Advanced Placement Literature and Composition
Title: Turn of the Screw
Author: Henry James
Date of Publication: 1898
Genre: Gothic Ghost story
Biographical Information about the Author:
Henry James was born in New York, then alternated between living in England and America, but most of his writing career took place in England, where he eventually settled and died. His brother was a famous psychologist and his sister a diarist. His education was odd: he mostly learned from tutors, but occasionally attended schools in Europe, and never learned the Greek classics as typical of the time. He lived in France for a time and became fluent in French. He could not serve in the civil war, tried out law school, then entered the writing world through his career as a “man of letters.”
Historical Information about the time period during which the work was written:
The industrial revolution and a population boom marked the 1800’s in England. Many people moved to North America or Australia to escape the crowdedness. Infant mortality was high, so people would often have bigger families accepting that some would not make it to adulthood. To be middle class, one must have at least one servant. “Service” was the biggest employer of women.
Characteristics of the Genre:
Gothic fiction is often set in a castle as a dark and mysterious setting. Mystery, suspense, horror, the supernatural are also commonly found in gothic literature. This genre often features female characters in distress due to the horror or mystery of the situation, or at the hands of a powerful, abusive male figure.
Plot Summary: In The Turn of the Screw, the new governess of two orphaned children must fight to protect the seemingly innocent children from the appearance of two ghosts hoping to corrupt them. The governess is introduced by the frame narrator. He was quite fond of her, despite her being much older, but he alludes to her loving someone else, perhaps her