Critical Interpretation of “The Turn Of The Screw” by Grace

The Turn Of The Screw is a very ambiguous novel. There are a lot of ways to interpret it, and I’m going to show you one using Marxism. First of all, you have to know that Marxism is based a lot on social classes.

The uncle would be at the top of t he social class pyramid, and then the two kids, Flora and Miles, would come directly aft er. Below the kids would be the governess and the ghost of Ms. Jessel, the old governess. After those two it would be Mrs. Grose, then the rest of the servants, including the ghost of Quint. SO, there are the social classes. Now, you also have to know that when you use Marxism criticism, you have to pay attention to what the book is saying about the time period. This book was in the Victorian Era, made obvious to me by the economics at the time. It was set at a large house with servants. Also, it showed that a lot of people went to church. However, the governess didn’t. It was almost like it was impossible for her to enter the sacred building for some reason, she would want to go in and worship, but then immediately leave the premises.

The interactions between the characters differed. The kids couldn’t tell certain things to the governess or Mrs. Grose, as they were all in different social classes. The governess also couldn’t tell certain things to Mrs. Grose or the kids, again because of their individual social standings. An example of how Mrs. Grose treated the governess is on page 56. Mrs. Grose doesn’t really state anything, unless about the house or the history of the house. She mainly talks in questions, always tacking on a ‘right?’ or ‘okay?’ at the end of  a sentence, showing she is intimidated of the governess, who is higher than her on the social pyramid.

So, basically, the social classes separate the characters in the book very easily. They can’t say certain things to another, they come from different backgrounds, and they have certain ways of talking  to people in lower/higher social classes.


One of the many book covers.




“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe: A Gothic Story By: Faye

“The Black Cat”, by EAP is definitely under the Gothic genre. It’s Gothic because of the many Gothic elements within it. “The Black Cat” has a damsel in distress, played by the narrator’s, wife, who becomes the damsel when the narrator deliberately spaces himself from her, isolating her, and eventually causing fatal harm to her. Another element that makes this story Gothic is the fact that the narrator himself is a solitary madman with an alcohol addiction!  This is a Gothic element because the character of a madman was a very popular and commonly used aspect of Gothic literature. Another aspect that makes this story Gothic is the author’s use of a hidden room. After the narrator kills his wife, he pulls down a small section of the basement and hides his wife’s corpse inside. Then, he quickly relayed all the bricks and put down a new layer of plaster to conceal her!  A different common aspect of Gothic literature was the idea of having very grotesque and gory descriptions or happenings throughout the story. The author utilizes this idea in two different ways such as the thoughts of the narrator when he was thinking of how to dispose of the body and also of the body itself when it was later recovered. An example of how he imagined hiding the body is as such: “At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar.” Creepy! And then later when he described the corpse itself,”The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators.”

This story relates back to the actual life of E. A. Poe because he too lost the lives of all of his wives, (but of course he didn’t kill any them) shortly after they had been married. It is believed that these constant tragedies are what inspired many of his stories’ sad twists and endings. Also, like the narrator of “The Black Cat”, Poe was an alcoholic.  The idea of Poe putting part of his own life into the story helps to connect the reader of the story with the author and also the story itself with its author.

We discuss Poe a lot in our class. I believe we do, not only because he is a great writer, but also because he is a writer of grotesque, spooky stories, which is exactly what this class is about.


The Best of Poe, The Black Cat, page 122, Poe

“The Black Cat”, Poe, Mood, and Haunted Places… You Scared? By: Grace

Hello once again! Today I’m going to be relating the concept of ‘mood’ to Edgar Allan Poe’s life, his short story “The Black Cat”, and haunted places!

