It's All in the View

         From the beginning of The Turn of the Screw, written in 1898 by Henry James, a sense of mystery is present throughout the entire book. The words and actions of every character are indefinite, including the narrator that causes much concern for reliability throughout the novel. She is definitely a character that has contrasting interpretations, and this shows throughout the novella. For example, one interpretation upholds that the ghosts (Peter Quint and Miss Jessel) are merely hallucinations. Because James chooses to tell the governess' story from her disturbed viewpoint, every event that appears in the book falls prey to a cynical inspection of its factuality. Within the 1961 movie, The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, there are not many major differences; but one that definitely stands out is that of the reality of the ghosts. The ghosts appear to be much more realistic on screen because they can actually be pictured. However, when one is reading the novella, the imagination has to be used; and it is up to the reader to determine if the ghosts exist or not.

         The governess has many weaknesses in her; and these can be picked out throughout the novella, such as paranoia, and impulsiveness, which may or may not be signs of encroaching madness. At certain points in the novella, she inadvertently confirms her own unstable unreasonableness to many readers by trying to provide justifications for her assumptions so far as the children and the ghosts are concerned. Eventually, in the novella, according to the governess's own words and their implications, Mrs. Grose's failure to see what she does effectively validates the governess' madness for many readers, although some could doubt this by wondering about the housekeeper's veracity and motives.

         The ghosts in The Turn of the Screw function as figments of the governess' imagination for many readers. Although James never goes into specific details of her findings, he makes an effort to portray the governess as an unreliable narator by painting a picture of a woman overwhelmed with hallucinations and self-doubt, leaving many conclusions up to the reader.

         After reading James's novella, we watched the corresponding movie version, The Innocents. There were several differences between the novella and the movie. One was that although the events of the book remain intact, in the movie, the events on screen were shuffled about. A major difference is that in the movie one cannot deny that the ghosts, as played by Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop, are real because they are there for any and everyone to see on the screen. In the novella, it is left up to the reader to determine if the ghosts are real or not.

         In conclusion, even though there are differences between the novella and the movie, it is important to note that many differences are left up to the viewer and the reader to reconcile. In the novella, I would say that the ghosts were just a figment of imagination, while in the movie the ghosts appear to be realistic.

Christina Coursey

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