Screwed up

         The Turn of the Screw, the 1898 novella by Henry James, can be summed up in just one word: crazy! Even though the encounters with the apparitions seemed to hold my attention, the rest of the novella was typical Henry James. Only Henry James, who more often than not, is way too extremely wordy, could write a novella that is so interesting in parts and so completely boring and awful in other parts.

         The nineteenth-century novella revolves around a governess who is sent to a country estate to take care of two orphaned children. The governess immediately adores the two children. However, before long the governess begins to encounter the ghosts of two previous inhabitants of the estate. The governess is soon involved in trying to prove that the ghosts exist and that the children have always known about them. The twentieth-century cinematic adaptation, known as The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton in 1961, tells the same story but tries to more to lead the audience to believe that the governess is crazy.

         The governess in the novella seems to be a very normal nineteenth-century English woman. I found no reason to believe that she was crazy. She truly seemed genuine in her adoration of the two children. Nothing in her actions led me to believe that she had gone off the deep end. Whether the apparitions exist or not, the governess truly believes that what she saw was reality. I can only recall one instance where she let her emotions get the best of her actions. While reading this novella, I found myself on the side of the governess.

         However, The Innocents is a whole different story. In the twentieth-century film, I found that the governess, known as Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), is portrayed with certain qualities that might lead a person watching the movie to believe that she is crazy. She does not go psycho and start killing everyone, but the audience is led to believe that she might love the children a little too much. The way she looks at them is a little freaky, and there is one instance when she and Miles (Martin Stephens) kiss a little too romantically. To top it all off, at the end of the movie when Miles suddenly dies, Miss Giddens takes the young corpse in her arms and proceeds to kiss him. I was sure then that the woman is crazy.

         Overall, the nineteenth-century novella was interesting but too boring and hard to understand in most parts. I at least, however, found myself open to the possibility that what she saw was real. In the twentieth-century movie, however, all I can say about Miss Giddens is that she is screwed up.

Lynnsey McGarrh

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