Monday, April 26, 2004

Una parte de mi ensayo (ya entregado) para Norteamericana

"No hay esperanza para los que son como tú"

--Erika G.

The Thread of the Screw in Henry James’s Story

The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds,
And the tranquil waterway leading to the utter-
most ends of the earth flowed somber under an
overcast sky –seemed to lead into the heart of an
immense darkness.

--Joseph Conrad

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a story of ambiguities and suspense. The readers ask all the time, ¿what else? And the writer gives more and more information satisfying our curiosity. However, there is only one element in the story that provides us with a clear or direct allusion to the title: “If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children–?” It is here where we begin to understand what the writer means by “a turn of the screw.” Physically, this “turn” may be understood as the thread of a screw –a spiral that, if we make it turn, seems to be endless. This effect of endlessness is present in the whole story (the screw) where each turn is a change not only in the actions and characters but also in the structure. The two edges of a screw never meet and the first narrator does not reappear in the end. Thus, my attempt with the present paper is not to clarify the ambiguities in the story but to show how the title is related to both the content and the form.
The narration can be divided into 3 main plots –the one that introduces us to the story (a kind of Christmas tale), Douglas’ explanation of how he got the manuscript and who wrote it, and the story in the manuscript. The first one is told by a first person narrator who is also present in the narration as a character. Later, within that same plot, he starts talking about one of the stories that he had heard, “The case, I may mention, was that of an apparition in just such an old house as had gathered us for the occasion –an appearance, of a dreadful kind, to a little boy sleeping in the room with his mother and waking her up in the terror of it (…)” This is a slight change that pauses the narration of how the people were around the fire telling scary tales, and the narrator lets Douglas to give the story the first important turn. Douglas changes the story and now, we are not reading about a gathering but about the governess, “The fact to be in possession of was therefore that his old friend, the youngest of several daughters of a poor country parson (…)” Here, the voice of the narrator cannot be distinguished from Douglas’ because, after all, the narrator is only telling us what he remembers, “Poor Douglas, before his death (…) committed to me the manuscript that reached him on the third of these days (…)”3 The second important turn is the content of the manuscript. Now, the first narrator “leaves the stage” and the new narrator is the governess. This is the core of the whole story because the point of view, which is less reliable, is other, the setting changed. Although the three plots are parallels and part of a whole they are, like in a spiral, separated by a space....

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