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The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Novels (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – September 4, 2007
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About the Author
Henry James (1843–1916) spent his early life in America but often traveled with his celebrated family to Europe. After briefly attending Harvard, he began to contribute both criticism and tales to magazines. Later, he visited Europe and began Roderick Hudson. Late in 1875, he settled in Paris, where he met Turgenev, Flaubert, and Zola and wrote The American. In 1876, he moved to London, where two years later he achieved international fame with Daisy Miller. His other famous works include The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Princess Casamassma (1886), The Wings of the Dove (1902), and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1915, a few months before his death, he became a British subject.
Fred Kaplan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of The Singular Mark Twain, A Biography; Gore Vidal, A Biography; Henry James, The Imagination of Genius and Charles Dickens, A Biography. His Thomas Carlyle was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and was a jury-nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Other works include Sacred Tears: Sentimentality in Victorian Literature, Dickens and Mesmerism: the Hidden Spring of Fiction, and Miracles of Rare Device: The Poet’s Sense of Self in Nineteenth-Century Poetry.
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The story is a woman's narrative of her haunted surroundings and her duty to protect the children she is to care for. While some author's would focus on scenery or character, this story focuses, obsessively so, on the narrator's thoughts, examinations, and speculations – almost akin to Poe.
The story told is ultimately satisfying and rewarding. I would guess the book would lend itself well to a second reading because it is complex in its ambiguities and subtleties.
Dr Sloper is a doctor who I wouldn't want to encounter while Ill. He is worse off then Ebenezer Scrooge before meeting the three ghosts of Christmas. He has a daughter Catherine who he has no love or compassion for. It seems to this reader that he doesn't have any use for the female gender at all. If the adage that writers write what they know best is true. Then my impression with this book is that Mr James' was himself sexist to a degree that certainly put this female reader off this book. There were a few other of his works that are among my TBR pile that I'm now skeptical about enjoying reading them.
Catherine Sloper is a motherless young girl whose left to her widowed aunt to oversee her coming out into society as her father is a well to do doctor . Her aunt however was married to a minister and has developed a eccentric style along with a flare fore romantic drama. I won't spoil the storyline for those wishing to take a stab at this book for themselves even though I couldn't recommend it.
In reading the book, I was able to understand more about Catherine's father and why he acted the way he did towards her. It humanized him much more than the movie did and he was a more sympathetic character in the book than in the movie. I think he had something like a god-complex, but he did realize the deficiencies in Catherine's makeup and it distressed him greatly as he realized she would never become the type of daughterhh
Morris Townsend is a fortune hunter who is in liaison with Catherine's aunt Lavinia who is scheming and plotting for her niece to marry Morris even though it is plain to see that Morris only wants the girl's money. Lavinia and Morris meet in secret quite a bit during this story to plan out how he will win Catherine and how to scheme for him to see her while her father is out of the house. It seems to be the only time Morris visits during the story. Lavinia doesn't change during the story she plots and schemes to the very end. Catherine has another aunt named Elizabeth who is basically a bystander in Catherine's life she really doesn't have much to contribute to the story and I'm not sure why she is even a character.
Catherine meets Morris at an evening party. She talks with him awhile and he appears to be gentlemen but most appearances can be deceiving. Morris asks if he can call on her which he does and so begins his courtship of Catherine. He gains Catherine's trust little by little and avoids Dr. Sloper whenever possible. Morris plays on Catherine's emotions knowing full well that there is an emotional disconnect with her father. He proposes marriage and when Catherine tells her father. Dr. Sloper tries to shut it down by asking his daughter to tour Europe for a few months with him. Dr. Sloper thinks that with time away and no contact with Morris that his daughter will give up the fortune hunter. Well unbeknownst to Dr. Sloper his sister Lavinia is passing correspondence between Morris and Catherine basically undoing all that he has tried to accomplish and when he finds out there is hell to pay. While in Europe her father takes her out on a drive far and away out in gods nowhere and casually threatens to leave her there saying that she's a sheep to slaughter anyway. Well Catherine doesn't back down from her father. Their rift is now larger than it was before their trip to Europe and neither one of them will relent which causes more hurt feelings on both sides.
After Catherine's long trip to Europe has ended she comes home to Morris. Morris has other ideas since her father will not give in then he is bowing out. Since he can not gain Catherine fortune through marriage he decides to give her the push. He tells her some lame excuse like I don't want to cause more problems with your father. So he leaves her to go else where. Catherine is so hurt by this that she actually goes to find him at his sisters and is turned away. The poor thing is actually begging it was so sad. After a bit she starts to receive letters from Morris as I suppose his type of closure to her but she doesn't respond back to him. One day after a number of years have passed and Catherine is older her father has died and she's alone taking care of her Aunt Lavinia. Well Lavinia hasn't finished scheming because she has invited Morris to call on Catherine. Morris returns trying to make a Roger Clemens style come back saying that he has always loved her and wants her back. Catherine is cold, cynical, bitter and far from being played like the school girl she was. Catherine tells him basically to hit the road and don't darken her doorstep again. Then she proceeds to set back down in her chair and go back to her knitting like nothing happen. Morris is upset and as he walks out Lavinia follows him and you can see that Morris hasn't changed by his attitude. Morris isn't happy to learn that Lavinia tricked him into coming to the house. I assume during their last secret meeting that Lavinia must have suggested Catherine still cared for him. Well he found out just how little she does care for him which is "not a button" as he put it.