Do the Dead Remain in Their Homes?

     Henry James's The Turn of the Screw (1898), a novella filmed as The Innocents in 1961 by Jack Clayton, is about a haunted home. However, it can be questioned if the ghosts are real or just a figment of the governess' imagination. The movie Beetlejuice is about a couple that die and are then stuck in their home as apparitions. They too haunt the people that move in their home, but they have less of an effect on the new residents as do the ghosts in The Turn of the Screw and The Innocents.

     In The Turn of the Screw and The Innocents, the ghosts are seen positively, only by the governess (Deborah Kerr in the movie), leading the reader to question her sanity. The reader/viewer is led to believe that the children too see the ghosts, but it is never clarified that they do. The ghosts are the previous governess Miss Jessel, and Mr. Quint, who seem to haunt the house and watch over the children in their daily acts.

     In Beetlejuice, the ghosts too are only seen by one person, Lydia. Lydia and her family moved into the house unaware of the ghosts. As time progresses, the ghosts have no luck in getting the family to leave, so they turn to Beetlejuice, the ugly ghost. Beetlejuice haunts the family and eventually changes the lifestyle in the home. Since the ghosts love Lydia, they end up living on the main floor of the house with her, and Lydia's family is shafted to the attic.

     The Turn of the Screw/The Innocents and Beetlejuice also have numerous differences. The Turn of the Screw/The Innocents is written/presented from the governess, who is being haunted, whereas Beetlejuice is presented from the ghosts' eyes. The ghosts in The Turn of the Screw/The Innocents never speak, which leads the reader to believe that they could be the governess' imagination, whereas the ghosts in Beetlejuice communicate with Lydia from the very first day.

     The ghosts in both the movie and the book/movie haunt their houses and the people who reside there. However, the ghosts' actions and appearances are quite different. The Turn of the Screw/The Innocents and Beetlejuice both strike up the philosophical question of whether or not there is life beyond death, and present a believable and comical approach on the subject.

Alison Brandow

Table of Contents