Are They Real, Or Are They Not?

     One of my favorite pieces of literature that was read this semester was The Turn of The Screw, written in 1898 by Henry James. I have always enjoyed ghost stories, and I found this book to be intriguing because it left so much to the imagination. It was never directly stated as to whether or not the ghosts were real. The readers had to decide for themselves. I also really enjoyed the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton. The movie itself was very scary, I think, in part because it was in black and white, and the setting was very dark, giving it an ominous appeal. I was watching it during a terrific thunderstorm with lots of lightning, which just added to the film's impact. Both the movie and the book had many similarities, but there were also many differences added to embellish the film's appeal. The differences included the way both stories opened and the children's reactions to the ghosts.

     The opening of the book varies greatly from the opening of the film. In the book, the story opens when a man begins telling the story of a woman that had been a governess to a family and had written the happenings down in a diary that had fallen into his hands. However, in the film, the story begins to unfold when the first scene shows the soon-to-be governess, now named Miss Giddens, played by Deborah Kerr, speaking to the uncle, played by Michael Redgrave, that had inherited these children.

     Also, near the beginning of The Innocents, the uncle sends the letter from Miles' school that announces his expulsion. On the other hand, in The Turn of the Screw, the governess receives the letter via mail directly from the school and is torn as to whether or not the uncle should be informed.

     Later on, a big difference between the two versions is found when Flora, played by Pamela Franklin, in The Innocents, asks the governess if, when people that were bad during life die, did they just walk around after death. There is no mention of this rather obvious indication of Flora's unusual interest in ghosts in Henry James's novella. As one can easily determine, the children have very different reactions to the ghosts in the novella and in the movie. In the novella it is mentioned that the governess is unsure as to whether or not the children could see the ghosts. However, in the film, it is entirely obvious that the children could see the ghosts but would not admit to their existence.

     It is also more obvious in the film that the children are possessed. In one scene, Miles, played by Martin Stephens, is playing hide and seek with the governess. When he finds her, he acts as if he were choking her so that the governess had to struggle with him. At this time it is clear that Peter Quint, depicted by Peter Wyngarde, has entered Miles' body. There are many more instances in the film of this certainty of the ghosts' presence, whereas in the novella the readers must decide for themselves if the ghosts were real.

     Both versions of this story were very interesting. However, I enjoyed the novella more than the movie because I felt that, due to the ambiguity about the ghosts in the book, it was more intellectually intriguing. It made me think, and not many novellas can make me do that.

Mendy Adair

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