One of the world's most famous ghost stories, this spine-chilling tale is told through the journal of a governess, depicting her struggle to save her two young charges from the demonic influence of two former household servants. Only the governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children for some evil purpose. But are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? The author called the tale a "fable," noting that he did not specify details of the ghosts' evil deeds because he wanted readers to supply their own vision of terror. This little tale is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity, a story that stays long in the mind.
The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.