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on June 2, 2004
james starts his story out in a classic setting of people telling stories around a fire--no they aren't camping. the story is told in writing by a governess who is hired to teach and care for two children at bly, a country estate. the ghost story evolves when she begins to see apparitions that are thought to be the prior governess and her lover, a servant on the estate.
the curious part of the tale is the unanswered question of whether these are really ghosts trying to take control of the children, or simply figments of a deranged mind. the question is not really raised to the reader until near the end of the book and is intentionally left hanging. the debate rages on even today!
as a ghost story goes, this one is pretty good. the suspense rises with each new sighting and "turn" of the children. the ending, though ambiguous, leaves the reader with much to think about and wonder.
the real shortcoming here is the writing. james is very confusing, rambling and obtuse. it is by no means poetic as it is harsh to the ear. no one writes this way, much less talks. it really doesn't add to the "mystery" through subtle nuance. it is quit simply hard to read and understand. the ghost story should be quick and easy to follow so that suspense can build up rapidly. when you have to go back and reread sentences to better understand what was said, the suspense dies.
an interesting, but frustrating read.
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on May 4, 2004
James's narrative style is bit difficult for me to read. It seems to me that, at least in this story, he writes in a breathless, phrase filled steam of consciousness style - similar, but more so, to this sentence. Most sentences contain many phrases having more or less to do with the subject of the sentence but getting to a point that I would re-read many of them to try to sort out exactly what was intended. Oftentimes, I felt that I only got the gist of the sentence before moving on. The story is intriguing and I was dying to understand it. In the end, I think that a great deal of the ambiguity is intentional. This is one case where I may end up resorting to help from Cliff in interpretation.
The story of the unnamed governess is given as a sort of ghost story told among friends but originating from the real manuscript of the narrator's sister's governess of the spectral occurrences she witnessed at a previous position she had had when she was younger. Accepting a post at Bly as governess to a young girl who's brother was away to school, she is under the strict interdiction not to make reports to her employer, the children's legal guardian and uncle. Shortly after the beginning of her engagement, the male child returns from the school, presumably for the holidays, but a letter from the headmaster informs her that he is not to be allowed back. No reasons are given and a mystery develops over why a child so innocent seeming as he should be outcast. Mystery continues to flourish as the new governess begins to see two people on the grounds that are identified by the housekeeper on their descriptions as the previous governess and the employer's man - both deceased. As the governess becomes convinced that the apparitions have malevolent designs on the children, she enters into a struggle of evasion and confrontation, dealing with things half-said or unspoken. While I was truly clueless most of the time as to exactly what her suspicions were, the ending seemed to illuminate them and was very powerful. I think that the design of the story is to play on the reader's imagination and interpretation ... I think. This is one story where I will seek out other's reactions to see if I read it the same way they did; but even if other's reader's interpretation are vastly different I still believe that that allowance for each reader's imagination to give the shape to the story is remarkable.
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on January 4, 2004
Well-- I read this small story over Christmas Break for a Research and Comprehension class, and all I can say is... INNATE! Innate and extremely deep!
After all, the book's main focus is undoubtedly aimed at sex and class status. Although this book was written in the Victorian Era where discussion of sexual connotations, especially children's, are strictly forbidden, this book strangely relates to the modern world of sex and status. There are so many interpretations you can conceive from the odd chaos happening at the Bly Estate; and I think that's exactly what Henry James was trying to infer. Everything is so confusing and you don't know who is to blame, what they are to blame for, and WHAT exactly is going wrong anyway... and isn't that EXACTLY what is happening today? SEX IS NOTHING BUT CONFUSION! No matter your age, your class rank or status, OR sexual orientation.
I'm not saying that Henry James was a head of his time or anything, he was just in a position and time where he couldn't express his thoughts or beliefs regarding the issue without draping a vail over it. Which, in my opinion, he did a pretty good job of doing. He also did a good job of demonstrating the Victorian Era's household of rank: the mother (governess'), father (Peter Quint or insufficient headmaster), the children (Miles and Flora), and the housekeeper (Mrs. Grose). He also demonstrates the consequences of either not having, or having a corrupt working member of the household. I believe this goes as far as the modern-day household does. The children desperately need acceptable parents, and the parent figures need each other (children:mother, children:father, mother:father, father: mother, BOTH PARENTS:housekeeper, children:housekeeper) And so on...
So, in conclusion- this was a sick, corrupt, dishonest, sinister, grave story with unclear, bizarre motives... but it obviously got me thinking!
I hope you don't enjoy it, for morality's sake!
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on December 15, 2001
When I began to read The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, I made the assumption this book would be different from all other books which I have read. I thought it would be different because it is considered an American literature classic. Although Henry James is among many great authors, he is without a doubt, a one of a kind.
In this book his unique writing style has me wondering why such thoughts went through his mind. His wordy and elaborate writing style presented his strange subject matter in a style that could be accepted in his time. While it is sometimes difficult to follow the story it allowed James to express what would have been a controversial topic.
At times in this story you become anxious and excited, while at other times you are left picking and choosing what you think is going on, and when you least expect something to happen you become surprised, and become more interested in the book.
The ending surprised me. What I thought was going to be a happy ending turned into a perverse finale and a total tragedy. From beginning to end, Henry James wrote a book that is different from all other books.
