The governess is deluded, but she rises to the sublime in her delusion" Because of this paramount concern with the effect of the story on the reader, Goddard is undogmatic about the existence of the ghosts:. Whether the insane man creates his hallucinations or whether insanity is precisely the power to perceive objective existences of another order, whether higher or lower, than humanity, no open-minded person can possibly pretend to say, however preponderating in the one direction or the other present evidence may seem to him to be Goddard, therefore, considers the story "susceptible of various readings" This insight, it seems to me, is one of the most important strengths of Goddard's essay, since no reading's claim to be exclusively correct can be reconciled with the enigmatic and seemingly contradictory statements of the story's foremost critic, Henry James himself.
Also, Goddard's interpretation can easily be read in conjunction with other outstanding interpretive essays--most notably those by Lydenberg and Firebaugh--which effect a synthesis between the Freudian and non-Freudian readings, claiming that the personal problems of the governess interact synergistically with objectively evil presences to bring about the downfall of the children.
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A few other early critics seemed to perceive dimly the necessity of such a synthesis--for example, Elton and Woolf; the weakness of these critics, however, is that they offer unsupported assertions not grounded in the detailed analysis of the text which Goddard has provided. From the foregoing discussion the major strengths of Goddard's outstanding essay should be readily apparent.
The major weaknesses of the essay in my opinion are Goddard's failure to explain the psychodynamics of the governess's later apparent sexual attraction to Miles Some psychoanalytic critics have attempted to explain this and Miles's dismissal from school. Some critics--for example, Alexander E. Jones--have cited as a weakness Goddard's "irrelevant" inclusion of his childhood experiences with an insane servant who used to tell him and his sister of her nocturnal visions of ghosts. It is easy, however, to dispute the "irrelevance" of such personal material by considering the literary work's all-pervasive ambiguity together with the author's explanation, in the Preface to Volume 12 of the New York Edition, of the artistic function of that ambiguity, an explanation which seems to invite the inclusion of a critic's personal experiences:.
There is Only make the reader's general vision of evil intense enough Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications xxi-xxii. Willen suggests that the story is told by a governess rather than a mother and that her narrative is included in the reports of two other narrators in order to shield "the reader from direct and possibly inhibiting contact with his own childhood fantasies, thus freeing him for an apparently objective analysis of the story.
Goddard's interpretation, moreover, is not mere assertion supported only by a personal anecdote; he offers abundant evidence from the text to support his particular reading of the story. Furthermore, he offers a reasonable explanation for his inclusion of the anecdote:. It may be that this experience subconsciously accounts for my reading of The Turn of the Screw. If its influence is justified, it is worth recounting. If it is unjustified, it should be narrated that the reader may properly discount its effect on my interpretation of the tale The distinction that Goddard makes between those personal considerations which may have influenced his reading and the evidence in the text which validates his reading and which, he holds, should be convincing to any reader and his emphasis on the latter rather than the former distinguish Goddard's criticism from the later reader-response approach of such critics as Norman Holland.
It is interesting by way of contrast to consider Holland's essay on "The Purloined Letter," an exploration of how his concerns with adolescent masturbation coincided with certain elements in the story's structure to produce a particular reading experience in the pubescent Holland. In Holland's essay the critic's personal experience is primary; in Goddard's it is tangential. A very conservative New Critic might fault Goddard for the inclusion of another kind of "irrelevant" material: James's comments about the story in several letters and in the Preface to Volume 12 of the New York Edition.
Goddard, however, can hardly be accused of the intentional fallacy, for he seems to cite James as one critic who may be in agreement with him, as a way of emphasizing the plausibility of his interpretation. His disclaimer at the end of his essay indicates that he does not consider such evidence decisive, or even, perhaps, very important:.
I may be guilty of twisting perfectly innocent statements to fit a hypothesis. They do appear to fit with curiously little stretching. But I do not press the point. It is not vital.
It in no way affects the main argument. For in these matters it is always the work itself and not the author that is the ultimate authority It could also, of course, be argued that the "elemental human psychology" 10 which Goddard employs would not seem elemental to one who had not done some reading in psychoanalysis. This, however, is a problem with almost all New Criticism. Literary critics do a tremendous amount of reading not only in literature but in psychology, history, philosophy, theology, anthropology, and other disciplines.
