The Loss of Speculation

         Much speculation exists regarding Henry James's 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. For over a century, readers have debated over whether or not the ghosts that the governess sees exist. However, in the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and based on the1950 play adaption by William Archibald, who also wrote the screenplay, there is no doubt that these ghosts exist.

         When the governess, played by Deborah Kerr, sees these ghosts in the film, one is almost forced to believe that they exist, just because of the simple fact that one can see them. In the book, one can make up one's own mind about whether or not the ghosts exist. There are no visual aids to show one that they are there for sure. One could make arguments that the ghosts of Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) exist, that the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint do not exist, or even that everyone included in the book except the governess and uncle are ghosts (the last choice is my own personal opinion).

         With no images to distort one's perception, however, the novella is a better way to get at one's true beliefs. By actually showing the ghosts, the film presents undeniable proof that the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel do exist. Though it may try to divert one from believing that they are real by changing from the governess' point of view to that of Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) or Flora (Pamela Franklin) (as in the scene by the lake), the seed of their existence is already planted in one's mind.

         In conclusion, I have found, through this class, that one scene can almost break the bond between a film and a novel. Almost every film that we have watched and novel that we have read shows that this is true. In the case of The Innocents and The Turn of the Screw, the bond is broken by several scenes. These are the ones that show the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel.

Rachel Jones

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