crew Turn ScrewThe Importance of Chapter Six in The Turn of the Screw

Chapter Six is an important section of The Turn of the Screw, as it involves many of the themes of the story, as well as reflecting its general narrative structure. James’ novel is phenomenally complex; it has an incredible ambiguity to it, which allows for some very outlandish and far-fetched ideas to be formulated. A ‘theme’ can almost be drawn from almost every other sentence, if one so desires. It is deciding which issues have a little more to them than there may seem at first and which are what they appear, nothing more, which is difficult. As with many books of its ilk, over-analysing is a serious essay writing hazard.

To take things one aspect at a time, and to begin with the narrative structure. Whilst not exactly a ?key issue’ of the story, the narrative structure can often inYuence how those issues are revealed and detailed to readers, so still holds some relevance to the essay title. Chapter Six’ overall structure is very similar to that of the story as a whole. It begins quietly, after the climax at the end of the previous chapter (as with the main part of The Turn of the Screw after the prologue, which creates a great deal of anticipation) and begins to increase in tension slowly throughout, with a slight lull in the middle, where the narrative becomes very reYective and introspective, with the Governess writing her thoughts seemingly as they enter her head, creating a somewhat rambling, dense prose. Finally, when readers are least expecting it, the plot suddenly leaps into view once again, creating an exciting znale (“Then I again shifted my eyes – I faced what I had to face.) which leaves many plot threads open to interpretation (as with the znal words of the znal chapter, “?and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.) – Chapter Six is something of a microcosm of the rest of the story, at least in terms of the narrative structure.

More important, however, is how the key issues of the story are represented in this chapter. These issues come in two distinct categories. The zrst involve the various themes of the story, involving the characters, the plot and reality itself. The second type consists of the various techniques James uses in the Governess’ language to depict her character and set the tone for the book.

Taking the latter zrst; the Governess’ language is very distinctive. It is very verbose and detailed, examining events and people very closely, using as many words as possible to describe even the simplest of things. For example, towards the end of Chapter Six she is trying to think of rational alternatives for the presence of Miss Jessel on the opposite side of the lake. When she fails, she writes “Nothing was more natural than that these things should be the other things they absolutely were not. This style of writing is extremely difficult to understand in places, making the book heavy reading in places, and creating a somewhat monotonous and depressing atmosphere at times. This may be due to James’ own writing style, or a deliberate attempt to dezne the Governess’ own writing traits; it is difficult to tell. Either way, it creates a very dark feel for the story.

As for the themes, there are probably almost an inznite number of interpretations that could be theorised from the text. Readers have to determine how much they are willing to accept. There are some themes which are not explored in this particular chapter; nevertheless, there are still a surprising number of them squeezed into a mere seven pages.

One recurring theme is evident in the conversation between Mrs. Grose and the Governess. The two characters have a tendency to complete each other’s sentences, to speak almost as if they are of one mind. Two incidences here are particularly noticeable:

?It does strike me that my pupils have never mentioned -!’
She looked at me hard as I musingly pulled up. ?His having been here and the time they