Cabin Fever or Psychotic?

         The 1898 novella Turn of the Screw, by Henry James,is somewhat of a ghost story in which we are left to wonder whether the ghosts exist or the main character is just crazy. In the novella Turn of the Screw most of the signs point towards Miss Giddens being crazy. After reading the novella, I was left to believe that this young and sheltered woman went crazy in the home in which she was residing. Having two children as basically her only companions makes her imagination run wild. Not to mention we never hear of her leaving the grounds, can we say cabin fever? I personally believe that an overactive imagination and a lack of anything better to do made her manifest a ridiculous scenario in which ghosts possessed her child companions.

         Now, we have to address Jack Clayton's 1961 film version, titled The Innocents. It is a little harder to tell in this version what is really going on. Whereas in the novella all signs seem to point towards Miss Giddens being crazy, in the movie it seems that the ghosts (Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop) may indeed be real. It seems as though the movie makers want us to sympathize with Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) throughout the film by actually showing us the ghosts. They also show us how hard it is for Miss Giddens by portraying Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklins) not as innocents, but as conniving children who were way too wise for their age. Not only do they seem to not only be possessed, but they also seem to be intentionally driving Miss Giddens insane. In this version I do not see Miss Giddens as having cabin fever but instead being the victim of either possessed children, or really smart sociopathic children who got their kicks by driving others insane. But that does not necessarily explain the ending in which Miles seemingly passes away. Although this movie leaves a lot to the imagination, it does tell one more than the book and implies that the ghosts do indeed exist.

         Although I was intrigued by both the novella and the movie and the different ways they portrayed the governess as suffering from cabin fever or psychosis, I felt that both left a little too much up to the imagination. If one is telling a story, I feel that one should take control of the story and actually tell it. Both versions of this story kind of seem like a fill in the blank horror story where the blanks never got filled in.

Sarah Dixon

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