The Turn of the Screw

by Henry James
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In Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, how does the presence of multiple narrators contribute to the meaning of the story?

The presence of multiple narrators in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw allows first for the development of a frame story that draws readers in and raises their interest. Then the narration shifts to the governess's point of view so that she can tell her own story with authority in all its vivid and intense detail.

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In The Turn of the Screw, Henry James uses multiple narrators to set up a frame story and then to allow one of the main characters to speak in her own voice.

The story begins at a bit of a distance with an unnamed narrator who is writing in the first person. He is a guest at a holiday party, and the company is discussing ghost stories. Another guest by the name of Douglas says he will have a fine one to relate when he receives a manuscript the very next day that contains the story of his sister's governess and her experiences in a previous position.

This introduction sets up a frame narrative and raises readers' interest and expectations. Readers, like the narrator and the other guests, are eager to hear this ghost story about which Douglas drops a few tantalizing hints. We now want to know more. We have been set up, and now we're hooked.

Then the story shifts to the manuscript in which the governess herself tells of her experiences from her own point of view. This is much more effective than if the author had allowed Douglas to relate the tale, because it provides a sense of immediacy. The governess is at the very center of the events, and her voice carries authority. She has lived what she is describing, and she is in the perfect position to provide all the vivid, horrifying details. The story would not be nearly as intense if it were told in another voice.

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