Before that, there were not many interpretations--mostly just uncritical acceptances of its scariness" Oscar Cargill in these words summed up a good deal of the critical history: Until Edmund Wilson designated The Turn of the Screw a study in psychopathology, only three1 persons had had the temerity to guess that it was something more than a ghost story.
It seems that any critic who wishes to do so may find compelling textual evidence that the work is a chilling, straightforward ghost story made all the more horrific by the youthful age of its menaced characters; or that it is a case study of a psychologically disturbed young woman in the grip of a sexually induced hallucinatory neurosis; or that it is an engrossing, powerful moral fable that allegorizes the intertwining of innocence and evil in the human heart; or that it is some combination of all these, despite the fact that the various interpretations are at odds with one another.
For example, the governess herself is curiously obsessed with her employer, a handsome young man who does not appear to reciprocate the infatuation.
The first appearances of the two evil ghosts, Mr. Quint and Miss Jessel, occur on a tower and beside a lake, respectively, locations that could signify male and female sexuality.
Along this line, The Turn of the Screw may also be interpreted as a subtle but powerful moral allegory, in which Bly becomes a type of the garden of Eden: Evil has entered this Eden with the express purpose of entrapping the souls of Miles and Flora, the archetypal male and female innocents.
The modern reader must first consider the novella as a work of immense artistic skill designed to produce horror. Regardless of whether this horror originates in the supernatural or the psychological realm is of little account in assessing its final effect. This remains true even though readers may not be able to make a final and definitive critical pronouncement regarding its interpretation.The essay that started the entire controversy, Edmund Wilson’s “The Ambiguity of Henry James,” is also included, along with an extensive postscript by the same author.
Somewhat dated, but. essay titled, "The Ambiguity of Henry James." What Wilson did, in effect, was to change the classical interpretation of this story from a ghost story to a story of a neurotic governess.
Edmund Wilson The Ambiguity Of Henry James Essay Navigating the web requires that you distinguish the reliable sources from the unreliable sources. The Turn of the Screw Critical Essays Henry James.
with the publication of noted critic Edmund Wilson’s essay “The Ambiguity of Henry James” in Wilson maintains that in the novel.
The Ambiguity of Henry James. Edmund Wilson, "The Ambiguity of Henry James" (pp).
This is an extract - the complete essay can be found in the next two entries below. The essay that started the entire controversy, Edmund Wilson’s “The Ambiguity of Henry James,” is also included, along with an extensive postscript by the same author.
Somewhat dated, but.