How is suspense generated within Henry James' novel 'The Turn of the Screw'?

There are multiple aspects of Henry James' writing that create suspense for the reader. The most obvious is the genre of the text itself: the gothic. Gothic literature came about in the eighteenth century, gaining more momentum over the Victorian period, and James employs many of the genre's tropes in his text. Primarily, the eerie descriptions of the estate and the governess’ interactions with other characters (human or otherwise). There is also a characteristic tension between the modern and the ancient, which can be related to Sigmund Freud’s notion of ‘The Uncanny’: ‘that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar’. This explains the presence of ghosts in the novel - notably that of Peter Quint - as they are known to disrupt the sense of what is past or present. The fact that the ghosts in this story are silent adds another dimension to the suspense - there is a sense of the unknown, the unspoken, and possibly even an sense of the unresolvable. The silence also presents gaps in the narration, which the reader is invited to fill in for themselves, implying an unnerving lack of control and solidity to the story.  James is also seen to generate pace and suspense via the structure and semantics of the text. His highly emotional, somewhat melodramatic tone, and his lengthy sentence structure, ensures the reader has to be constantly active in their reading. Meanwhile the chapters themselves grow increasingly shorter - mirroring the image of increasing tension in the title itself. This builds up to the final moment in the text where the momentum ceases suddenly, and the reader is left in an air of unsatisfied confusion at the ambiguity of the ending. Indeed, the lack of conclusion can be seen in itself as a tool of suspense, forcing the reader to engage with the story and its mysteries. Furthermore, at the start of the story the reader encounters what is known as a ‘frame narrative’ - a story within a story. This literary technique is often used to draw attention to the narrator’s unreliability, and as a result creates anticipation for the rest of the tale. By implying that the Governess is an unreliable narrator, the reader is invited to question her actions and thoughts (at least the ones which we have access to), and yet another layer of unknowability and suspense is put in place. This has also been the starting point for the numerous psychological critical readings of the text which have been written over the years.

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