerated response to situations and it displays the passion that she views situations in the story, this leads to us being overly critical and cynical of her narration. When she first encounters Flora, her youngest charge, she romanticises using words like ‘beatific’. She is comforted by Floras beauty and charm, this creates a perfect child, and one senses a sort of unrealism. The volatility and uncertainty the reader experience from the governess about her feelings towards Mrs Grose, she is initially comfortable and warm towards her and around her then swiftly becomes uncertain, and continues to change her view, often fleetingly. This precariousness makes it challenging to trust her point of view.
1. No; it was a big, ugly, antique, but convenient house, embodying a few features of a building still older, half replaced and half utilized, in which I had the fancy of our being almost as lost as a handful of passengers in a great drifting ship. Well, I was, strangely, at the helm!
In this passage the governess is describing the house at Bly. She likens it as a drifting ship, and this is a recurring theme in the novella. This image forebodes imminent danger, however we are being asked by her emotional state, which James creates to build a sense of ambivalence, to question the reality of this perception of the house at Bly. ‘Well, I was, strangely, at the helm!’ gives the first glimpse at the governesses self-proclaimed saviour role; she wants to be at the ‘helm’ and steering the lost drifting ship. Taking up the heroic mantel, she is strangely optimistic, but her fervour is only derivative of her attraction of her employer and she will steer the ship to win his favour.
The way the governess reacts to the letter that is received from the head master about Miles’s, her oldest charge, returns home from being expelled for doing something that was beyond discipline, and is very peculiar. We see ambivalence with Miles’s character, he is perceived to be a sweet and honest child who is angelic in her behaviour, yet he has been expelled from his school , where he is the youngest , and the Headmaster feels that his actions would be uncorrected by any amount of discipline the school could dish out. This in indicative of the uncertainty in this novella , it is heightened by the governesses wild imagination and her poor governess ability’s , any normal person would...
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