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on December 15, 2001
When I began to read "The Turn Of The Screw" by Henry James, I made the assumption this book would be different from all other books which I have read. I thought it would be different because it is considered an American literature classic. Although Henry James is among many great authors, he is without a doubt, a one of a kind.
In this book his unique writing style has me wondering why such thoughts went through his mind. His wordy and elaborate writing style presented his strange subject matter in a style that could be accepted in his time. While it is sometimes difficult to follow the story it allowed James to express what would have been a controversial topic.
At times in this story you become anxious and excited, while at other times you are left picking and choosing what you think is going on, and when you least expect something to happen you become surprised, and become more interested in the book.
The ending surprised me. What I thought was going to be a happy ending turned into a perverse finale and a total tragedy. From beginning to end, Henry James wrote a book that is different from all other books.
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on December 15, 2001
When I began to read "The Turn Of The Screw" by Henry James, I made the assumption this book would be different from all other books which I have read. I thought it would be different because it is considered an American literature classic. Although Henry James is among many great authors, he is without a doubt, a one of a kind.
In this book his unique writing style has me wondering why such thoughts went through his mind. His wordy and elaborate writing style presented his strange subject matter in a style that could be accepted in his time. While it is sometimes difficult to follow the story it allowed James to express what would have been a controversial topic.
At times in this story you become anxious and excited, while at other times you are left picking and choosing what you think is going on, and when you least expect something to happen you become surprised, and become more interested in the book.
The ending surprised me. What I thought was going to be a happy ending turned into a perverse finale and a total tragedy. From beginning to end, Henry James wrote a book that is different from all other books.
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on December 1, 2001
Henry James' work, Washington Square, is simply a love story with psychological undertones. In it, the main character Catherine Sloper falls deeply in love with a handsome suitor, Morris Townsend. The irony here is that Catherine is a plain girl who possesses a "poor dumb eloquence." As well, besides possessing great wealth of her own, Catherine has an enormous inheritance from her deceased mother. Conversely, Morris is a handsome, debonair suitor whose financial situation may only be described as relative poverty. His charm is enjoyed by almost everyone but Catherine's father, Dr. Austin Sloper. Suspicious of Morris' motives, Dr. Sloper accuses him of marrying Catherine for her fortune and vows to remove all inheritances in her name should the union occur. These circumstances create a bitter relationship between father and daughter, as Catherine must eventually choose between her family and fortune and her lover. In her struggle, however, Catherine gains an admirable strength of character, which is central to the message of the story.
As examined through a brief plot summary, Washington Square contains no clear-cut revelations in its message. Upon careful investigation of the characters, however, it seems that James wants the reader to decide whether Morris' love is true or not. In other words, in terms of the main character's conflict, should Catherine have chosen her father or her lover? In the end, James has Catherine choose neither, thus carefully creating a plot that can be scrutinized from different perspectives. With each of Morris' actions, it is unclear whether he does it out of love for Catherine or out of greed for her money. The author achieves this effect by judicious word use and careful insertions of flaws in the characters of Morris Townsend and Dr. Sloper.
Washington Square was a novel I read for school after having visited Washington Square itself many times. Having said that, although it's an excellent read for literary analysis, it's also a rather dry novel. For a student wanting to complete a literary analysis and enjoy a good book at the same time, this is not good news, thus the 3.5 stars. However, its strong points are the psychological power and the keen insight James has on human nature. Read it for those things, if anything.
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on April 7, 2000
This classic book is a ghost story of sorts. It is not the traditional kind, with chains and things, but it is more of a psychological suspence story. A young governess goes to take care of two children- Flora, age 8, and Miles, age 10. She soon learns that their old governess and her lover both mysteriously died. As the story goes on she begins to see apparitions of the two dead people, and she is convinced that the children have something to with it. During the whole story she works to save them from the ghosts. However, you are left to decide the whole time whether what she is seeing is real or if the kids are really guilty or if she is psycho or what.
I liked the way the plot went because I was left to figure out and interpret things for myself the whole way along. James did not just come out and say things but left them to be interpreted by many different ways. This may be frustrating for readers who like the story to be spelt out to them, but if you like suspense and trying to see a story from many different viewpoints, you will like the story too.
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on January 3, 2003
The Turn of the Screw leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It is the story of a governess who is haunted by her predecessor and her [the former governess's] lover.. or at least thinks she is. She determines that the two ghosts are there for the children. Henry James never tells us straight out whether the governess is slowly going crazy, or if all that happens is true. There are hints at both situations.
Henry James uses the language very well. However, there are some references to art and literature that are interesting, but may not be immediately recognized. If you think they might interest you, I'd suggest getting an annotated edition.
If you are considering picking this book up for a scare, this might not satisfy you. If you want a thought-provoking, psychological novella, this is for you.
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on July 22, 2000
I like Henry James for his fine observations of human nature, and this book did not disappoint in that aspect. He writes about complex matters in such a lucid manner, I feel like I learn a little more about how people are everytime I read his books. But this story was frustrating because all the characters were so strongly stubborn! I was engaged to the end though disappointed with it. I did learn, though, how quietly cruel people can be and how life should not be wasted in a game of pride!
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