How does douglas, the person in possession of the ghost story to be told, view the story?

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nascherme eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry James's novel, The Turn of The Screw, is a frame story; however, the action never returns where it begins. It begins, of course, in a home during the winter as a group of people, tickled by the ideas of ghost stories, wait for Douglas to relate his story. The crowd had recently been entertained by a ghost story that involved a child and Douglas intrigues them even further by saying he will tell a story that involves not one, but two, children. 

The guests are fascinated and seem to view the stories as more of a thrill and amusement. However, Douglas is more reserved than the other guests. He does not jump into telling his story. It has been written down, by a woman and given to him, locked in a desk drawer in town, and sends away for it, delaying the story to the dismay of the other guests.

But how exactly does Douglas view the story? He says that nobody else had ever heard the story because "It's too terrible" (James, 115). When asked if the record is his he points to his heart and says that the impression is there, that he has never lost it (James, 116). This signifies that the story has had a lasting effect on Douglas, it's a tale that he cannot rid himself of, an incident that he struggles to fully understand. 

The final lines of the prologue describe Douglas's reading as "a rendering to the ear of the beauty of the author's hand" (James, 121). This is a distinct difference from the way that the other guests treated the ghost stories (with amusement and jolly). Douglas respects the author of the story, respects the characters, and feels connected with the events. 

The point of view in the novel can be a little tricky. Douglas tells us that he did not write down the story. The ideas and the words are not his. So he is simply a third person narrator. But in the prologue, we also have the use of "us" and "I." This is not Douglas, but is another guest, relating the events that took place during the telling of the ghost stories and this is a first person narrator. So our first person narrator is telling us about the incidents in which Douglas, our third person narrator, is about to tell a story written by someone else. The story, of course, is written by a woman, not Douglas, and she is a first person narrator who describes what she observes of the actions and emotions of the other characters. 

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The Turn of the Screw

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