Ghosts in Edith Wharton and Henry James Short Stories Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1039 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology

Ghost Stories

Oh there is one, of course, but you'll never know it," Alida Stair enigmatically warns the Boynes before they purchase their English country home in Edith Wharton's short story "Afterward." Referring to ghosts, Stair's statement echoes the strange occurrences of sceptres throughout the short stories of Edith Wharton: author of "Afterward" and "The Lady Maid's Bell," as well the short stories of Henry James, who wrote "The Turn of the Screw" and "The Jolly Corner." Ghosts prove to be elusive in all four short stories: some characters can see them while others cannot. The ghosts seem to make their appearance known to only a select few. Thus, ghosts serve specific purposes in Wharton's and James' stories, and they do not appear solely to frighten people. Though the ghosts in each of these stories presage death, the apparitions are not evil in themselves. Rather, they warn the protagonists of impending doom. Ghosts also help to bring secrets out into the open, and encourage epiphanies. Setting and characterization remain remarkably similar throughout the two James and two Wharton tales. In "Afterward," "The Lady Maid's Bell," "The Turn of the Screw," and "The Jolly Corner," ghosts are integral characters and serve as psychological and plot catalysts.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Ghosts in Edith Wharton and Henry James Short Stories Assignment

However, ghosts serve distinct purposes in each of these four stories. James' "The Jolly Corner" is the only story of the four in which the protagonist is haunted by his own ghost and for whom the ghost delivers a poignantly personal message. In all the other three stories, the ghosts' presence concerns characters other than the protagonist. For example, in James' "The Turn of the Screw," the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint alarm the current governess of her charges' coming-of-age. The ghosts' presence pertains directly to the children's lives and not that of the new governess, even though the narrator becomes profoundly affected and frightened. Similarly, in "The Lady Maid's Bell," Emma Saxon's ghost frightens Hartley but warns her not of her own doom but that of Mrs. Brympton. In "Afterward," Robert Elwell's ghost presages Boyne's death and Mary only realized the ghost's function until well after her husband's disappearance. In "The Turn of the Screw" and in "The Lady Maid's Bell," the ghosts are of dead maids and other servants; their social position enables them to possess unique insight into the characters they haunt. However, in "The Jolly Corner," the ghost is nothing but Spencer Brydon's alter-ego and appears for far different reasons than the ghosts in the other three tales. In "Afterward," Elwell's ghost arrives to settle a score and unlike the ghosts in the other three stories, he seems to have at least in part a motive for revenge for Boyne's business dealings.

All four stories share settings in common that complement the appearance of ghosts. For instance, all four tales take place within an old house and except for the Jolly Corner quarters, the homes are in remote rural settings. All four homes are large and stately, if not run-down. By possessing estate names, the homes in all three tales bespeak wealth. Therefore one of the common characteristics… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Ghosts in Edith Wharton and Henry James Short Stories" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Ghosts in Edith Wharton and Henry James Short Stories.  (2006, July 31).  Retrieved June 6, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Ghosts in Edith Wharton and Henry James Short Stories."  31 July 2006.  Web.  6 June 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Ghosts in Edith Wharton and Henry James Short Stories."  July 31, 2006.  Accessed June 6, 2020.