The Unsaid In Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’

The ambiguous nature of the Turn of the Screw has led to many interpretations of its meaning since its publication in 1898. Cranfill and Clark (1970) survey the many forms of this ghost story and demonstrate its appeal to academics and non-academics alike. Questions linger about the ghosts and whether or not they were a manifestation of the repressed feelings for the governess’s employer (Heilman (1947).  Renner (1988) on argues that the timing of the appearance of the ghosts is significant.  Vague allusions to corruption (TS 18) are scattered throughout the novel, an important key that can be used to make meaning of the story.  This paper proposes that The Turn of the Screw is a ‘controlled experiment ‘(Bromwich 2011) of narrative form that through the use of plot and allusion, examines Victorian ideas of innocence and sexuality.

A turn of the screw is an action that makes a bad situation worse; especially one that forces someone to do something (Cambridge Dictionary).  With this definition in hand, an esoteric name for a ghost story transforms into an apt title for a novella in which the governess’s actions bring her into worse and worse circumstances.  In judging a book by its title alone, it could at a glance be taken for a charmingly named construction manual.  The marionette strings that James uses to control the action of the plot are not very well disguised.  James is deliberately ambiguous (Beidler 1992).  If we peek too closely, we might see a glimpse of that man behind the curtain.  The problem is that all the subterfuge, this borderline melodrama and the lack of explanation could be considered a retroactive continuity on the part of the narrator.  The connection between Douglas and the first narrator may be of a homosexual nature (Taylor 1988), which then foreshadows that between Miles and Quint.  Taylor’s argument is plausible, but does not fully account for narrator bias.  By the time it is set down in its present form for the reader, this is a thrice repeated story.  The governess has written it several years after the events at Bly.  Douglas reads her account aloud to the gathering, how faithfully is a matter of debate  The first narrator says he made an ‘exact transcript’ (TS 6) of the governess’s own writing, but we cannot verify whether that is in fact the case.  

In essence, the story, through repetition by the various narrators, could have been corrupted, which is an important theme in the Turn of the Screw.  Contamination as understood by the governess is corruption (TS 18), a concern for a young girl arriving at a country house straight from being ‘privately bred’ (TS 24).  It is also a concern carried from the Romantics into the Victorian age.  Upon first meeting her charges, the governess is profuse with praise for the wonderfulness and innocence of the children.  Flora was “the most beautiful child’ (TS 12), Miles a ‘positive fragrance of purity’ (TS 21).  The governess describes herself as being ‘easily carried away’ (TS 13).  These descriptions comport with the Romantic idea of original innocence (Sky 2002).  The Romantics were taken by Rousseau’s idea of original innocence as a counterpoint to original sin: “God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.” (in Sky 2002).  Nature to the Romantics (and subsequently to the Victorians) was not a thing to be feared, but was pure.  James takes Rousseau’s words to heart, in that the more time the governess spends with the children; the more she starts to see them not as paragons of beauty and purity, but as evil, corrupted children.  As with much of the rest of the story, the very nature of that corruption, while a horror, is never explained.  It is a frustration for the reader, but a wonderful feat for the author.

At the age of twenty, on her own and in charge for the first time, the governess was in a liminal state between that of childhood innocence and the sexual adult who must contend with the fall from purity into original sin (Sky 2002).  While Heilman’s (1947) refutation of the governess’s repression of her sexual awakening is not without merit, the arguments of the Freudians cannot be summarily dismissed.  Not repression, but suppression.  It is as she was fantasizing about her employer that the governess first comes upon Quint: “[w[hat arrested me on the spot – and with a shock much greater than any vision had allowed for – was the sense that my imagination had, in a flash, turned real. . . . . (TS 24).  The governess is also struck with this supposed gentleman’s lack of a hat (TS 25).  A red-haired man of Quint’s description was to be understood as a criminal man (Renner 1988), and criminals could not be seen as innocent or pure.  

