James has created a novel that is made increasingly horrific by the use of the tension and suspense in the book. One of these moments of tension and suspense is after the governess, who is the reader’s narrator, has had her first encounter with the ghost of Quint. When she met the ghost she did not know that it was a ghost she beheld and the moment I have chosen is the instant that she finds out that Quint is in fact dead. Mrs. Grose’s revelation that, “Yes. Mr. Quint is dead”, is a short sentence that increases the suspense of the moment as the reader wants more information about the death and about Quint-but this isn’t given.
This line is situated at the end of a chapter giving it the added effect of it being a cliffhanger and nothing more being said in the conversation. Even when the next chapter is started the conversation is not carried on and no more reference is made to the startling exposure of the death. The effect of this on the reader is that they have to make their own assumption of what exactly Quint is like, as they are not given enough information to have a full idea. This means that when they find out more information later on they will still have the first idea they formed in their head that will be scarier to them than anything that James could write himself.
Right before the remark is made the governess has already figured out the secret and “almost shrieked” when she realized. The use of this word to describe her reaction gives the moment an almost ghostly image as the sound of a shriek is often placed with a tormented ghost. Using this word also emphasizes the horror and shock of the moment as she realizes that she has just had a confrontation with a ghost. James consciously repeats this word towards the end, when Miles is frightened by the ghost, or by the governess, by repeating the word it re-emphasizes the horror of both moments. It also shows the influence of the governess on Miles, as by the end of their time together he has took on her characteristics.
The prologue to the novel is filled with many promises about what the story is going to contain, causing many moments of tension and suspense. It makes the reader anticipate strongly the novel but it also tells them that even by the end of the novel they aren’t going to know exactly what has happened. This is shown when Douglas, the man who has the manuscript in his possession and the only person at the party who has read the story says, ” The story won’t tell. Not in any literal or vulgar way.” This shows that to enhance the quality of suspense James closes the novel without explaining the happenings or solving the mystery. The readers are made to guess and form their own opinions. They are compelled by Henry James to think and speculate instead of accepting his conclusion blindly.
Suspense is also encouraged when the party finds out about the death of the previous governess, which also adds to the horror by showing that James is prepared to slay people in this story and prepares us for the further deaths that are to come. When the gathering start to wonder about how the previous governess, Miss Jessel, died they are given the rather suspenseful answer “That will come out. I don’t anticipate.” Douglas also tells us off the horror of the story; making the reader anxious about the story, when trying to explain why the story is so horrifying he uses the words “For general uncanny ugliness and horror and pain.” All of these promises and warnings increase the readers’ urge to read the story and help to keep the suspense built up during the actual story itself while they are waiting for the ghastly things to happen.
One of the moments in the book increases the horror, tension and suspense of the book. This moment happens at the end of a chapter, giving it the increased suspense of being a cliffhanger. The moment I have chosen is when the governess is plunged into her final horror and despair and loudly sobs ” I don’t save or shield them! It’s far worse than I dreamed – they’re lost!” This moment is took to mean that the children’s souls are lost to the ghosts, but it is debatable about whether all of this is just because of her crazy state of mind.
This moment creates suspense as the reader wonders how exactly they are lost, and whether they actually are. It creates horror as the Victorians at the time of the writing of this book would of found the idea of a soul being damned, or lost extremely horrifying as they were very religious. It would have been made more horrifying by the fact that it was a child’s soul that should still be innocent and pure. They believed that the soul was the one thing that carried on after death, and having this damned meant that it could not carry on existing, which was a terrible thought.
A horrifying moment in the book is when the governess realizes that Flora has deceived her. Flora had to pretend that she didn’t see the ghost when she was with the governess and the fact that a child as young as eight can keep a secret from an adult is a very unnatural characteristic. “She kept it to herself! The child of eight, that child!” The abnormality of this links her even more closely with the ghosts. To a modern audience this might not seem so shocking but children back in the time of when the book was written were a lot primmer and it would have been a great shock to find a child keeping a secret. The detail that Flora didn’t tell implies that she has seen it all before and that she is used to seeing the ghosts. This proposition that the ghosts are part of Flora’s life is truthfully appalling.
One of the most dreadful moments in the book occurs after the governess has had her first close encounter with Miss Jessel, when she claims she had conversed with the apparition. The governess is describing this event to Mrs Grose, tell her everything that Miss Jessel said, including the most appalling moment of the invented confrontation in which Miss Jessel supposedly told her that she suffers the torments of the lost and of the damned and that she wants to share them. ” ‘To share them-‘ I faltered myself with the horror of it. But my companion, with less imagination, kept me up. ‘ To share them -?’ ‘She wants Flora.'” The governess herself falters with horror when she realises what the thoughts she has had amount to. The thought that a ghost wants to share the suffering of demons with an angelic eight-year-old girl is a truly awful one. The idea of what Miss Jessel wants to share, the torments “Of the lost. Of the damned” would have held great meaning for the people of when the book was written, who were very religious.
The ambiguity presented in the story is mainly shown in the question of whether the governess is delusional or not. Some readers believe that she is a conscientious employee, attempting to serve her employer and perform her duties in the face of enormous strain. She has viewed horrors that would make most people desert their post to save themselves but she was devoted to shielding her charges from the threat of evil at any cost to herself. For these readers, the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel do exist and the children are possessed by them and the ghosts are trying to turn their innocent minds and pure souls into places where evil is stored and nurtured.
Other readers believe that she is suffering from the effect of many past grievances and of the isolation she is in at Bly and this is what I believe. The ghosts were not real and that they were actually just hallucinations from inside the governesses mind. These hallucinations originated from the fact that she is isolated at Bly with no one she can unburden herself onto. There are hints in the book that she wasn’t in a completely normal state of mind before she came to Bly, this could have been caused by her upbringing.
The hints in the book that show she had a hard childhood “as well as many particulars of the eccentric nature of my father, of the furniture and arrangement of our house, and of the conversation of the old women of our village” this implies that she grew up in an unstable environment which could have added to the troubles that cause her to start hallucinating. We learn in the book that the Uncle who hired her is not very concerned about the children, meaning that he would not of took the time to interview the governess properly before she got the job. This could explain how she managed to get the position in an already unstable mentality.
The fact that the characters Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are envisioned by the governess and are not real people means that the feelings the ghosts impose on the governess have to of come from the governess’ feelings. Therefore, when the governess feels that Quint is trying to get Miles and that she must protect him, which concludes in her killing Miles, she is really sensing her own feelings and acting on her own chaotic urges.