Critical Essays Central Intelligence and Point-of-View in The Turn of the Screw


One of James' contributions to the art of fiction is in his use of point-of-view. Point-of-view means the angle from which the story is told. For example, previous to James' novels, much of the fiction of the day was being written from the author's viewpoint — that is, the author was telling the story and he was directing the reader's response to the story. Much of the fiction of the nineteenth century had the author as the storyteller, and the author would create scenes in which certain characters would be involved, but all of the scenes would not necessarily have the same characters in them.

James' fiction differs in his treatment of point-of-view. He was interested in establishing a central person about whom the story revolved, or else a central person who could observe and report the action. Usually, the reader would have to see all the action of the story through this character's eyes. Thus, while the central character in Daisy Miller is Daisy herself, we see her through the eyes of the "central intelligence," that is, through the eyes of Winterborne. Sometimes the central character will also be the central intelligence, as happens in The Turn of the Screw. In James' fiction we respond to events as the "central intelligence" would respond to them.

Furthermore, every scene in a James work has the central character present or else is a scene in which some aspect of the central character is being discussed by the central intelligence. So if Daisy is not present, the discussion is about some aspect of Daisy's character.

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