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A Level English Literature Guide to The Turn of the Screw

Theresa Sowerby | Monday November 11, 2019

Categories: Archived Resources, KS5 Archive, AQA A Level, AQA A Level Pre-2015 Resources, AQA A Level English Literature B, LITB3, OCR A Level, OCR A Level Pre-2015 Resources, OCR A Level English Literature, F661, Hot Entries, Prose, Analysing Prose, The Turn of the Screw, Writing, Analytical Writing, Literary Analysis, Prose Analysis

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‘Some Critical Readings’

The following guide offers interpretations based on genre and three areas of critical theory.

Contents

  1. Source
  2. Possible Interpretations
  3. A Note on the 2 Versions of the Text
  4. A Psychoanalytical Reading
  5. A Feminist Reading
  6. A Marxist Reading
  7. Suggestions for Comparative Study at A2

1. Source

James heard a similar story in 1895 from his friend, E. W. Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He scribbled in his notebook the following note:

‘...the story of the young children (indefinite in number and age) left to the care of servants in an old country house, through the death presumably of parents. The servants, wicked and depraved, corrupt and deprave the children; the children are bad full of evil to a sinister degree. The servants die (story vague about the way of it) and the apparitions figures return to haunt the house and children to whom they seem to beckon, whom they invite and solicit, from across dangerous places – so that the children may destroy themselves, lose themselves, by responding, getting into their power.’

Henry James made the following comment on his ghosts:

‘Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are not “ghosts? at all, as we now know the ghost, but goblins, elves, imps, demons as loosely constructed as those of the old trials of witchcraft; if not, more pleasingly, fairies of the legendary order, wooing their victims forth to see them dance under the moon. Not indeed that I suggest their reducibility to any form of the pleasing pure and simple; they please at best but through having helped me to express my subject all directly and intensely.’

2. Possible Interpretations

A. The ghosts are “real? – they actually appear to the governess and the children. In this reading, Quint and Jessel, having corrupted the children when alive, return from the dead to summon them to damnation. Evidence for this view could be taken from Miles’s mysterious expulsion from school...


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