Some of this knowledge always influences their approach to a particular text. Their desire to look exclusively at the literary work in question can only be partially successful. The New Criticism has also been indicted--quite recently by Terry Eagleton--for ignoring the larger social, political, and economic realities of the society in which the literary work was produced and the work's political implications for the critic's own historical milieu. It is thus interesting to note that Goddard's analysis includes a basis for the development of a sociological, even a Marxist, reading:.
The reaction upon a sensitive and romantic nature of the narrowness of English middle class life in the last century: that, from the social angle, is the theme of the story Goddard's essay--with its detailed and plausible account of the psychology of the governess, its insightful tracing of James's artistry in "[throwing] the reader off the scent" 14 to produce terror of a special kind, its preeminent awareness of literary values, its ingenious readings of the identification scene in chapter 5 and the final scene in chapter 24 to refute arguments against hallucination theories, and its provision of bases for readings which combine psychoanalytic, theological, and sociological considerations--is one of the most outstanding in the history of Jamesian criticism and certainly the most outstanding critical response to The Turn of the Screw in the period prior to Edmund Wilson's famous essay.
Edna Kenton has an important place in the history of the criticism of The Turn of the Screw because she was the first critic to publish a categorical declaration that the ghosts do not exist outside the mind of the governess. In this article, Kenton disputed what she termed "the traditional, we might almost call it lazy version of this tale"--namely, "the children hounded by the prowling ghosts. The ghosts, maintained Kenton, "are only exquisite dramatizations of her little personal mystery, figures for the ebb and flow of troubled thought within her mind, acting out her story" Kenton's claim to be the first to propound a hallucination theory of the story is disputed by Wagenknecht:.
The idea had been advanced before by a number of writers, some of them distinguished Wagenknecht, however, does not give the names of any of these writers, and my research has failed to uncover any. I suspect that Wagenknecht has not carefully read the writers he may have in mind. She perceives what is beyond all perceptions, and the reader who begins by questioning whether she is supposed to be sane ends by accepting her conclusions and thrilling over the horrors they involve.
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This is certainly not an unequivocal statement that the ghosts are hallucinations; it could easily be interpreted to mean that the governess is a clairvoyant who "perceives what is beyond all perception" and that the reader "ends by accepting her conclusions" because his horizons have been broadened. Likewise, Oliver Elton, in , referred to the reader's "doubt, raised and kept hanging, whether, after all, the two ghosts who can choose to which persons they will appear, are facts, or delusions of the young governess who tells the story.
He refers to "the courage of the young English lady who, desperate and unaided, vainly shelters the children" and to "the distrust with which others regard her story, and the aversion towards her inspired by the ghosts in the children themselves. And when this influence reawakens, the earthly forms of the sowers gather visible shape, at once as symbols and as actual combatants Virginia Woolf in opined that Quint and Jessel "have neither the substance nor the independent existence of ghosts" but rather should be seen as "an illustration, not in itself specifically alarming, of a state of mind which is profoundly mysterious and terrifying" However, she seems to mean here not that the ghosts are hallucinations per se but that they represent some evil that is within all of us in addition to existing externally:.
The governess is not so much frightened of them as of the sudden extension of her own field of perception, which in this case widens to reveal to her the presence all about her of an unmentionable evil Woolf's remarks in a essay seem incompatible with any interpretation which would locate the ghosts only in the mind of the governess, and even more incompatible with any attempt to account for them by a psychoanalytic interpretation.
Woolf says that, when we read the novella, "it is not a man with red hair and a white face whom we fear. We are afraid of something, perhaps, in ourselves. It is unspeakable. We know that the man who stands on the tower staring down at the governess beneath is evil. Some unutterable obscenity has come to the surface.
Is it possible that the little girl, as she turns back from he window, has seen the woman outside? Has she been with Miss Jessel? Has Quint visited the boy?
Furthermore, this "something" seems not to be explainable through psychoanalytic or any other theory: "It is Quint who must be reasoned away, and for all our reasoning returns" Wagenknecht is also unfair to Kenton when he characterizes her essay as "primarily a long purr of self-satisfaction at having been clever enough to perceive something that nobody else could see" buttressed by "little or no argument" On the contrary, her article is a closely reasoned argument which relies on evidence of two kinds: James's statements about The Turn of the Screw itself and about other literary works and internal evidence gleaned from the story.