No words are exchanged between the governess and either of the ghosts.  Nowhere in the story does anyone other than the governess profess to see Quint, or Miss Jessel.  The governess has conflated the appearance of this man both with fears of her own desires as well as with that of his being there when he supposedly died.  He is unnatural; therefore he represents death of innocence, of life itself.  He is a particular danger for the two most innocent, Flora and Miles.  He is a danger at least until the governess comes to think that Miles is beyond saving, which is why she does not send him away with Flora.  

Miles’s uttered confession, what there was of it (TS 123) signifies the end of the story, the end of his life, and thus the end of innocence.  In his lack of full explanation he, too, could stand for a symbolic death of the last of the governess’s innocence. She did indeed let herself be carried away.  From a sheltered twenty year old girl who was excited at the prospect of seeing her employer, to a girl who saw corruption and evil everywhere when no one else did, is evidence of a girl overwhelmed.  She was becoming a woman, leaving behind her original innocence.  She was indeed ‘carried away’, and far from retreating into any former semblance of her life, she moved on to another position, took a fancy for someone else, as Douglas alludes to in the prologue.  

The abrupt end to the story leaves the reader with many questions about the governess.  One such question: what is to be believed if the story hinges on the recollection of a potentially mad woman (Bromwich, 2011) who may have smothered Miles to death? (Beidler 1992)  What is to be made of it is that Henry James is a master of plot, and of showing us what might have happened without telling it.  As Stephen King says “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s (2000).  Description is on full display in The Turn of the Screw.  The governess’s explanation to Mrs. Grose over why she didn’t say anything about seeing Quint was ‘for reasons.” (TS 34).  What are those reasons?  The reader is left to decide for themselves.

In a short one hundred and twenty pages, the Turn of the screw controls the plot and every word the governess utters.  A turn of the screw stands for the control James has over the plot as much as his narrator, the governess, has over the actions at Bly.  Victorian ideals of innocence and sexuality are on display, and because of these the governess perhaps brings about the death of one of the innocent children under her charge.  The ghosts serve as symbols for the death and possible corruption of that innocence that the governess tries to very closely guard, to her detriment.  The lack of full explanation of anything is a function of the narrative style, or experiment (Bromwich 2011) that James uses to tell his tale, as well as those Victorian ideals that prevent description of anything that might lead to corruption.  The number of retellings and the survival of this unsaying yet verbose story speak to the success of James’s experiment.  

Works Cited


‘A Turn of the Screw.’  Cambridge Dictionaries.  Web. 21 Mar. 2017


Beidler, Paul Gorman. 1992. Frames in James :  The Turn of the screw, What Maisie knew, and the Ambassadors. Theses and Dissertations. Paper 107.  Accessed 21 March 2017


Bromwich, David. 2011. Introduction. In The Turn of the Screw. By Henry James.  New York. Penguin Books  xiii-xxxv


Cranfill, Thomas M. And Robert L. Clark, Jr. 1970. The Provocativeness of The Turn of the Screw.  Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 12(1), 93-100.


Heilman, Robert B.  1947. The Freudian Reading of the Turn of the Screw.  Modern Language Notes, 62(7), 433-445.


James, Henry.  1908. The Turn of the Screw.  New York: Penguin Books.


King, Stephen. 2000. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner.


Renner, Stanley. 1988.  Sexual Hysteria, Physiognomical Bogeymen, and the “Ghosts’ in The Turn of the Screw. Nineteenth Century Literature, 43(2), 175-194


Sky, Jeanette. 2002. Myths of Innocence and Imagination: The Case of the Fairy Tale. Literature and Theology, 16(4) 363-376.


Taylor, Michael J. H. 1982. A Note on the First Narrator of “The Turn of the Screw.’  American Literature, 53(4), 717-722.

