Literary Analysis and Methods

Course blog for Stockton's LAM/ILS courses

Posts Tagged ‘psychological exploration

The Uncanny is Fun, to an Extent

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Freud had the right idea with the uncanny being frightening, as there is something within the human character that fears the unknown.  All children go through the phase where they are afraid of the dark, not necessarily because they believe in monsters, but because they do not know what lies in the shadows.  In fact, just about every fear originates from the question “What if…?” in a setting of perceived potiential danger.  What if that snake attacked me?  What if the plane crashes?  What if the doors won’t open?  What if there is a deadly virus on that surface?  Again, all these phobias are from fear of the uncertain.

This is evident in the methods used by stories, particularly in movies.  How many horror movies do you see that are in the middle of the night?  The few that are in daylight, “Jaws” being a primary example, still use elements of the hidden and unexpected.  In The Turn of the Screw,Henry James jumps on the bandwagon of the uncanny in the dark, as well as using children for their unpredictable points of view.  The ghosts appear in settings of obscurity, and the children are portrayed as hiding secrets from the governess.  The reader has only bits and pieces from a storyteller whose intention is frighten his audience, and even his story comes from the limited understanding of the governess.  One story is passed on from person to person, each with his or her own understanding and motives for the story.  Thus, a tall tale is woven, and experiences become myths through this very process.

For me, The Turn of the Screw was not that frightening of a story.  I suppose that this was because I did not see the events of the plot as uncanny or mysterious.  Rather, I took it as a psychological exploration.  I read the governess as insane, and thus it fits that she would be the one to see the ghosts, make the children seem sinister, and twist actual events to her favor, even unwittingly.  She’s crazy, and so from her perspective, the supernatural would seem real.  Going back to modern uses through film, psychological thrillers fit this bill–“Psycho”, “The Shining”, and “Shutter Island” to name a few.  For me, these stories are much more enjoyable to dive into than peek-a-boo styled storytelling.


Written by wilksj

February 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm