Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Unexpected and Unsolvable

American culture loves mysteries. They enjoy fantasizing about the unknown. To enlarge upon the unknown, especially in writing, is an example of ambiguity. Ambiguity is a word or expression that can be viewed in a number of ways. Henry James often uses ambiguity in The Turn of the Screw to add a sense of mystery to his writing.

The use of ambiguity makes James' novel a work of sinister mystery, unsolvable events and a unique perspective. The combination of ambiguity and narrative ellipsis draws the reader in, only to leave him hanging at a vital part of the story. Henry James uses ambiguity well, making it work for him.

By using ambiguity, James gives the novel an eerie tone, forcing the reader to come to their own conclusions. He often makes important events or information vague, again forcing the reader to make his own decisions. Did Miss Jessel and Peter Quint have an affair? Is the governess only working at Bly to gain the uncle's love? Are the children as innocent as they seem? James leaves out the answers to these questions, adding to the overall effect of the novel.

Henry James uses ambiguity to expand upon the eerie, mysterious feel of the novel that was already established my his characters and setting. He can effectively draw readers into the story and keep them in. His readers never quite know what to expect, making The Turn of the Screw a well written novel full of captivating mysteries and unexpected, and unsolvable, problems.


  1. At first I was like... OHNOIMREADINGHERFINALESSAY!!!
    ...and then I remembered that:
    a) why would you do it the first night if you have a week and a half?
    b) we already wrote the ambiguity essay.

  2. This is fabulous! I am so glad you took the time to type it up. You're too amazing.