Erotic Innocence – James R. Kincaid

Synchronicity strikes again. Jung would be so proud. After just finishing James R. Kincaid’s book Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting, what story happens to be dominating social media? The takedown of one of the most controversial and obnoxious conservative commentators, Milo Yiannopoulos, for comments made about pedophilia. Barely had the question formed in my mind about whether our society had got any better about this problem when I had my answer. If only the accusations about Trump and young girls had stuck, alas . . . 
Kincaid’s is a compelling argument, and one that it is impossible to fully agree with. Since the Romantic age, children have been seen as angels and innocent darlings who need to be protected from all the horrors of the world. If something terrible happens to them we are scandalized, we are outraged. But, on the other hand, they are monstrous little beings who we can be scared of. This is why they are abandoned and abused.  
We are horrified by the idea that there has been abuse – especially sexual abuse – of these poor innocent children and yet, Kincaid argues, we are fascinated by it. Movies purportedly for kids are filled with sexual innuendos (from Shirley Temple to Home Alone – Kincaid was writing in the late 1990s). In our media, he argues, parents are dismissive of the kids and it comes to an outsider from the family to rescue the kid, and then they develop a bond with that (often) older male who protects them from being abused again. For our job is to look but never touch. And, of course, childhood is sacrosanct. He quotes Stand by Me (king/Reiner) and the statement: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anybody?”
The answer to this question is a resounding no, and it does have to do with that thorny concept of innocence. When we are in our teens, or friendships can become bogged down in sex, sexuality, and more responsibility (work, school, family). I agree that we do see an attraction to the innocence of childhood, the lack of cynicism, the freedom of not having to worry about getting and keeping a job, budgeting enough for retirement, the mortgage, the car payment, that ever elusive work/life balance. I long for the days when summer vacation was two months long and I would take that trip to the local movie theatre with friends and cousins to go see the latest matinee – who the hell wouldn’t? But not everything is about sex.  
I disagree with his main argument, however, I do agree that when sex in relation to kids comes up it does have a tendency to be a hyper-maniacal spectacle. I am old enough to remember the tail end of Satanic Panic, and to have read Michelle Remembers, which freaked me out completely until I was in university and studying repressed memories. Now it seems like a load of bunk. But we as a society feed on this stuff. Television and print media (and I would suspect social media even more) thrive on ratings and clicks. Whatever it takes to get a story, the juicier the better, and what is more juicy than the lurid details of what happened to JonBenet Ramsey, or Amanda Berry (admittedly a little older). We are a society of voyeurs.  

Four Past Midnight – Stephen King

Four Past Midnight – Stephen King

How fitting that a post about a Stephen King book is being posted on Halloween! This fourth anthology released by Stephen King is different again from the previous three.  Night shift had a series of short pieces, and older stories that tied into his earliest published works like ‘Salem’s Lot.  Different Season contained some of his most classic writing: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Body, Apt Pupil.  Skeleton Crew had a good many of stories, the most memorable of which to me is Survivor Type, mainly because of the self-cannibalism.  Four Past Midnight contains only four stories, as its title implies.  The stories are closer to classical horror or suspense than many in the previous collections, and they are significantly longer than the previous tales.  The second and fourth were the most enjoyable, in my opinion, whatever that counts for.


The Langoliers

The Langoliers focuses on a cross-country flight that ends up messing with time.  On the East Coast they saw the destruction of the world by the Langoliers (why does this seem strangely prescient now that there’s a potential presidential candidate who lives on the East Coast?)  On the west coast they saw the birth of the world.  And here we see another of King’s standy methods, when time traveling or teleporting, one can only do so asleep.  Anyone who was awake on this flight disappeared.  The emptying of the world is always a scary thing, and the approach of the Langoliers is scary in its suspense, but in the end their appearance doesn’t live up to the hype.  To see the world disappearing before our eyes would be a sanity breaker, but I admit I was underwhelmed with it in the literary form.  It might be time to find and watch the movie.


