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During our first class discussion on Turn of the Screw it was brought up that the structure of this book is quite unique in that it is set up to be a storyteller reading the written account of the governess's horrors. This is unlike other gothic horror stories for this reason. The question brought up was what is more believable when it comes to storytelling. Some read from a primary source such as Douglas reading the governess's account while others tell a story from memory. What are your thoughts about these ideas and what would make you believe a story to be true?
I think a lot is left out of the story and until more is cleared up it is up to the reader to decipher what happened to the kids, and what the true intention of the governess is. What happened in her past, and what brought her to this moment.
It does seem like a bizarre concept- as people, we know a fiction book isn't true, but when we start with fictional characters telling us it is real, it feels like it is. Logically, that makes just about no sense. However I think by setting the story up this way, it makes one more engulfed in the story. Most everyone has experienced being crowded around a fire telling stories and James makes the reader a part of the circle in the prologue. The prologue gets one more invested into this world, and provides a feeling of realness about the journal and believability about the governess, Bly manor, and the ghosts. I remember Mr. Chisnell brought up how some characters around the fire say that they knew the governess or had some kind of connection to the story, which somehow makes it the story feel more believable. Instead of opening the book and thinking, okay this is a fiction book with made up characters, not real at all-I feel like thinking of the story as a journal that a man owns and is showing his guests gives the journal, and thus the story, more depth. It's like how a lie is more believable with lots of details. The journal is more believable when we have all this background around it shown to us in the prologue.
@gil I think the opening of the book makes the story less reliable, not more. Even though the story was :written down" by Douglas' sister's governess, by opening the main story with another story about Douglas, the main story takes on an air of a tall tale. If I was listening to someone tell this ghost story in real life I would not believe them, and if they had to get the original written form of the story I would assume it was all theatrics, and I think that is the purpose of introducing the story in this way, so that the reader starts to question it.
This is similar to what other people have already said, but by putting it in writing, she is able to get in more details because she is taking time to remember everything and formulate a story about everything that has happened, and she isn't trying to rush through everything because she might be short on time or the person to whom she is telling the story might get annoyed or bored with a long story. She also is probably less likely to fabricate details rather than in the heat of the moment when she is telling someone else to try to get them to believe her. Articles are seen as more reliable because (at least it appears) more time, and therefore research and deliberation over every detail, goes into writing it compared to a friend, family member, or acquaintance telling you about something they heard or read "somewhere". Also, by writing it out, she isn't standing in front of someone trying to convince him or her that she is telling the truth. She is simply writing her experiences as she experienced them, and she has no indication while she is writing them if they sound believable. She was practically talking to herself, so why would she need to try to hard to convince herself? I think it also exhibits credibility because with written word, details don't change over time (they can, of course, be changed over time, but they don't change themselves over time). But if it was a story that had been passed down through campfire sessions, details would be forgotten, left out, and confabulated.
Thinking about what @leinweber said, I'm beginning to wonder if the importance of making the story sound reliable is a question of "Did this really happen?" or "Does the governess really believe this happened?" Because whether or not it happened, I think it's quite clear that she at least believes it did. In another topic, we were talking about whether or not the ghosts are actually real, or if the governess created them in her mind, since there is no evidence to show that anyone else has seen the ghosts. So whether or not it being written down makes it more believable that it happened, I think it makes the source more reliable that she thinks it happened. That she isn't lying, and that the story hasn't been changed over time. Which would then tie into what we were talking about in class and in the other forum topic. Is this really happening, or is she "hysterical" and creating ghosts inside her own head?
@Nicole This is a really good point. I definitely think that when interpreting the story, we as readers need to look at it from two different view points: that of how the governess believes the world around her is, and how it realistically might be. If we simply brush off everything the governess says as "made up", then we are bound to miss important points and plot lines in the story. But, if we simply go off everything she states/believes to be true, we'd be a bit foolish. I think the interesting part of this book is trying to decipher what's really true and what is just formulating in the governess' head, regardless of if she thinks it's really the truth or not.
I think that the way the storytelling is presented in the story is super interesting. I brought it up in my class is that the way the story is told I feel as if it is similar to a found footage film like the Blair witch project. I think that the story begins with Douglas talking about how the story is something that he had found. It gives the story a sense of more authenticity and is like it could be true. I kinda think that it is the same reason that many authors and directors will but based on a true story. It is so that people will want to dive in a figure out what the story actually is. Also, we can already guess what the fate of the governess is something that can excite readers. As we know that it was written in a newspaper so that it is kinda written like a TV show
The way this story is set in that story telling way is pretty neat. To be able to tell a good story you need reactions and I would say some evidence to build up trust. The evidence and reactions from others is a big deal. We as humans usually have an empathetic response to others whether it be a shallow or impactful response we will feel something when others reveal some intense emotion. That just allows us to see how much the story has swayed the other person. With that increased sense of honesty towards the story teller evidence just closes the deal. We can see how others react in the beginning of the novel and then we see evidence to the story being told, that evidence being that primary source of writing.
@mangoman With this story we see a lot of dead ends when it comes to explaining ideas. Many things were left unexplained in the beginning, which got us to infer a bit. As the story goes on most of those dead ends are explained. The Governess seems to drop important background info when she deems necessary. This might have to do with the writing style as a whole. The writing style is basically described as the action of making something obscure and unclear. Its a little different in style but the important info is bound to shed throughout the story.
In my opinion memory can be lost over time, or even get mixed up and the story might change. I myself always like to go with written accounts because they always seem to have the most accurate data. Now when it comes to the governess I don't know yet if her accounts are from memory or if Douglas has written accounts of her horrors. I feel as though the book is being told as if we are reading from the governess's private diary, seeing her life from before the children, during, and after which is very interesting to me.
I thought the way that the story is told from the writing of the governess is really interesting and adds more to the story had it been told differently. One reason for this is that we can see some of the governess's thoughts as she reflects on the events she writes about. Throughout the book, she foreshadows and thinks back on the nature of her relationships with the children. The fact that the account had been written sometime after the governess's time at Bly, it is possible that the account could be not completely accurate.
I agree that the story was set up cleverly. Having it being read off as a first-hand account does add to the trusting that it is true. But, beyond that, knowing that the governess had died before reading the story definitely added to it as well. It was established in the prologue that the cause of her death was unknown and that was very close to the situation that the previous governesses had been in considering their deaths. It was all set up very well in the prologue for the reader to believe the governess's account
@stella, I agree with the part about it not being completely accurate. When I realized that she was writing it after she was at Bly I realized that a lot of her thoughts and emotions could potentially be skewed. No one can remember a long period of time like that perfectly. But I find the way it was written super interesting because it's a first hand view of what it was like to be the governess at Bly. We will also never know what aspects of the book are skewed or completely accurate which is weird to me.
@xwing37 I would agree with you as well as @stella on this point. I think that this story, despite being a first hand account is not completely accurate, but accurate enough that we can take trust most of it. You mention that it is hard to remember a story when it happened so long ago, however this is not just some normal story. I see this going one of two ways. Either this story is more accurate than we think because it is something so strange that happened. Usually when something weird happens we remember that more than when something normal happens. Or, the other way I see it is that the Governess was very disturbed and she was kind of going mad and most of this story has been made up by her.
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