Kenton, first of all, cites passages from the Prefaces which, in her opinion, suggest that James intended to deceive the readers of the story. She reminds us, in this connection, of James's characterization of the story in the Preface to the New York Edition version:. She also recalls his statements about supernatural tales in the Preface to Volume 17 of the New York Edition.
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James had proceeded, she tells us, "with a scruple for nothing but any lapse of application, on the credulous soul of the candid, or, immeasurably better, on the seasoned spirit of the cunning reader. That James intended to "catch" the readers by making them believe in the account of an unreliable narrator is evident, suggests Kenton, from James's discussion in the same Preface of the objections raised.
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James's answer to this objection, Kenton reminds us, was to state, "We have surely as much her own nature as we can swallow in watching it reflect her anxieties and inductions" qtd. That James intended "her own nature" to have a distorting effect on her perception of reality is evident, according to Kenton, from the distinction James makes in the same paragraph between "her record of so many intense anomalies and obscurities" and "her explanation of them, a different matter. Furthermore, says Kenton, if the governess had undesirable traits, we would not expect James to make them obvious, considering his remarks on Thackeray and Balzac in his essay "The Lesson of Balzac.
In James's "book of golden rules," says Kenton, "no character is worth doing unless it is worth loving, and no lover is worthy of his love if he lacks the instinct to protect the beloved. He loves them even more than Balzac loved Valerie, and protects them with far finer dexterity. In The Turn of the Screw 1 the protection of character, by all the evidence, reached its apotheosis: not until he came to the writing of The Golden Bowl was James to lean quite so heavily on the strong arm of the novelist's finer technic Next, Kenton turns her attention to the story itself.
She points out that the prologue--"the submerged and disregarded forward to the tale" --presents a narrator who is young, inexperienced, and possessed by a never-to-be-requited infatuation for her employer. She reminds us that this infatuation continues after the governess arrives at Bly and that the first vision of Quint occurs while the governess is walking around the estate daydreaming about the man she loves Kenton also emphasizes a point she suspects many readers may tend to forget Not to the charming little Flora, but behind Flora and facing the governess, the apparitional Miss Jessel first appeared.
Those critics who see "the children hounded by the prowling ghosts" need to be reminded, contends Kenton, that "no reader has more to go on that the young governess's word for this rather momentous and sidetracking allegation" Kenton also directs our attention to the governess's discussion of her own "moods" or psychological states which seemed to presage the appearance of the ghosts:. There were states of the air, conditions of sound and stillness, unspeakable impressions of the kind of ministering moment, that brought back to me, long enough to catch it, the medium in which, that June evening out of doors, I had my first sight of Quint I recognized the signs, the portents--I recognized the moment, the spot qtd.
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So she made the shades of her recurring fevers dummy figures for the delirious terrifying of others, pathetically trying to harmonize her own disharmonies by creating discords outside herself Kenton's analysis of the story itself is much less detailed than Goddard's. We are told that the apparitions "are only exquisite dramatizations of her little personal mystery, figures for the ebb and flow of troubled thought within her mind, acting out her story" , but we are never told precisely what her "story" is -- i. One of the main strengths of Goddard's essay, on the other hand, is his detailed analysis of why the governess needs the ghosts.
Furthermore, Kenton does not provide, as do Goddard and some other critics, detailed answers to the arguments of the apparitionists. She does, however, tie her analysis of the story to James's critical statements in a way Goddard does not. She ties "the protection of character" which James praised in Balzac and incorporated in his own "book of golden rules" for fiction to his avowed intention in the Preface to Volume 17 of the New York Edition to "rouse the dear old sacred terror"--i.
James has created an air of unspecified evil, Kenton maintains, by creating a narrator who "could not specify" so that "readers of her tender, moving tale have of necessity had to think the evil for themselves.
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The eager, thrilled, horrified reader, joined with her in her vivid hunt after hidden sins, has failed to think sufficiently of her ; and has, all oddly, contrived to protect her quite as romantically as her creator permitted her to protect herself in her charming recital of the happenings at Bly. Her own story, so naively sympathetic, of the ghosts and children, has been her simple bulwark--even the cunning reader has been credulous The reader, in other words, "protects" the governess by "specifying," from his own experience, the exact nature of the threat posed by Quint and Jessel and, in the process, forgetting that her assertion is the only evidence that Quint and Jessel pose any threat at all.