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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James 
30th-Jan-2006 08:34 pm
Gorey01
The following is the first work of classic literature that I've reviewed in the new format, and I've decided that, for works in the public domain, I will provide a truncated MLA citation with only the AUTHOR, TITLE, and DATE OF ORIGINAL PUBLICATION. Comments regarding the specific print edition I'm utilizing, if applicable (since in theory I could read it online but in practice I like having a nicely-bound copy in hand), will be located in Notes.

James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. 1898.
Summary: An English governess claims to see the ghosts of the deceased valet and the previous governess, but no one else can see them (though a maid believes). By the end, she has managed to drive the girl Flora to feverish hysterics and literally frighten the boy Miles to death.
Comments: This short novel also features a frame story in which a man who claims to have known her personally reveals the governess's written narrative to an audience many years later. This frame story is quickly abandoned; it's purely a literary device to perhaps make the reader more comfortable with the first-person narrator more palatable. Moreover, for readers in 1898, the unreliable narrator is not a assumption from the get-go as it is nowadays, and the frame helps to clue you into the layers of subjectivity in the text. Anyway, it's probably foolish to level a psychological analysis on the governess given the age of the novel, but I can't help wondering if her fear of the ghosts was a sublimated sexual panic. She dreads the ghosts' corrupting influence on the children, yet they apparently do nothing but watch, and you have to believe the narrator claims that their expressions are malevolent. Oh, and speaking of sublimated sexuality, an ongoing mystery throughout is exactly why Miles is expelled from his boarding school. Even at the end, the extent of his confession is that he "said things" to "those he liked." Err? Is this supposed to be a confession of homosexual feelings? My Norton Critical so kindly does not address this peripheral issue. :P
Notes: Norton Critical Edition, 2nd edition
Rating: 5/10 - Over 100 years later, it makes for a fascinating study of early attempts to write unreliable narrators, but don't bother if you're looking for base entertainment value.
Comments 
31st-Jan-2006 02:11 am (UTC)
Review archived.
31st-Jan-2006 02:12 am (UTC)
(Getting a bit of a head start with the January archive. I've been a busy reader this month. :P )
31st-Jan-2006 02:30 am (UTC)
Commenting on your own posts is cheating ^_~
31st-Jan-2006 02:32 am (UTC)
Cheating? Since when was this a game? ^^;;;;;;;;

(What I'm ACTUALLY doing is cultivating my online multiple personality disorder. *shhhh* Don't tell.)
31st-Jan-2006 02:41 am (UTC)
Well okay, but if you start arguing with yourself and using abusive language I may have to notify lj ^_~
31st-Jan-2006 03:05 am (UTC)
Somehow I don't think that self-defamation is a crime. :P

Pretending to be someone I'm not might be, though, if I try to assume the identity of a real person. How about Bush's conscience? XD
31st-Jan-2006 11:18 am (UTC)
Pffft.. It'd never work, who the hell would believe Bush has a conscience??
31st-Jan-2006 12:02 pm (UTC)
How about the "real-life confessions" of some political figure that are so obnoxious that his (it would have to be a guy) party is forced to disown him? Maybe Cheney...? ^^;
31st-Jan-2006 05:14 am (UTC)
I love Turn of the Screw. But I love the Benjamin Britten Opera even more. In the opera, you have no doubt that the ghosts are real. Because they are walking and singing on stage. And when Peter Pears (who was Britten's lover) sings the haunting and lurid "Miles" you have noooooo doubt about their relationship. You should see if you can get your hands on the original recording. Britten wrote most of his operas starring Pears for Pears' unusual vocal characteristics.

Also check out Britten's final opera "Death in Venice" (yup, based on the Mann novella). Britten's most famous opera "Peter Grimes" is also excellet, but with all of them go for the original recording with Pears and Shirley-Quirk. "Grimes" in my opinion does not have any homosexual overtones but many productions insert the theme which I think greatly detrachts from the story and distorts the title character into something evil.
31st-Jan-2006 12:15 pm (UTC)
In the opera, you have no doubt that the ghosts are real.

It doesn't suprise me that an opera would go that interpretive route. ^_^;

And when Peter Pears (who was Britten's lover) sings the haunting and lurid "Miles" you have noooooo doubt about their relationship.

With whom? Britten? How come?

31st-Jan-2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
Pears plays Peter Quint and sings "Miles" to "Miles" and not in the lyrics persay, but in the music and how the song is song you know that Quint really has been corrupting the boy... in more ways than one...

Besides, the Britten-Pears relationship was an open secret. Everyone knew, but no one spoke it.
31st-Jan-2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
you know that Quint really has been corrupting the boy... in more ways than one...

You know, I couldn't extract a pedophilia vibe from the novel itself. How old was he? Nine? If a child that young were abused, I don't think he would've behaved like he did.

Besides, the Britten-Pears relationship was an open secret. Everyone knew, but no one spoke it.

How long ago was this?
1st-Feb-2006 12:28 am (UTC)
Not very long ago... Britten was born in 1913 and died in the early seventies. Pears was older than him by some years and outlived Britten. Britten had a bad heart and died of complications after surgery. Pears once said in an interview that Britten was glad he was going to die before him because he wouldn't be able to live without Pears ;_;
1st-Feb-2006 01:06 am (UTC)
*nods* Hmm. But still within the timeframe that sodomy was illegal in Britain, so it's not surprising that homoerotic references were veiled.
1st-Feb-2006 05:19 am (UTC)
Well. His opera Death in Venice did not veil it because that was the entire them of the story.

Oddly, many historians spoke to boys who worked with Britten (from Turn of the Screw, Peter Grimes, and the children's operas he wrote). They wanted to find out if they were abused. Everyone said no, but some were sure that it might have happened... its strange and a little bit sad.
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