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The Turn of the Screw is a story written in 1898 and from a governess’ point of view. In the main story the governess thinks the two children she is caring for are under the evil influence of two ghosts, Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. What we would expect from an opening to a ghost story written in 1898 is to be launched straight into the plot. We would expect this because this grips the reader’s attention and makes you want to read on. We would also expect the setting to be introduced because this makes you become involved in the story.
We would expect the language to be complex because this is the style that was used in the eighteen hundreds. We would expect the characters to be introduced and to become real to the reader. We would expect this because the reader will not believe in the characters if they do not seem realistic. We would also expect atmosphere to be created because this prepares the reader for a ghost story and makes the reader feel part of the story. We would also expect tension to be created because this makes us want to read on.
The Turn of the Screw is in some ways typical of an opening to a ghost story written in the eighteen hundreds because the style is complex: for the first sentence, which is long, dense and contains four conjunctions. This however suits the Turn of the Screw because it mirrors the complexity of the story. Similarly the Turn of the Screw is typical of an opening to a ghost story because atmosphere is created. There is a sinister feel created; this is because it is set ‘on Christmas Eve in an old house’.
This prepares us for a ghost story that is about to be told. The group of strangers is sat ’round the fire’ in an old fashioned house. This gives the impression of a traditional setting for telling ghost stories. The fact that it is a group of strangers also makes it seem spookier. The atmosphere is emphasised when the members of the group pick up their candlesticks before they go to bed. This adds to the feeling that everything is very old fashioned and spooky.
This is in keeping with ghost stories as they are usually set in old fashioned and have spooky atmosphere to them especially the setting. It also lets you imagine the scene of flickering candles in an old fashioned house. When Douglas goes up to bed the rest of the group ‘heard his step on the stair’. This gives the reader the impression that Douglas’ footsteps are echoing through ‘the great brown hall’. This adds to the atmosphere because the footsteps are echoing and spooky. The great brown hall also adds to the idea of the old fashioned house.