Unanswered Questions

     In Henry James's 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, the readers are kept intrigued by the fear of the unknown. In the 1961 film The Innocents, by Jack Clayton, the viewers are given more direction to base their fears, and there are fewer questions left unanswered. This decreases the amount of fear and does not leave the viewers with a desire to search for answers as experienced by the readers.

     The novella The Turn of the Screw allows the readers' minds to wander. Individual fears and imaginations cause the readers to have a personalized reaction to the vagueness of the story. When the readers fill in some missing pieces to the puzzle they determine the level of fear they experience. The questions left unanswered is what makes the novella such a perfect ghost story. It is human nature to be afraid of the unknown, and like religion, what humans do not know they will spontaneously create to provide reassurance. When people are given too much information the fear of the unknown is unable to take its toll. People take what they are given, and the mind does not race from one suggestion to another searching for an answer.

     The movie The Innocents gives an example of the way Jack Clayton used his imagination to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle not found in the novella. In the movie the viewers are led to believe that the ghosts actually exist and that the children have been taken over by evil spirits. The viewers take on the beliefs of the governess, now named Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), because they are seeing things from her point of view. In the movie the viewers' fear come from the ghosts that they see and the evidence, Miss Jessel's (Clytie Jessop) tear, supporting the existence of ghosts. The viewers are given evidence that allows them to determine that the children are taken over by evil spirits. Miles (Martin Stephens) is a little Quint running around trying to seduce the governess. Clayton s version fills in too many blanks and is unable to create the same kind of fear that James instills in the reader.

     I have to admit after reading The Turn of the Screw I had to sleep with the light on for a few nights. The idea of ghosts had my mind searching for scientific explanation left and right. To put my mind at ease, I convinced myself that the governess was a young woman who suffered from socialization problems and had some early symptoms of schizophrenia. When taken out of her home environment the governess began to experience hallucinations and delusions about the children and ghost. As Mrs. Grose encouraged her delusional ideas the symptoms elevated and expanded. Finally the governess caused the children to experience post traumatic stress disorder by making them recall painful memories, and putting ideas of evil spirits in their young minds. Eventually Flora is driven away, and Miles is scared to death.

     Overall Clayton created a good version of a ghost story that kept me on the edge of my seat for a few hours. However, James left me uneasy for a few days until I could come up with an answer to ease my mind.

Kimberly A. Hunt

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