Turning the Screw: Analysing Douglas’s Tale
In this essay I will be exploring the narrative style present in “Turn of the Screw” by Henry James and discussing the character called Douglas as a frame narrator for the governess’s tale. I will explore the reliability of Douglas and his relationship with the governess and look at any bias caused by this relationship. I will be analysing the narrative style of the novella, and discussing how this style contributes to the development of the story. Along with this, I will be comparing “Turn of the Screw” to traditional ghost stories, and discussing whether there are differences between the two.
Douglas is presented from the outset of the story as a ...view middle of the document...
Douglas presents the story as a credible account of a tale to set it apart from the others told that night, given to him by a trustworthy and believable source. This presentation of the story is in fact biased because Douglas was infatuated with the governess at an early age, and this leads to him presenting the story in her favour.
To consider Douglas as a narrator for the governess’s story, we need to analyse his full relationship with the governess. Due to the fact that the governess’s story is written in her own words, she is completely biased in her own favour and presents her own thoughts and opinions on the situation as fact. She even goes so far as to call Flora a “wretched child” (pg 71) when Flora claims to not be able to see Miss Jessel thus disputing the governess’s theory that the children are aware of the spirits. The governess, and in turn Douglas who appears to fully believe her story, does not even consider the notion that she may in fact be the only person who is able to see this apparition and that she is causing the two children in her care great distress by accusing them of lying to her and plotting an elaborate plan to pull the wool over her eyes. Douglas also appears to believe the governess’s version of events, a fact which is shown in the quote “But it’s not the first occurrence of its charming kind that I know to have involved a child” (pg 1). The fact that Douglas “knows” that this “occurrence” involved a child, when taken in context with the other stories that are being told that night shows that Douglas “knows” that the ghosts affected the children and has not considered the alternate possibility that the governess was the only person who could see the ghosts.
Douglas is the only character in the story that is able to give the reader an opinion of the governess (Turn of the Screw - Character Analysis, n.d.). This fact changes the effect of the story altogether, in that Douglas’s testimonial on behalf of the governess seems to lend credibility to her account of the story. However, the fact that we are offered a completely one sided view of the story, both through the governess’s manuscript and Douglas’s reading of it, means that it is impossible for us to see the complete picture of what happened at Bly, and this is something we need to remember when analysing the narration of the novella. The full picture of the events that led up to Miles’s death are hidden from the reader.
Douglas presents the tale as “quite too horrible” to his fellow guests in the introduction of the story. To analyse this comment in the context of the other stories that were told in the introduction, we need to take into account all of the information we are shown about the stories preceding Douglas’s story. The story which was first told involved an “apparition” appearing to a “little boy” in an “old house” (pg 1). We are not given many details of the outcome of the story, but we are told that the story culminated in the boy’s mother seeing...