Ghosts to Be or Not to Be (Part 1)

        I have read the 1898 book The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James; in addition I have watched Jack Clayton's 1961 movie, The Innocents. I think that it is a quite interesting story, in addition to being full of mystery. The book and the play seemed to be almost alike, although there are a few discrepancies. I do think that the ghosts in the movie are more vividly depicted and thus seem to be more realistic than they do in the book. Obviously that is probably the case because one cannot see the ghosts in the book instead of just picturing them in one's mind. However, I have concluded that the ghosts do not exist in either version despite the fact that I have seen them on the screen.

        I do feel the other characters are almost identical from The Turn of the Screw to The Innocents. The Turn of the Screw, along with its cinematic counterpart, The Innocents, is a story of a governess, named Miss Giddens in the movie, as she was played by Deborah Kerr, who went to live with and teach two young children. As the story goes on, she started to see spirits and thought that those spirits were taking over the children. The governess made it her mission to help and protect the children, but she failed in this goal. She lured them towards the evil spirits and was moderately accountable for their plight, instead of protecting the children against it. The question is, though, whether or not the ghosts actually existed or if they were created by the governess. The fact is that she was the only one to ever see the evil spirits, although she was convinced the others saw the ghosts as well. I think that the evil spirits were in fact not actually there at all in either version but had been created by the governess through the children's actions, Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins), and her own head.

        Firstly, the governess brought the ghosts about through the children's actions. Miles (Martin Stephens) was dismissed from his school. He seemed nice and sweet when he got home. I think that he only acted up at school, so that he would come home because he was homesick, especially for his sister Flora (Pamela Franklin). In the movie, he expresses how much he had missed home in his first meeting with the governess. However, the governess soon came to suspect that he had acted up to be sent home because Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde), a ghost, was using him to help interact with the former governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop). The next event that the governess saw occurred when Miles and Flora played a trick on her in the middle of the night. When asked why they had played the trick, Miles, who had gone outside in his bare feet, explained that he had done so to act badly. I think that he was telling the truth, although the governess did not believe them and felt that they were up to something dealing with the spirits or under the influence of the ghosts. Did you get the impression that the movie children, who seemed more sinister than their counterparts in the book, may have been trying to manipulate the governess with her fear of ghosts?

        Secondly, the governess brought the ghosts about through Mrs. Grose as well. I think that Mrs. Grose was leading the governess on to think that there were spirits. Can you conjecture why Mrs. Grose would have wanted to do this? Did she want to drive the governess away or maybe mad? Or maybe Mrs. Grose was bored and wanted some excitement? The governess gave to the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, a description of the person that she and the movie audience had seen two times. People see people in different ways; an example of this is when someone sees a person as six feet tall, but another person says they were five feet and six inches tall. Although Mrs. Grose said that it had to be Peter, he was dead at that time. Someone resembling Peter could have come to see them, but just could not have found anyone he had wanted to see and left. It also could have been a peeping tom, but Mrs. Grose automatically told the governess that it was Peter.

        Third of all, the governess brought the ghosts about through her own mind. When she first spied the person/spirit on the tower, it was close to twilight in the book, but it was still bright daylight in the movie because she was looking at the figure through the rays of the sun. In either case, she might have not seen anyone at all. It could have been the light or her eyes playing tricks on her, although she still insisted that she had seen someone on top of the tower.

        In addition, who is to say that the governess was not mentally unstable to begin with? She could have just snapped under the pressure of dealing with the children since this was her first job as a governess. The reason I also mention that is the fact that she was fickle. At one moment she loved the children, and then the other minute she suspiciously, disliked them because she had convinced herself that they were being manipulated by the ghosts.

        In conclusion, the children's actions, Mrs. Grose, and the governess herself caused the governess to think that the spirits actually existed, although I do not think that the evil spirits did exist in either version, despite the fact that the audience saw them on the screen.

Wendy Copeland

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