The Innocent Little Schizophrenic

         The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton in 1961, was based on the book The Turn of the Screw, written in 1898 by Henry James. The movie portrays the governess, now named Miss Giddens (played by Deborah Kerr) and her life being the governess for two children, Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin). Miss Giddens is not in the house long before she begins to see dead people. Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) is the first person she sees, followed shortly thereafter by Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop).

         What is fascinating about this movie, as well as the original book, is that, if one were to look at the ghosts as hallucinations of a schizophrenic, the movie makes much more sense. First and foremost, one must take the simple factors of schizophrenia such as average age of onset and see if the governess fits. The average age of onset is between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, and Miss Giddens was twenty in the book. However, Deborah Kerr, who plays Miss Giddens, is about forty when she made the movie, but she could have had symptoms for years that we are not told about. So that is one of the diagnostic factors that are telling in this movie. The second telling factor is her increasing paranoia throughout the book and movie, which is standard in an individual with paranoid schizophrenia.

         The final and most telling sign of schizophrenia is the governess' hallucinations. The argument has been made that the ghosts are real. My contention is that they are not merely figments of her imagination. If the ghosts were so real, why is the governess the only one to see them? To paranoid schizophrenics, the visions they see are as real as the computer screen that I am looking at right now. They cannot tell the difference between reality and hallucinations. That is where the paranoia begins. When individuals can "see things" that others claim they cannot, it makes them paranoid. The neurological issues that were at work in the brain make the hallucinations make sense. It is not uncommon for schizophrenics to have hallucinations about demons or ghosts if they believe in them. The hallucinations follow a logical progression that makes them real to the individual but impossible in the real world.

         The book The Turn of the Screw and the movie The Innocents is a wonderful tool for those of us studying psychology to use and see what a schizophrenic looks like to the rest of the world. I would definitely recommend this book-movie combination to anyone looking for a view of schizophrenia through the victim's eyes.

Christian F. Runyon

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