An eerie prefiguring of this scenario occurs in “The Turn of the Screw,” which was published in 1898. Its unnamed narrator is a young woman, a parson’s daughter, who is engaged as governess to two angelic children at Bly, a remote English country house. What initially seems a pastoral idyll soon turns harrowing, as she becomes convinced that the children are consorting with a pair of malevolent spirits. These are the ghosts of former employees at Bly: a valet and a previous governess. In life, scandalously, the two of them had been discharged as illicit lovers, and their spectral visitations with the children hint at Satanism and possible sexual abuse. Clearly, the ten-year-old Miles and the eight-year-old Flora must be protected. But the governess, in her effort to shield her wards from hazards that are possibly immaterial, winds up traumatizing the little girl and killing the little boy.
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The Turn of the Screw is revived with a stellar cast including award-winning Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw in the role of the Governess and former Jerwood Young Artist Anthony Gregory as Peter Quint.
La traviata, La finta giardiniera and The Turn of The Screw arrive at the Bucks theatre November 18 for five days of magic.
La finta giardiniera – 7.15pm, November 18 & 2pm, November 20.
La traviata – 7.15pm, November 19 & November 22
Turn of the Screw – 7.15pm, November 21.
James’s title, “The Turn of the Screw,” carries suggestions of accumulating excitement and suspense. And it carries overtones of the torture chamber and unthinkable depravity. It lures us in, it warns us off. Yet the hint of the torture chamber comes through only if the ghosts are conceivably authentic. I’ve said that either interpretation of the book (real ghosts/real madness) can seem worse than the other, but this is true only as you’re reading along. You can snap shut the cover of the book, much as you would close up a crypt, on the tale of the unhinged governess and her ill-fated charges. But the crypt creaks open again if she is not mad. When the completed book is once more on the shelf, the more frightening interpretation is the one wherein some actual supernatural agent is loose and walks among us.
James’s wish to make jurors of us all has been eagerly taken up over the years. “The Turn of the Screw” has served as irresistible grist for those critics given to solving stories once and for all. In comment after comment, article after article, the evidence has been sifted through and judgments delivered. Fine, intelligent readers have confirmed the validity of the ghosts (Truman Capote); equally fine and intelligent readers have thunderously established the governess’s madness (Edmund Wilson).
“The Turn of the Screw” provides an unrivalled opportunity to read in a bifurcated fashion, to operate paragraph by paragraph on two levels. Logically, the effect of this ought to be expansive. James is trafficking in openness; readers can shift, at whim, from ghostly tale to character study.
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Many years ago, in law school—in another life—I read of a legal case that seemed to bubble up directly from the monstrous cauldron of Henry James’s novella “The Turn of the Screw.” In 1950, shortly after the start of the Korean War, an Australian mother murdered her only child, a nineteen-year-old daughter. Or did she? There was no question that the mother, fifty-year-old Ivy Muriel Cogdon, had killed the girl, and done so in a spectacularly brutal fashion, with an axe. But murder was another matter. A legal determination of murder would require society—as embodied by a representative jury—to plumb the murkiest, scariest abysses of human motivation.
One is Fludd's closed cycle water pump which raised water into a reservoir by means of a Achimedean screw, and let water run out of the reservoir over a water wheel that turned the screw to raise the water (Figure 4).