In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat”, he uses different moods. At first, it seems semi-cheery, a man is happily married and since they both liked animals, they had quite a few pets. One of those pets was a black cat, no markings on it, just pure black. One day, though, the mood takes a turn for the worst. The narrator, in a drunken rage, puts out one of the cat’s eyes. He feels quite bad after that so the mood is very somber/melancholy. A few days after that, the narrator, who is in yet another drunken state, decides to hang the cat and put it out of its misery. So, that cat dies and the narrator is very gloomy and regretful. This makes the mood even more somber, as the narrator is just wandering around. A few more days later, the narrator comes across another black cat, only this time with a white spot on its chest. He takes the cat in and is sort of happy for a day or two, but then he starts to develop a distaste towards the cat. The cat follows him around nonstop, annoying the narrator very much. One day, the narrator decides to kill the cat! He grabs an axe and goes to kill the cat, but when he swings the axe it hits his wife instead, because she had thrown herself in front of the axe. This makes the mood even worse, leaning more towards dark rather than somber/melancholy. The narrator goes absolutely crazy, and hides his wife in the wall. The cat then is missing for the next few days.Then, when the police come three days later, he goes downstairs and flaunts that his house is very sturdy and knocks on the portion of the wall his wife is behind! A strange wail comes from behind the wall and the police take it down, and t he cat is discovered on top of the wife’s head. This story had an overall dark/somber mood, and is also closely related to Poe’s ‘Tell-Tale Heart’, and his life.

These moods relate to Poe’s life mainly because of the tragic experience he had. His father left when Poe was born, and just two short years later his mother died, leaving him an orphan, He was sent to the Allan’s house, but when Poe got older, he was estranged from his foster-father, leaving him unable to continue attending the University of Virginia. A couple of years later, Poe’s foster-mother died in 1829. A couple of months afterwards, he was discharged from the U.S. army. Also keep in mind his girlfriends keep leaving him in some way, some by death/travels, or some by choice. He then decided to go to West Point, which he was soon kicked out of  as well. So, Poe wasn’t able to hold down a good education, and he couldn’t hold down a job either. After this, he started writing books and publishing/selling them, probably one of the highest points in his life, which isn’t saying much as he still had a problem with alcohol, family, jobs, and girlfriends. Finally, he married. It was his first cousin, Virginia Clemm, that married Poe. They were married in 1844. There was no huge tragedy until Virginia died in 1847… Just a short three-year time being married. Poe ended up dying in 1849, jus two years later. So, as you can probably tell, Poe’s life was very somber, gloomy, dreary, sad, melancholy, dark, or whatever other mood relating to these or synonymous to these you can think of, which relates to both Poe’s life, many of his short stories/poems, and haunted places!

You may be wondering how these moods relate to haunted places, but the answer is in fact quite simple! Haunted places usually have a dark or gloomy feel to them. The back stories are usually very somber or melancholy, as they usually involve homicide or suicide. Also, when it’s a malevolent spirit doing the haunting, the mood will most likely be very dark, as well as the gloomy and dreary moods adding in. Other things adding to the dark/gloomy feel is the fog or the mist in the sky, and it’s also often storming or set at nighttime. The setting is very important to the mood as well. Whether it’s raining, night or day, fog, mist, water nearby, any of those things add into the mood. You also have to consider how old the house is, if the floorboards squeak easily, anything of that sort all ties into the mood. I hope you discovered just how much mood is related between these things-if you said it’s a lot, you are definitely right!!


Poe, and Cats, and Tulpas oh my! By Cora.

Anyone who has ever heard of poetry has heard of Edgar Allen Poe. One of his more.. interesting short stories is called “The Black Cat”, in which the narrator killes a cat, his wife, and almost kills a second cat.

So this story starts out with the narrator explaining that he has an alcohol problem. The narrator and his wife have many animals including a dog, a black cat, and a small monkey. As was said earlier, the narrator had a problem involving alcoholism, which leads him to partial insanity, only to go fully insane later. So one day the narrator comes home, and in a fit of alcoholic rage cuts an eye out of the black cat. The next morning, realising what he had done, the narrator felt guilty, so he went out and drank some more. He then hanged the black cat to condemn himself, because he had done something wrong. In his guilt he went out to drink and found another cat, also pitch back, except for a large white spot on its chest. Over time the narrator began to think that the white spot of the cat was changing shape, and the final form of the white spot is in the shape of the gallows. So the narrator later tries to kill the cat but his wife stops him. In his blind fury he kills the wife with an axe and puts her in the wall of his basement. After this he can not find the cat so he returns to his regular life, not having an ounce of guilt for the dead wife. Three days after the murder people notice that the wife is missing, and the police come to search for his wife. The narrator leads them around his house, finishing in the basement. The police don’t find anything, and in glee the narrator exclaims, “My house is so well-built” and taps on the wall that the wife is entombed in with a cane he was holding. A loud sound comes from inside the wall and soon the police are tearing down the wall, to reveal the dead wife, and the cat sitting on top of her. The narrator was taken to prison, presumably to be hanged.