Secret Window, Secret Garden

John Shooter is Walter White to me.  I think it’s the hat that did it.  Secret Window, Secret Garden was another version of The Dark Half, but written more in a mystery style than a horror style.  The most horrific thing about it is the panic in Mort’s mind when he thinks that Shooter has been in his house, and when the two bodies are discovered.  If reading it for the plot twist at the end, you might be sadly disappointed, for it can be seen a mile away.  As a short study of the human psyche, however, it is more interesting.  Guilt over his former plagiarism, anger over his failed marriage and not acting when he found his wife with her boyfriend, eventually festers in Mort’s brain and makes him crack up.  We may not all turn into murderers when suffering under the weight of guilt, but some do.


The Library Policeman

A shape-shifting ghoul makes another appearance in one of King’s books.  This one is most related to Pennywise, who haunts Derry, Maine.  She disguises herself as a librarian, but is really an insect-like creature.  She can take whatever form best suits her purposes.  In the case of the local drunk, she became a beautiful woman.  In the case of Sam, our protagonist, she becomes the man who raped him when he was a boy.  Here, too, the past plays a large part in the present.  Sam doesn’t remember what happened to him until the end of the story, and then he is able to use that information to overcome his past.  It was not until he did this that he was able to move forward with his life.


Sun Dog

Fifteen year old Kevin receives a Polaroid camera for his birthday.  Instead of taking its usual photos, it takes pictures of only a white picket fence on which a dog’s shadow is moving closer and closer with each successive picture.  It is a vicious dog, they see, and is trying to escape from the photographic world into the real world.  Kevin assumes responsibility for the thing, and would have destroyed it but for the crooked ways of old Ace Merrill, the local loan shark and dealer of interesting things.  Merrill tries to sell the thing for profit and in the process he fails, and loses several contacts who he has sold fraudulent things in the past.  In the end, Kevin discovers that he destroyed a replacement camera, not the dangerous one, and is able to act in time to prevent the dog doing any damage, but Merrill has died, proving again that you should not mess with powers you don’t understand.

Long Walk To Freedom – Nelson Mandela

Long Walk To Freedom – Nelson Mandela

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela writes a lot about the decades long struggle to overthrow apartheid in South Africa.  It was a long, and ultimately successful struggle in which they wanted to change the hearts and minds of the people, but more importantly they wanted to change the system.  Mandela and his fellow members of the African National Congress (ANC) wanted to have the freedom of their fellow South Africans.  In the 1990s they finally achieved this goal.  Does that mean that there is not still racism in the country?  Surely not.  While I am sure they hoped to live in a world free of racism, their main goal was to ensure that all people could live free.  Likewise today, the goal of the Black Lives Matter movement is not to address systematic problems within the African American community, but to shine a light on what seems to be systematic problem of unnecessary killing of black people.  Unarmed people in many cases, who are targeted (at least in theory) because of their race.  And then, after this killing, to compound the issue, the officers are frequently not held accountable.



An autobiography is always suspect as it is within our nature to try and portray ourselves in the best light.  I have no reason to believe that Mr. Mandela did not do the same here, but even if he did, it did not negate the power of the story.  His language is simplistic and accessible, and the usual boring details of politics are kept to a minimum, while the struggle of having to have passes, and being arrested and imprisoned are the focus.

My thought, embarrassing though it is, while reading Mandela’s Long Walk, was to think of how similar his story was to Harry Potter’s – the yardstick against which everything in my life is measured.  More broadly, how the struggles that the ANC went though looked very much like a Hero’s Journey, as defined by Joseph Campbell.  We have Nelson Mandela, a young lawyer working at a Jewish law firm.  He is told to stay out of politics, but he does not listen (Call to adventure.  He is separated from his family and for much of his adult life as he spent it in prison.  And in the end he is set free and uses all of his knowledge gained through prison and through the ANC to help make his country a better world.  It is a heavy price to pay but it is something to which we all should aspire.

Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith

J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith have something else in common besides being the same person:  they both come into their strides in the third book of their series.  I don’t care what name she writes under, the truth is evident.  Third books are the ones with massive backstory and more interesting plots.  Also common to these third books are changes to future events.  In Prisoner of Azkaban, a murderer is on the loose and apparently after Harry, but we find out that he is really after the man who framed him for murder and is now coming to enact his revenge.  In Career of Evil we get a good deal of backstory on Strike’s mother and some of his childhood.  We learn more about Robin and why she’s still with her douche bag fiancé.  And we are introduced to the first true psychopath of the series.


