Pot Boiler Essay

Submitted By karola15k
Words: 1105
Pages: 5

Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw" was one of his great successes after his play, Guy Domville, was booed off the London stage. Because James wanted this book to be successful in order to bring himself together after the terrible disaster that his play had brought, he's given his book certain characteristics that make it more than just a gothic ghost story. The book does have the main characteristics of the gothic genre, however at times it moves away from the formula and surprises the reader, which is what keeps the 'pot boiling', in other words the reader is constantly kept in suspense and uncertainty and they're always provoked to have their own opinion on the plot and characters. One of the greatest things about this book is that it has a prologue and the main job of it is not to prepare the reader to put aside their criticism about whether these events could actually happen and simply enjoy the story, but it's main function is to tell us not to do this. For example, in the prologue Henry James clearly depicts an audience for the governess's story that is adult, worldly and cynical rather than naive and sentimental. The narrator makes it clear that some of the guests are more sophisticated than other and that those who remain to hear Douglas's story are a select group. This group is characterized as "arch" meaning deliberately or even forcedly ironic and playful. The group's members are fairly aggressive about reading between the lines of what Douglas says to draw sexual interferences as Mrs Griffin does about Douglas and the governess. The guest who wisecracks about the former governess dying of "so much respectability" is insinuating that the former governess is less than respectable, perhaps morally and sexually loose. This guest treats Douglas's story skeptically, even cynically; refusing to take things at face value and ready to make interferences of a sexual nature. And when later on in the book we learn more about this former governess, Miss Jessel, we see that this guest is absolutely right and perhaps conclude that we're intended to read this book in the same way: viewing the characters realistically rather than romantically, treating the story skeptically, and reading between the lines for sexual overtones. Therefore, this clearly highlights that "The Turn of the Screw" is not just a 'potboiler' written for profitable purposes but it's main purpose is to challenge the reader to try and create their own opinion on the book's plot and characters by keeping them in suspense through the use of literacy techniques, such as ambiguity and cliff-hangers.
Ambiguity is one of the great pillars in this book. This art of creating something that can have more than one meaning is clearly present in every corner of this book and this is what makes this novella so outstanding and highly-charged. This technique appears immediately in Chapter 1 when the governess arrives at the house at Bly; she is astonished by the ‘most beautiful child I had ever seen’ pg12, which, at first, only implies to the reader that the governess clearly loves children and that she is very pleased with her small charge and her behaviour. However, as the book progresses, there seems to be more of those ‘cheesy’ comments from the governess about her charges. In chapter 4 she describes them as ‘cherubs’ and ‘angles’, which associates the children with this angelic beauty and gives the reader little sense of them being real children as they seem to be too obedient. However, another reading of this, perhaps, is that the governess is the destructive and deprived force in this novel and by describing the children in such beautiful ways she is trying to camouflage something. Consequently, all those ugly and sinister descriptions of the ghosts of Miss Jessel and the Quint are the mirrored characteristics of the governess’s personality. She is, perhaps, revealing her own self through the ghosts, whereas the children are just a sense of innocence that she used…