Call it poetic justice.

So when reading this story I thought of a few things. The first being that the second cat is, most likely, a figure of imagination from the narrator, or it could possible be a tulpa. A tulpa is a story or being that if believed in by enough people, becomes real. The narrator might have imagined that the cat was real, and believed in it so strongly that it became real, wich is why the wife and police could see it. The narrator also believed that the shape of the white spot changes too, and therefore changed that aspect of the cat.

Themes of this story are probably, alcoholism and regret. Because the alcoholism drove the narrator mad, and he is guilty and regretful about the dead cat, that he imagines another, only to try to kill it too. He strangely has no regret over killing the wife, probably because of the insanity. This relates to Poe’s life, mainly because of the alcoholism, because he was an alcoholic.


The Woman in Black; A Jamesian Tale. By Cora.

SPOILER ALERT! If you havent seen “The Woman in Black” yet and don’t want to ruin it for yourself, do NOT read on!

A Jamesian tale is a ghost story that follows the guidelines that were stated by Monty R. James. The guidelines were mostly along the lines of, the story needs to be in a character-fulsetting, the main protagonist needs to be a nondescript gentleman, and the discovery of an antiquity which sets off the haunting. Another key aspect of the Jamesian guidelines is that the ghost be put in to the story slowly, then make itself more and more known to the protagonist, untill it presents itself fully. When asked the question of whether “The Woman in Black” follows the Jamesian tale guide, you first need to decide whether you are talking about the book or the movie.

The movie version of “The Woman in Black” is not very faithful to the book. In the beginning of the movie, the first scene is of three little girl playing with their toys and then suddenly getting up and jumping out of a window. The beginning of the book starts out after Arthur has finished with the ghost haunting and gotten married a second time. Another big difference is that the movie is in no way a Jamesian tale. The ghost makes itself known from the very beginning, because it is killing little children from scene one. The protagonist is also no longer a nondescript nieve gentleman, because his wife has died and now he is slightly bitter and morose, and shown from his son’s drawings. In the book Arthur is a man sent off on a job, he still has retained his innocence and nievety, because he has a fiance who is not dead and he is happily working at his job. The ghost scarcely makes itself known at first and then gradually shows more and more untill it has completely revealed itself. Another big difference is that in the book the ghost kills Arthur’s son and wife after he has left Eel Marsh, but in the Movie Arthur and his son are killed by a train because of the woman in black, and they are reunited with his wife. So in the end, “The Woman in Black” is both a Jamesian tale and not a Jamesian tale, if you are talking about the book. It follows the guidelines closely, but not fully. If the story in question is the movie version, then it is most definitely not a Jamesian tale.


The Woman in Black: A Jamesian Tale? *spoiler alert* By: Faye

A Jamesian tale has several key elements. These elements are plenty of characters, a naive gentlemen scholar as the main character, an old object that incites the wrath of the supernatural being, a strong atmosphere and crescendo, psychological twists, and that in the end of the experience the reader/watcher has learned a lesson. In The Woman in Black, the characters were plentiful but not, in all cases, well introduced. Many characters had quick, one-line inserts into the story that managed to have a very strong impact on the main character. The main character, Arthur Kipps, is a solicitor, meaning he is well-educated, and depending on whether we are discussing the book or movie, either has in innocence with the world or has suffered deeply by the loss of his wife during childbirth. This is what I refer back to with the ‘naive’ gentlemen scholar. In the movie, objects that incite the wrath of the mother-spirit are the rocking chair in the nursery and pictures of her sibling with her own child. The deceased spirit-woman lived in an area with a very strong atmosphere. Her house could only be accessed during certain periods of time because of the tides, it was dangerous because of the imminent danger of slipping and falling into quicksand, and also because of the fact that her house has its own personal graveyard especially for people of the Drablow heritage. Despite the many aspects of the book and movie that go hand in hand with each other, the crescendo, or build up, of the book and movie differ immensely. In the book, Arthur is immediately given signs that there is a bad spirit lurking around the house through the fact that he almost immediately hears a bumping or rocking sound coming from the nursery. Also, within the first few minutes of being within the house does he hear the sound (and only the sound) of the last few minutes of life for a pony trap that had not only a horse and driver but a small boy as passenger. However, in the book of The Woman in Black, the crescendo is much more smooth, with at first many of the local townspeople being very ominous and scared when talk of the Drablow house comes up. Every one is too scared to outright warn him of the house however, so Arthur makes his horrible journey. There he begins to notice the woman in black lurking around the house and eventually the bumping of the rocking chair and even later with the sound-but-not-sight of the scene of the pony trap going into quicksand. As you can tell from this difference that the overall psychological aspect of the book versus movie is quite changed, but I am able to pardon it because I assume they had to in order to make the movie more appealing to movie-goers. And the final aspect of a Jamesian tale, the idea that by the end of the movie or book, the audience will have received some warning or learned a lesson. I definitely believe that the book and movie achieved this because I personally was absolutely terrified of my house as well as any woman wearing even a single article in black! I guess for me the lesson wasn’t a real-life lesson like, “Don’t lie,” because really, the whole “warning” I got was to not live in a small village by a creepy old house that a legend states is haunted.