Strike’s past comes back to haunt him when Robin is sent a leg.  He has three men he thinks might be their culprit, and he turns out to be right, but we don’t find this out until nearly five hundred pages later.  The latter half of the book is set against the backdrop of the Royal Wedding, sort of an irony given the grisly nature of the story, though thankfully not as blatantly gross as the Silkworm.  This story is more psychological in nature, with the occasional girl getting stabbed thrown in for good measure.


The blessing and curse for Rowling is that she will forever be associated with Harry Potter.  It is impossible to totally divorce Harry from anything else she writes, which is why I found myself marveling at the writing in this book.  Harry was dark for a children’s story.  Career of Evil was gritty, and she knows the mind of a psychopath quite well (I think).  It is the job of a writer to get things right, and I think this Rowling-Galbraith entity has done the thing properly.  Someone’s been lurking in dark passages, haven’t they?


The problem I find with almost any detective fiction, not that I’ve read a lot, is the tendency for the detective to have their AHA moment and then leave the reader hanging for an answer for many pages.  In the case of the Strike books I think this was at its worst in The Silkworm.  Career of Evil suffered the same fate, sadly, but of a much shorter duration which reduced this reader’s usual urge to throw the book against the wall.  Why can’t we have an AHA moment at the end of one chapter and then reveal at the start of the next (a la Philosopher’s Stone)?  Also tiring was Robin’s rape.  I’ll blush and admit I’ve fallen into that trap, too, but that makes it all the more irksome.  One part of my mind wants to scream and insist that there has to be something other than sexual assault that can happen to women.  On the other hand, her take down of Laing was so awesome that I can forgive the overused rape storyline.


No book is perfect.  The Strike novels can seem dry and detective-y at times, fine if you’re into that thing, drudgery if you’re not.  Career of Evil, though, was more my cup of tea.  Who doesn’t like a good dismembering psycho every once in a while?

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

Any person taking on the task of writing additional content for a beloved book series has to have nerves of steel, especially in the age of social media.  For that, I applaud Jack Throne and John Tiffany for even daring to wade into the world of Harry Potter.  If we can use a recent example, think of the backlash that came with the announcement and subsequent release of Go Set A Watchman, the sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.   For the purposes of full disclosure, I cannot fully remove myself from this wave of criticism, having made my hatred of the Goblet of Fire movie well known among my acquaintances.  I was (and still am) nervous about the expansion beyond the original seven books.  After reading (and peeking pre-publication) I have not yet decided if my nerves are much sated.


Like an over excited kid at Christmas, I couldn’t wait to read the play.  Using my good friend Google, I was able to find on someone’s blog a pretty good synopsis of parts one and two of the plays.  Having read that, I cannot now say whether I would have been happier or angrier at the play if I had come to it with innocence and ignorance.  I think probably more of the latter because there are still parts that made me angry, even knowing that they were coming.  I have a love/hate relationship with this play.  Let me tell you why.  Please consider this your spoiler warning.  You read on at your own peril.


First off  imagine a giant angry emoticon) time travel, really?  Unending vistas of possible fantasy plots, and they have to use one that has become threadbare from overuse, even making an appearance in the Potterverse before now?    At least, when we see it used in Azkaban, it was for consequences of life and death, not because some kid was mad at his dad.  (Be quiet about the irresponsible use for school lessons, will you, I’m trying to make a point here!)  Lazy is what I would call the time travel idea, amateurish would be the word for the three or more forays into the past.  As a lifelong devil’s advocate, however, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not make a counterargument.   The fan in me wants to rage and scream for the above stated reasons, but I know that in reality, J.K. Rowling may have wanted to be done with this story when she finished Deathly Hallows, but caved to pressure.  By making this a time travel story, she allowed for it to be self-contained.  Once Albus and Scorpius repaired the original timeline, the story is done, no wholly new villain to work out motivations for, no plot threads to dangle out and fray the nerves.  She can move on, now.


