In the Eye of the Beholder

     After reading Henry James's 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, one could possibly agree that some ghosts are more convincing than others. James writes a wonderful ghost story full of excitement and intrigue, though he never really provides enough information to tell one whether the ghosts are real or not. However, in the 1961 film version, The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, the viewer is presented with several accounts that make the existence of the ghosts seem real.

     One could certainly be convinced that the ghosts really exist while watching the film The Innocents. On the screen several kinds of ghostly things happen. Viewers of the film can see the ghosts of both deceased workers, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). These two ghosts appear throughout the entire film in several different places. One can tell that there is going to be an appearance by a ghost due to the strange eerie music that normally accompanies these appearances. Music also plays a big role in convincing this viewer that Peter Quint has possessed the little boy, Miles (Martin Stephens).

     An example of this is that, whenever Miles is about to exhibit a strange behavior; the music of the ghosts accompanies him. The viewer can see this several times throughout the film. Examples of this would be evident when Miles is playing with Miss Giddens and begins to choke her. In this scene he exhibits the strength of a grown man. Another scene in which Miles is influenced by an outside force would be the good-night kiss. Before turning in for bed, Miles kisses his governess passionately on the lips. Both of theses actions seem to have a root in Mr. Quint. Quint would want Miles to get rid of or scare off the new governess so as to not disturb his haunting grounds. Quint would kiss Miss Giddens because, in the story, he seemed to have his way with whomever he pleased. Near the end of the film, the proof that Quint possesses Miles is revealed. While Miss Giddens is trying to get Miles to defy his possessor Peter Quint, the ghost appears and seems to seeking vengeance on Miles for casting him out.

     In the novella, James depicts the children as being young, innocent and beautiful. This may lead the reader to believe the children are just normal, everyday children. While reading the novella, not once does the reader discern abnormal actions on the parts of the children, such as those seen in the movie.

     Ghosts are as real as the reader or viewer wants them to be. In the film there is a lot of information that leads the viewer to believe that the ghosts do exist. However, in the novella, Henry James creates twists and turns, to make the reader struggle to decide whether or not the ghosts are real. In other words, James leaves the decision up to the eye of the beholder.

Rachel Zaudke

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