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Today's class discussion ended with Mr. Chisnell presenting this word, "obfuscation", which means writing with the intent to be unclear and confusing. I wanted to expand more on this technique, especially how it is playing out in the book. What are your thoughts about this technique? What exactly is the purpose of making the writing confusing? Perhaps it is to say more about the narrator rather than the author, for we did bring up that there is a very big difference between the two. The book is definitely packed with complicated ideas, but it seems the confusing nature of the story is less about the events that take place and more about the narrator? So if that is true, why isn't she clear? Does it add to the horror of the story if she is unclear somehow? I'd like to hear what you guys think about this word, "obfuscation", whether you find specific parts of the novel it is used and what you think the technique achieves, or even if you have seen this technique played out in another piece!
I, too, looked this up after class. I haven't gotten too far into the book yet but I liked your question,
why isn't she clear? Does it add to the horror of the story if she is unclear somehow?
I think that for us, it does add to the horror. But, I think that this may naturally happen as a person goes through traumatic experiences. It's hard for me to tell if this is obfuscation & intentional or if her experiences dulled her more and more. Again, I haven't read further but once I do I will be excited to come back to this post to discuss it more
@savhoisington - I think it does add to the horror a little bit. I too, am not super far in the book, but I remember when I first started reading getting super worried because I was having so much trouble understanding each sentence. There where so many interjections that it was often difficult to understand what the sentences were saying. Before class today, I did not really thing to see this as an intentional thing, I just thought that this writing was just how they wrote back then. I am interested to see where this forum goes.
@savhoisington I thought this same thing about this intentional style (and by this I mean the intention of the author, not the governess). She most certainly has experienced some other-worldly, horrific things and has lived through them with these past times engraved in her head. With this memories haunting her, obfuscation makes sense with the utter horror depicted through her story. The sentences that are slightly more foggy and confusing are surrounded with dialogue and accounts of spirits, ghosts, and very unnatural events.
I agree that it definitely adds to the horror a bit. I think we naturally try to find a clear meaning while we read, and when we can't seem to do so we get a little uneasy. That being said, I also think part of this technique is also to leave us with multiple different possibilities of meaning, and leave us wondering which one it could be. I haven't gotten far in the book myself, but I wonder how this technique will impact the later chapters of the book.
@persephone I had the same thought about obfuscation leaving an opening for more perspectives of what the governess means. With her giving an account of her experiences after they happened, it also seems that it is more convoluted because she does not want to directly state what happened to her. We see this shift with how she originally view the children as innocent and pure, but alludes in her obfuscation to the fact that later they are tainted by the horrors of those such as Quint and Miss Jessel.
@abuzz I agree that it is may be more horrifying feeling that the governess is trying to go around what she is talking about, like the thing is so horrible she can't even speak of it. This leaves it up to the reader and their imagination. When one does not specifically state what it is they have experienced, the reader is then able to amplify the horror with their imagination. I have not seen any of the adaptation of this book but this is probably why they have given this book justice-it seems like it would difficult to capture the obfuscation of this book into another form. Has anyone seen obfuscation played out using another media, such as in film? Or perhaps another novel?
I also liked how @persephone added that when we don't know the clear and direct answer it tends to make us feel uneasy. All the responses have been great so far!
@persephone I think so too! I think that when things are not told to the reader, whether it is intentional or not, the reader is forced to imagine what happened on their own. Knowing that this is a ghost story, many readers would imagine something scary, possibly more scary than the reality that is happening, which adds to the horror of the story.
@aplitstudent123 I think doing this is a smart writing choice in the fact that it lets readers picture for themselves the worst thing that could have happened. In doing so it let's the reader feel more grief for the kids.
I think using this tactic as a writer requires the reader to feel more drawn to it. If they are confused about the book, they’ll want to figure it out more. This draws more readers to the writing itself, as it leaves for more theories and/or themes to decipher in the piece. I think that makes for a much more enticing story.
Obfuscation, to me, can also be used to string along multiple aspects of a piece in an effort to make it more complex. A complex writing piece makes for a piece that can be expanded upon in terms of reading. This allows wiggle room for multiple storylines in a piece. It may seem to others like too much is going on, but that’s how the reader may intend it to be.
In my opinion, obfuscation symbolizes a really powerful trend throughout this book. Like @gil stated, obfuscation is writing with the intent of confusing the audience. As frustrating as this can be for me personally as a reader (trying to understand the plot/themes of the book), I truly believe that this is a powerful literary strategy. I think reading books that are written with this intent can be a really curious thing, as the reader is left to formulate their own unique opinions and interpretations in their minds. A book containing no intended obfuscation may have a very clear and powerful theme, but each reader would interpret it somewhat in the same manner. Books like Turn of the Screw provide a lot more room for discussion and healthy debate, as each and every reader may have different (but equally correct) thoughts regarding the storyline taking place. I wonder, does anyone else find themselves getting frustrated attempting to read literature like this, or do you enjoy the challenge of trying to interpret the authors intent?
@abuzz The idea of not directly stating the horror reminds me of earlier on in the book when she is told that Miles was kicked out of school, but they wouldn't even tell her why. Why would that be? What could he have possibly done that is so bad that not only was he expelled (especially as young as he is), but they school won't even tell her what it is! If it is something so unspeakable, it must be absolutely horrible. Similarly, if she won't explicitly lay anything out and is so unclear about her writing, it leaves the reader wondering what is so horrible about her experiences.
I think the idea stated in the original post that the story being more about the narrator than the actual events is really important relating to obfuscation. As we discussed in class, the governess is portrayed as very emotional and dramatic, what could be described as "hysterical". So the fact that she is very unclear adds to her hysterical nature. She can't get straight to the point, and her mind is kind of everywhere... maybe a bit frazzled? I think that aspect of her storytelling adds to the hysterical part of it. It seems like another detail that shows that part of her, just presented in another way that is possibly more subtle.
I think a lot of this has to do with a single perspective in which the story is seen through. it is seen through the perspective of the governess so we see from her own personal writing so we only have the information which the governess provides us. so the point of chisells point was to show that it is a bit more complexed than what the governess provides us
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