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The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw

by Henry James

Literature and Writing Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"I quite agree – in regard to Griffin's ghost, or whatever it was – that its appearing first to the little boy, at so tender an age, adds a particular touch. But it's not the first occurrence of its charming kind that I know to have involved a child. If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children –?"

"We say, of course," somebody exclaimed, "that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them." (Prologue.2)

From the beginning, this story is all about the writer and/or narrator. We're very conscious of the fact that we're being told a story, and that it's carefully constructed by someone. This "turn of the screw" conversation loosely compares the crafting of the story to building something with one's hands, highlighting the image of the writer as a craftsman.

Quote #2

I can see Douglas there before the fire, to which he had got up to present his back, looking down at his interlocutor with his hands in his pockets. "Nobody but me, till now, has ever heard. It's quite too horrible." This, naturally, was declared by several voices to give the thing the utmost price, and our friend, with quiet art, prepared his triumph by turning his eyes over the rest of us and going on: "It's beyond everything. Nothing at all that I know touches it." (Prologue.3)

These preliminary scenes serve two purposes; firstly, they tell a little story of their own (that of Douglas and the governess), and secondly, they steadily increase the reader's curiosity and anticipation, along with those of Douglas's audience.

Quote #3

So far had Douglas presented his picture when someone put a question. "And what did the former governess die of? – of so much respectability?"

Our friend's answer was prompt. "That will come out. I don't anticipate."

"Excuse me – I thought that was just what you are doing." (Prologue.15-16)

Here, one of the guests comments aptly upon Douglas's steady buildup of the story before it even begins; this could be seen as a playful comment upon the rather heavy-handed devices of suspense so often employed by authors of the genre.

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