The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James

What’s Up With the Title?

This title's meaning is exposed on the very first page of the story; after hearing a ghoulish tale in which a child is menaced by some ghostly terror, someone suggests that the fact that the story's protagonist was a child is what gives a certain "turn of the screw" – that is, it tightens the dramatic tension. James' story offers a second "turn" by introducing a horror story about two children instead of one. This is an oddly mechanical way of describing the construction of a horror story – that is, a story that cranks the audience's stress level way up – and it keeps one of James's primary concerns, the craft of writing, in the back of the reader's mind at all times. The title also takes on a second meaning as we near the end of the story; the protagonist uses the phrase to describe taking control of her mental and emotional capabilities in preparation for a challenge.

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