“the Two Competing Theories About the Texts Are Mutually Exclusive”. in the Light of This Comment, Explore the Ways in Which James Exploits Ambiguity in Turn of the Screw.

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“The Turn of the Screw” offers two very different readings; the text could be interpreted as an exploration of the paranormal or the paranoidal. Those who view the novel as being an exploration of the paranormal take events throughout the novel on face value, trusting the narrator to give the whole truth and nothing but. However those who read the novel with more cynical perspective begin to doubt their narrators version of events believing her paranoid or dishonest. In light of this knowledge I shall explore whether these theories are indeed “mutually exclusive” or whether the “ambiguity” of the novel renders the line between theories blurred. Through the use of a gothic, yet ‘realistic’ setting as a framing device James immediately encourages his readers to be expectant of the paranormal. The prologue opens with an unknown narrator who the reader considers trustworthy due his detachment from the events being described to him, “the tale held us around the fire”. Douglas appears to a critical reader as being a far less reliable narrator due to his emotional attachment to the protagonist. Douglas’ devotion is revealed through dialogue where he describes the governess as “the most agreeable woman” and someone to “arch”. As the prologue continues the reader is introduced to governess on her meeting with “the master”. To a critical reader this first impression of the governess could be considered as a significant indication to her neurotic tendencies. Indeed the governess becomes instantly besotted by her employer; “I was rather carried away”. Feminist critics have raised the question as to whether the reliability of the protagonist would be in doubt had she been male? Then again, the act of writing the prologue in past tense gives the reader two male adjudicators of the tale. The fact that both men seem entirely trustworthy of the governess’ manuscript as being a true account of events is supportive of the paranormal theory. The young governess is as instantly...
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