To call this a theme may seem a little ridiculous, given that this is a ghost story—of course there are supernatural events. But the theme of the supernatural, in Henry James’s hands, is worth thinking about. The supernatural is important because it brings into the story an essential, richly complex element of ambiguity: given the evidence, it is possible that the ghosts are there and equally possible that they are not there at all. The…read analysis of The Supernatural
Exterior vs. Interior
This theme is closely related to the supernatural, since the basic question here is: do external impressions obscure internal realities? But this theme does not necessarily have anything to do with the supernatural. This is about discrepancies more rooted in everyday happenings, and the important question that these discrepancies implies: can external appearances (the clothes a person wears, or the smile they have) ever provide us with enough evidence for us to make conclusions about…read analysis of Exterior vs. Interior
Each character in The Turn of the Screw withholds some crucial bit of personal information from each of the other characters. This tendency to repress, lie, and conceal personal information—to create and enforce an atmosphere of secrecy—is presented in this book as something capable of thwarting the development of meaningful and healthy relationships with others and with ourselves.
The governess, for example, cannot openly discuss with the children her concerns about their wellbeing because…read analysis of Secrecy
Youth and Innocence
The Turn of the Screw explores and complicates the relationship between youth and innocence. Youth and innocence are difficult to pin down in the book: the children seem precocious and (in the governess’s words) wicked, but at the same time they are presented as innocent and honest victims of a difficult situation. Henry James was known to have had an interest in the inner lives of children, as both precocious and mature members of the…read analysis of Youth and Innocence