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Turn Of The Screw Essay On Ambiguous Synonym

Narrative Frames and Ambiguity in Henry James' The Turn of The Screw

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Narrative "frames" and Ambiguity in The Turn of The Screw

Since it was written, Henry James' The Turn of The Screw has been acclaimed by numerous critics to be one of the most immaculate, engrossing and terrifying ghost stories ever produced. Harriet Waters Preston described it as, "a sheer mortal horror, like the evil dream of a man under the spell of a deadly drug"1, and Gertrude Atherton said, "[it] is the most horrifying ghost story ever written!"2

I will argue that it is the narrative frames enclosing The Turn of The Screw that are largely responsible for the reception the book has received. They serve two main purposes; one, to build up an element of suspense and tension before the governess's account actually…show more content…

These layers serve to establish tension and suspense before the story actually begins. There are many dramatic devices employed in these outer frames to heighten this sensation.

At the outermost layer of all, the title of the text itself, "The Turn of the Screw", imparts an ominous atmosphere. Whether or not the "screw" refers to a sinister thumb-screw for torture purposes, or merely to a simple fastening device, the implication is that a ghost story involving children is a degree more oppressive than one that concerns only adults.3 In the second paragraph of the text, Douglas says, "If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children-?"4

The very setting of the fireside at which Griffin's guests swap stories establishes an atmosphere with which many of us are familiar. We can all relate to sitting around a fire exchanging ghost stories. By employing this particular narrative frame James encourages the reader to abandon their scepticism and give themselves over to a belief in the ghosts. The reader shares in the eagerness of the guests to be frightened; to be delighted by horror. Upon seeing Douglas' distress at the thought of the tale he must tell, and its "dreadful - dreadfulness", one of the female guests actually cries, "Oh how delicious!"5

Douglas' own elusiveness and

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