Overall, I would definitely say the book was absolutely a Jamesian tale, consisting of all the necessary elements, but that the movie was not. I say the movie was not because of how little the movie followed the book. The movie may have still had the same basic plot and character names, but the it had been changed too much by the directors for it to still be a Jamesian tale. The crescendo was all off, the character roles were adapted, the movie was very choppy while the book flowed very well, and several scenes had been inserted to the movie that were not at all in the book. However, I thought both reading and watching The Women in Black was a lot of fun and I recommend it to anyone who thinks they can handle the scare!

The Woman In Black **SPOILERS** by Grace

The Woman In Black movie poster.

The Woman In Black is in between 50% and 100% a Jamesian tale. It’s not fully a Jamesian tale, because it does not have an example of antaquarinism object. It does have the other factors though! It has a naive protagonist, in this case Arthur. He is also very curious, or bumbling. He is a business man from  London, all of these also characteristics of the protagonist of a Jamesian tale. It also has a character-ful setting-a sea-side/marsh-side small village in England. We were also introduced to many characters, although more so in the book rather than the movie. The book also has an excellent example of crescendo, not the musical kind though! The hauntings slowly build up from the malevolent spirit(another factor!) going from rocking a rocking chair/creaking floorboards to full-out killing children of the nearby town. Another example of this being a Jamesian tale is the atmosphere. It’s very gloomy and dreary, not very cheerful. You just have this sense of dread, that something bad is going to end up happening. So, as you can see, it’s closer to 100% a Jamesian tale rather than 50%, but still definitely bot 100%, because it’s not an object provoking the spirit, it’s a person seeing her apparition.

Now, on the subject of the movie following the book exactly? Definitely not-it changed details here and there. It kept the same story line, but in the movie the wife died in the beginning, not the end. Also, it didn’t keep the whole reason why Arthur ‘told’ his story, because the way the movie ended forbid  that. *MAJOR SPOILER* In the end of the book, it had Arthur’s first wife and child dying, while in the movie it had Arthur and his son dying, and then meeting his wife in Heaven. They also cut out the dog near drowning in the marsh, which I don’t really mind. That part was sad. They also changed the beginning. In the book, it was Christmas Eve year s into the future, while in the beginning of the movie it showed three little girls killing themselves because of The Woman In Black. They also changed details such as in the book Arthur just heard the pony and trap going into the marsh and the child’s scream, while in the movie it actually showed the scenes that went with it. They also changed how Arthur got the dog. In the movie, the dog just kind of showed up, and wasn’t given a name. In the book, however, the dog’s name was Spider and was given to him by Mr. Daily. Also, when Arthur met with the Daily’s for dinner, Arthur never stayed after dinner, there was no ‘picture carving’ on the table, Mrs. Daily never got possessed, and two dogs didn’t eat with them. Many details were changed, although it didn’t necessarily make the movie better or worse than the book, although I enjoyed the book more, less jumping at that! The detail changes did make it more interesting at times, and really freaky at others. So, just because the movie was more of a ‘creative interpretation’ of the book, it still followed the story line well and kept the same characters. It also kept many details the same. All in all, no, the book was not followed exactly, but it definitely made the movie a whole lot scarier and more interesting or less interesting at parts!!

The book and movie are both very good-I suggest if you haven’t seen or read one, you should. It’s a very nice Jamesian/Gothic tale, with twists you definitely do not expect!!