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Trang Ho - PHIL 347 Paper 1

Trang Ho - PHIL 347 Paper 1 - 1 Trang Ho PHIL 347 George...

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Trang Ho PHIL 347 George Wilson Paper 1 February 14, 2011 Do Not Trust the Governess Henry James tells one of the most fascinating horror stories in The Turn of the Screw through the first-person narration of the governess, which is regarded by many literary critics as unreliable. This paper argues for the unreliability of the governess’ narration in the novel, and explores the concept of an “unreliable narrator” in The Turn of the Screw. Before examining the concept of an “unreliable narrator,” it is important to distinguish the difference between “unreliable” and “unbelievable.” In the example of another novel like Audrey Niffenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife Time Traveler’s Wife , the readers tend to accept the protagonists Henry and Clare as credible narrators although they tell an outlandish story of time traveling. This accepting attitude seems to stem from the fact that there are two alternating narrators, whose accounts are consistent with each other throughout the novel. Also, the narrators are able to explain the unbelievable elements associated with time-travel quite convincingly and logically so that time traveling is, at least, believable in their fictional world. Moreover, there is no evidence in the novel that leads us to believe that the two characters have ulterior motives to deceive the audience. Therefore, the readers choose to accept this fictional world along with their narration without necessarily believing in time traveling or other magical elements 1
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described in the novels. Unreliable narration, on the other hand, comes from a character whose credibility has been compromised because of their inconsistent or illogical accounts of the stories. The unreliability can stem from many reasons, such as the narrator may be of a dramatically young age, have low intelligence, suffer from hallucinations or dementia or have personality flaws like pathological lying or ulterior motives. Hence, the fact that James’ narrator, the governess, tells unbelievable stories does not perpetuate in her unreliability. Instead, her illogical reasoning, deteriorating mental and emotional state, and inconsistent perception of reality (compared to those of other characters in the novel) cause the readers to interpret that James’ novel is not a ghost story but a tragic tale of a young woman who struggles in a challenging environment and finally gives in to insanity.
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