the turn of the screw and wuthering heights

The Turn of the Screw and the Wuthering Heights can be considered as a ghostly narrative stories that involves mystery, love, and hatred. The plot of the two stories is of different settings but the main theme evolves on the presence of a ghost and its relative influences on the different characters involve.

The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James in 1898, depicts a plot that has led to various interpretations of the existence of evil within the story. The plot narrates the story of a governess who hired a young lady to take care of his niece and nephew, Miles and Flora. Flora lived at Essex while Miles studied in a school that has boarding accommodations. As the young lady was hired, she immediately went to the country homes where she met the housekeeper named Mrs. Grose. Miles was eventually expelled from the class but he never discussed the matters. Feared that there was a horrible reason for Mile’s expulsion, the young lady did not raise the matter of asking him. As the young lady continued her duties to the two children, she eventually started to see resemblance of a man and a woman whom she did not know. These figures seemed to be of supernatural forces and they come and go without being seen or noticed by the other members of the household. She learned from Mrs. Grose that the two figures were her predecessors, Miss Jessel and her illegitimate lover Peter Quint (James 1999). She learned that the two died under unexplainable circumstances and prior to their death, they were able to spent considerable time with Miles and Flora. The situation became more intense when the young lady learned that the two children knew of the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Quint’s apparent presence. This made the young lady more frightened and obscurely behaved until she reached the point of being emotionally and mentally unstable. She eventually injured Flora, and drowned Miles in the process.

The plot raised the issue of whether there was really an existence of ghosts or the young lady was insane. Several points within the story indicated the young lady’s account or description of Quint in a non-supernatural manner and she might have gained latter knowledge of his appearance. This indicated that the young lady was emotionally and mentally unbalanced and that the ghost of Miss Jessel and Quint existed on her imagination only. Another point to consider was the death of Miles was induced by the fact that the young lady had previous resentment or rage towards her father and to a certain master of Bly. She takes out these anger and resentment towards Miles that eventually killed him. Though these can be considered the reason for the young lady’s behavior, another argument can be made on the premise that the plot was a simple straightforward ghost story that has no indirect intentions and the young lady succumb to the continuous sightings of the two ghosts, eventually making her insane.

The Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Bronte in 1847, depicted a plot that was narrative in style and described the passion, love, and hatred between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and how their unsettled passion relatively destroyed them and as well as to other individuals that were involved with them. Eventually the presence of the ghost came at the end of the story where Heathcliff died. The story started when Mr. Lockwood, who stayed for a night at the Thrushcross Grange, had dreamed of Catherine Earnshaw’s ghost begging to be admitted from outside of the house. Intrigued by his dream, he asked Nelly Dean, the housekeeper, to narrate the story of Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff. Mr. Earnshaw eventually raised Heathcliff together with his daughter, Catherine. Heathcliff became Catherine’s inseparable friend and this made her brother Hindley resent. After their father’s death, Hindley took over the company business and brutalized Heathcliff forcing him to work hard. Heathcliff painstaking became deep when Catherine decided to marry her family neighbor, Edgar Linton who owned the Thrushcross Grange. He eventually left Wuthering Heights with a strong resentment for vengeance. After a year, Hindley’s wife died for giving birth to his son named Hareton. The incident made Hindley emotionally ill and forgot about taking care of the business. This gave an opportunity for Heathcliff, who became very rich, to take over the Wuthering Heights after Hindley’s death. At the same time, Catherine also became very ill and died after giving birth to a child named afer her. Heathcliff married Edgar’s sister Isabella but his anger took the toll on his wife after a month. Isabella decided to leave after giving birth to a boy named Linton. He despised his own son and chooses to ignore his fatherly emotions so that he could avenge his resentment to his foster brother (1995). After twelve years, Heathcliff brought Isabella and his son to the Wuthering Heights and persuaded the young Catherine to marry Linton. When she refused, He took them and held them inside the Wuthering heights but unfortunately the young Linton died as well as Edgar. The young Catherine began to adjust to her situation and fell in love with Hareton, who defiantly protected Catherine from Heathcliff’s abuses. This made him emotionally ill, and consequently he suffered a nervous breakdown seeing Catherine as a ghost. He deserted his anger and vendetta, and died tormented.

The Wuthering Heights presented an ordeal of anger, vengeance, and eventual vendetta of Heathcliff to the people whom he experienced harm and agony. His love for Catherine was blinded by his “evil intentions” but in the long run came back to him as he experienced mental illness resulting of seeing the young Catherine as a ghost.

The two ghosts present in the two stories: The Wuthering Heights and the Turn of the Screw greatly influenced the way of thinking, and the relative actions of the persons involved. Though the real presence of a ghost can be assumed or perhaps justified, the area of mental illness can also be considered. The main characters on the two stories: the young lady who took care of Miles and Flora; and Heathcliff who was very passionate with Catherine but filled with anger and vengeance because of the maltreatment of Hindley, can be presumed to have created a “ghost” inside their minds because of their obsession coupled with anger.

The Turn of the Screw                                              The Wuthering Heights

The “ghosts” can be a symbolic representation of their fear and it can be presumably their own self. Though not directly stated that there were really a presence of ghost on both stories, the plot presented how a person can develop the “ghosts” in themselves making them emotionally ill and commit undesirable actions towards other person. In a broader sense the “ghosts” influences the emotions, way of thinking, and relative actions of a certain person whose mind was full of agony, anger, vengeance, and traumatic experiences.

Edward Wagenknecht. (1984). The Tales of Henry James. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., New York.
Emily Bronte. (1954). The Wuthering Heights. Thomas Cautley Newby.
Henry James. (1999).  The Turn of The Screw. McMillan Company, New York.
Ian Jack. (1995). Explanatory Notes in Oxford’s World’s Classic Edition of Wuthering Heights.


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