Turning the Screw

In 1899, The Independent called The Turn of the Screw “the most hopelessly evil story that we have ever read.” For my part, I think the uncertainty of some details in the novella calls for several interpretations.

The Turn of the Screw revolved around the accounts of a young governess charged with the care of two children left by their uncle in his country mansion. She claimed seeing two ghosts who were after the children under her charge.

My problem is on the reliability of the governess’ narration. I find it interesting that like the narrator of “The Friends of the Friends,” the governess also strongly, and often hysterically, imposes her own interpretation to her companion’s actions.

She perceives ghosts that only she can see yet claim that the others are only pretending not to see them. Was she seeing real ghosts or were these mere hallucinations?

The children are naughty and she attributes this to the evil influence of the ghosts. Is this not only the result of the abnormal circumstances of their upbringing – the untimely death of their parents and the neglect of their uncle?

And could it be that the extraordinary circumstances of this remote country house that turned the screw on her and eventually loosening the screw on her head as well as a result?

The book was rather short at around a hundred pages but one that took longer for me to digest. ■

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