I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little seesaw of the right throbs and the wrong. After rising, in town, to meet his appeal, I had at all events a couple of very bad days--found myself doubtful again, felt indeed sure I had made a mistake. In this state of mind I spent the long hours of bumping, swinging coach that carried me to the stopping place at which I was to be met by a vehicle from the house.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James deals with a nightmarish experience narrated by a young governess in the first person. This lady is in charge of two children, Miles and Flora, during their uncle's absence. One day she sees two ghosts, Peter Quint's, the employer's dead valet, and Miss Jessel's, her predecessor, who was intimate with Quint. Eventually the governess becomed persuaded that the children also see the ghosts and that they are corrupted by them.
The Turn of the Screw derives from the Gothic tradiction for its unreal, mysterious athmosphere and its horrifying, macabre events. As a matter of fact, I picked up this book for Becky's edition of the Bookworms Carnival, which has the theme of the Literary Gothic. James, however, goes beyond the genre: the terror he arouses is more subtle than the ususal clankign and shrieking of the Gothic tradition, and his characters and plot create a dark, sinister world, more frightening for its being intangible and indescribable. James's apparitions are more plausible than the ones of Gothic novels: they do nto assume more concretenss than a hallucination but the living share their irreality as if the ghosts and those who see them were linked by an affinity.
The central theme in The Turn of the Screw is the contrast between innocence and experience, seen as the corruption of innocence and childhood. The adults are overpowering and frightening and the children have to protect themselves from danger. The danger for Flora and Miles comes from two sources: from the two ghosts, with their suspected depravity, but also from the governess, who is convinced that the children are sinful and, while trying to save them, causes their distruction.
So what do you think? Are the ghosts real, or do they appear only in the governess's mind?