A young, inexperienced governess is charged with the care of Miles and Flora, two small children abandoned by their uncles at his grand country house. She sees the figure of an unknown man on the tower and his face at the window. It is Peter Quint, the master's dissolute valet, and he has come for little Miles. But Peter Quint is dead.
Like the other tales collected here - `Sir Edmund Orme', `Owen Wingrave', and `The Friends of the Friends' - `The Turn of the Screw' is to all immediate appearances a ghost story. But are the appearances what they seem? Is what appears to the governess a ghost or a hallucination? Who else sees what she sees? The reader may wonder whether the children are victims of corruption from beyond the grave, or victims of the governess's `infernal imagination', which torments but also entrals her?
`The Turn of the Screw' is probably the most famous, certainly the most eerily equivocal, of all ghostly tales. Is it a subtle, self-conscious exploration of the haunted house of Victorian culture, filled with echoes of sexual and social unease? Or is it simply, `the most hopelessly evil story that we have ever read'?
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Henry James, 1843-1916, American novelist, playwright, essayist and critic, he remains one of the most influential literary figures writing at the turn of the century.