Some have called Cursed Child sanctioned fan fiction.  I therefore feel no compunction in berating Mr. Throne for thieving my idea!  That he would lean heavily on Goblet of Fire makes sense because that was the midpoint of the series, where there was a huge twist in Voldemort’s return.  Harry should have died by Voldemort’s calculations, Cedric should not have.  That things turned out the way they did changed a lot, as we see in one of the many trips into the past.  It was interesting, if not nice, to see Amos Diggory, haggard though he was.  Harry lied, not unheard of for his character (“he invented wildly’ was somewhere in the books), but still feels sour.  I did not like it in the reading, but after some time to reflect, I think it makes sense.  He wanted to cut off any further discussion of this dangerous weapon.  Harry is not Dumbledore, but he has his moments.  He’s not a teenager or young adult anymore.  He is a man of forty with even more years under his belt in which to acquire knowledge and wisdom. I don’t like the lie, but I understand it. And we must  remember that the Potter books were very good at colouring actions by the point of view character and the conversation between Diggory and harry was heard by Albus while he was mad at his father.


Closer to the hate part on the love/hate continuum: I cannot stand the Voldemort part of the storyline, from Harry’s scar hurting again down to Delphini.  For one thing, wasn’t Harry’s scar hurting a symptom of the Horcrux trying to free itself and reunite with Voldemort?  If that was the case, shouldn’t the pain have stopped?  Or was it phantom pain, only remembered in Harry’s dream?  (A reread may be required).  That the mother of a child by Voldemort was Bellatrix would make sense.  That Voldemort had a child at all does not.  Correct me if I am misremembering, but I am sure Rowling said that Voldemort had never been in a sexual relationship with anyone (kudos to the person who had the cajones to ask that, by the way).  But, I hear you saying, she could have changed her mind.  You are correct, and she is well within her rights to do so.  One thing you cannot deny is the revulsion at the thought of Voldemort and Bellatrix doing the nasty is just . . . . well, nasty.  Squick-o-meter has broken.  Let’s assume we’ve showered the Squick away, and imagine that Delphini was the product of some sort of immaculate (satanic?) conception, it brings up the importance of the nature/nurture debate.  Was she inherently evil because her parents were, or was she evil because of how she was raised?  Conundrums of a philosophical turn do go out the window, when the expected and horrifying murder of a student issues from her hands.


The Malfoys: Scorpius was the best character in the play, hands down.  Totally unlike his father, he was funny and a great partner in crime to Albus.  He was basically the Ron of the play.  It was refreshing to see that he was not an arrogant prat like his father.  And in the turn back of time where Harry was dead, we see that perhaps Albus’s influence was a good thing.  In writing this, I have reversed another opinion that I had about the Draco storyline and the silliness of Scorpius’s parentage.  I would love to know where Lucius is – is he back in Azkaban?  Probably.  I’m sure he would hate the fact that his son was chumming around with Harry Potter, and that his grandson was best friends with Albus.  I also think that Lucius would be torn, at least, to think that his son was not capable of producing an heir.  We know how serious Mr. Lucius Malfoy took his family’s purity of blood.  I did not like that they tried to wrap up the old feud between Harry and Draco by all of a sudden having them look at each other ‘as friends.’  To be friendly and civil, fine.  Anything else is just eye rolling and frustrating.


I am channeling Back to the Future here, I’m sure, but a thought: instead of having all this back and forth nonsense with them weaving in and out of the past, have Delphini show up at the same time and work with the boys to get that time turner.  Then she could steal it almost at once and drag them into the past where they would interact with James and Lily.  They could share what happens in the future.  But, I know you are asking, how would we solve the potential paradox (would Lily have been able to save Harry if she knows he survives?) by having Harry have to modify their memories or something, so they don’t know he was there.  Then we could have had an awesome moment of real interaction with them.  I want to write this now, but MUST NOT . . . must not . . .


