Henry James stated that TTOTS was a potboiler, meant only to be perceived as a simple ghost story which in the Victorian era was how it was originally accepted. However a more modern audience ay interpret the novella as something more.
Relating back to the idea of a simple ghost story, the novella starts with a typical ghost story setting The story had held us, round the fire emphasised by the description of the house being gruesome and it being Christmas Eve informing us that it is night time. All are contributing factors to an ideal ghost story and all of these points start to build the tension and suspense up already within the first few lines. Held us, round the fire tells us how they are clinging to this materialistic substance for comfort and warmth, typical connotations of fire.
Use of language such as dreadful and terror increases this sense of a greater impending ghost story that of which we hear about the Governess. Moreover this sets the mood and creates the atmosphere for the audience to fully appreciate the horror of this ghost story. In addition, the idea of them telling ghost stories gives us an immediate impression that there is a ghost story awaiting the audience. The use of more dramatic language such as for sheer terror? and for dreadful dreadfulness start the steep incline of suspense and tension we will feel throughout the story.
The idea of authenticity throughout this novella is key for the audience to focus on. To increase this idea of the story being real, James uses a framed narrative to draw the reader in to believe that the tale is true. Overall the story could succeed without the prologue but with it, the audience is a lot more likely to proceed through the book with an idea or reality. The main character in the prologue, Douglas, tells the unnamed narrator and the rest of the group of a ghost story much worse than any that have been told.
If the child gives the effect of another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children ? Obviously hinting that his tale contains two children, increasing the horror the audience are now sure that they are reading a simple ghost story. However this idea can be argued as we continue throughout the prologue and the first chapter. We learn that about the Governess, moreover, we learn Douglas opinion of her. Is in old faded ink and in the most beautiful hand. From this we can interpret that Douglas may be fond or possibly in love with the Governess making his opinion biased thus taking away from the reliability of the story.
The use of characters in the prologue almost acts as a metaphor for the reader. Everybody will stay! and I will and I will! could be used to represent how James wants the reader to react to reading the actual ghost story.
Straight away in the first chapter we learn about how the governess suffered a succession of flights and drops. Already we start to suspect the volatility of her and the reliability of her tale which obviously argues against the idea of it being a simple ghost story and starts to lay down the foundation for the idea that there may be undercurrents of something more suspect. However her description of Bly is incredibly positive. A lovely day, summer sweetness and a friendly surprise are all used in one sentence and all are incredibly optimistic, giving us the idea that the governess is a very positive person.
However she does seem to be very hyperbolic, describing the first child, Flora, as one of Raphaels holy infants. Obviously this is taking it to extremes, which hints that this might not be the only thing that she is exaggerating throughout the novella. Towards the end of chapter one, she describes parts of the house with language such as empty chambers, dull corridors and crooked staircase al of which are very negative descriptions, however she immediately starts to describe the house as a castle of romance and something from a story book. Moreover, as she is peppering her negative quotes with positive and vice versa massively showing her incredible volatility. This is a major idea that the rest of the story may be exaggerated or maybe not even true. This could also foreshadow her personality later on into the novella.
Throughout the chapters the language of Mrs Grose becomes increasingly questionable. As an audience we are constantly told that she is simple-minded however she sees to know a lot more than she is letting on. Are you afraid hell corrupt you? This is odd as she is talking about Miles, a ten year old boy. This make the audience think, how can a young child corrupt a fully grown woman? Leading us on to thin she may be talking about somebody else.
As we progress through the story we learn about the Governesss sexual frustration toward the master. Accompanying this idea is that she sees the apparition of Peter Quint upon the tower. This is could imply that she is projecting her sexual frustration onto an imaginary figure as a release to wanting to see the master. A charming story suddenly to meet someone and later He did stand there! She only sees this figure stood there when she is imagining the master, a suspicious idea that the reader may look into. The man who met my eyes was not the person I precipitately supposed. This quote backs up my previous point of the projecting this idea of meeting the master on her walks.
During these first few chapters we experience a reasonable amount of religious language, Raphaels holy infants, divine and he has red hair these all imply ideas of how the plot is affected by the religious aspects of the Victorian era and their views on ghosts. As they did believe in ghosts and were mainly very religious, these ideas were accepted avidly and only increased any emotions felt within the Victorian reader as they progressed through the story.
Overall, my personal views are that there are underlying psychological ideas in TTOTS and that although it can be read as a straight ghost story, to fully appreciate the novella the reader must delve deeper and retrieve any obvious ideas that suggest more than just a typical ghost story. James uses a variety of techniques which make his characters seem a lot more emotional deeper than just a person who is afraid in a big house. However the idea of authenticity throughout does back up the point of it being a straight ghost story. I do believe that it is a mazed reader and can be open to a variety of interpretations.