Portland State University. Department of English.
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in English
Henry James (1843-1916). Turn of the screw, Frame-stories
1 online resource (75 p.)
Since its publication in 1898, The Turn of the Screw has been the focus of diverse critical interpretation. It has reflected shifts in critical theory that include the Freudian, psychoanalytic, mythological, structuralist, reader-response, linguistic, and new-historical schools. The majority of critical interpretations have focused on the governess's narrative and have excluded the prologue, or frame narrative, that begins the novella. The critics who did examine the prologue overlooked James's departure from the traditional use of frame narration and the importance of the structure of the frame in creating a text of insoluble ambiguity. James departed from traditional frame narration in four ways. By using only an opening frame, the reader is forced to rely on the prologue in order to determine narrative reliability. By creating a condition of reciprocal authority between the unnamed narrator and Douglas, the opening frame denies the possibility of using either character to substantiate the reliability of the other. The condition of reciprocal authority is constructed through a dialogue pattern in which the narrator and Douglas interpret each other's gestures and comments and finish each other's sentences. It is the use of the pattern in the prologue that prepares the reader to accept it in the governess's narrative. The governess repeats the dialogue pattern with Mrs. Grose and Miles. Their discussions appear to validate the governess as a reliable narrator when in fact her reliability is as impossible to determine as the reliability of Douglas or the frame narrator. The result of these departures from traditional frame narration is the construction of a text of insoluble ambiguity.
Rosenow, Cecilia, "Insoluble Ambiguity: Criticism and the Structure of the Frame Narrative in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James" (1995). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4908.