For a Potter story, I give it a couple of wands up.  It is fun and mostly lighthearted (at least until the Voldemort stuff comes in).  A book would have been better, but it does give me another very good reason for trying to get to London.  I must see the play before I can give a less biased opinion on the matter.

The Dark Half – Stephen King

The Dark Half – Stephen King

Think Stevenson meets Shelley. Dr. Jekyll and Dr, Frankenstein fuse into one being and create an amalgam of the creature and Mr. Hyde (Oho – The Creature and Mr. Hyde – a most promising title. A story may need to be written from this title). Add in a writer and two Maine towns and presto-majesto – you have The Dark Half. But it is almost alchemical, for it is not just throwing together two nineteenth century horror writers to make a story. There is also some third part that makes this novel decidedly King-esque. Ah, yes, the two Maine towns in which this story takes place.  The Dark Half, in truth, has more in common with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jeckyll and Hyde story than it does with Frankenstein, but the thought of creating a being and then casting him off with a sense of disgust definitely has traces of Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein was far more active in the creation and rejection of his being with the protagonist in this story.  

Mr. Thaddeus Beaumont, English professor and writer of profound, unsuccessful novels, has a pseudonym under which he writes thrillers. Pretty nasty hack-’em-up thrillers at that. Thaddeus (hereafter called Thad) is contacted by a man who has figured out the big secret of his pseudonym and tries to blackmail him to keep the matter quiet. The plan backfires and Thad decides to go public about it. A story appears in People magazine, which includes a mock up of a gravestone for Mr. George Stark. Thad tells us that he had been considering jettisoning the pseudonym for some time because he didn’t like (or at least his wife didn’t like) who he became when he was writing Stark’s books. (JPaging Dr. Frankenstein).  

Not long after the People story is published, murders begin. Thad’s pseudonym has come to life in all his not-a-nice-guy-ness’. We know in advance, of course, that Thad had bits of an undeveloped twin pulled from his head when he was a young kid. He did not know this until years later. Stark was not just a pseudonym after all. Stark was almost a person, and could only be carried away by sparrows in the end. And we are left with an open question: know that Thad knows about this other self, will he be the same again?  

Even before consulting Wikipedia, a thought percolated in this girl’s brain – was The Dark Half written based on King’s experiences of being outed as Richard Bachman? Though wikipedia is a site with trust issues (how much of the info contained therein has been messed with for the hell of it?) the blurb talking about why the book was written rings true. The kernel of the idea for Dark Half came from King’s experience, the rest of the story coming from those dark corridors of his mind. I R SMRT, RN’T I?  

After surviving The Stand, It, and The Tommyknockers, The Dark Half felt like a novella. Several characters lent their points of view: Tad, Liz, Alan Pangborn, George Stark, even the groundsman and the doctor, but that’s it. Half a dozen people spoke here, not a dozen and a half with fifty page back stories to boot. Don’t get me wrong. Stories like The Stand and It are obviously much broader in scope than The Dark Half, and lend themselves fairly well to reading about more than just our main characters. On the other hand, these are the stories that are most susceptible to bloat, and it is not uncommon to read about them and think: do I REALLY need to know seventy years of Derry history? The Dark Half is mercifully missing town histories and excessive number of characters. it is a straight to the point story, and is much better for it. King seems to write his best when he sticks to narrow scope. This has everything to do with emotional concentration. Watering down something dilutes it, as adding too many characters and subplots to a story can dilute emotional impact. 

It is not that I dislike long stories in general, but perhaps my limited amount of time to read has something to do with the preference for shorter stories, and the previous comment about emotions is just me talking out of my ass. After all, It remains the only book I had to slam shut because I was freaked out. Anything is possible. I’ve found though, that the best of King’s books have been the ones that don’t delve too far into too many characters: The Shining, Misery, and The Dark Half. I am only half-way through Mr. King’s catalogue, though. Perhaps I am not yet into the Dark Half of his works.  

(Go ahead and groan, it is allowed).