Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Sixth Sense vs. Turn of the Screw

You’ve seen The Sixth Sense, right?

And you remember the super secret shocker ending, right? Now imagine this. What if the movie had ended before the secret was revealed? And you and your pals walk out saying, “That was some weird stuff, but what the heck happened?”

Later a Taco Bell, you go, “Wait a minute! What if the kid saw…”

And your buddy goes, “But the kid didn’t see…”

And you go: “But maybe he did, but he didn’t realize …”

And so on.

Well, that’s what happened 100 years before The Sixth Sense with Henry James and his whacked out ghost story, “The Turn of the Screw.” He freaked people out and forgot to calm them down by turning the lights on at the end of the story. The secret stays secret.

If you’ve thought about tackling a "classic," this one isn’t a bad place to start. For one thing it’s short. For another it’s a page turner. Some of the sentences made my brain glaze over, but there's plenty of straightforward stuff to get you through.

And then there’s the big secret for you to chew over for a while.

The upshot is that a naïve, young lady lands her first job as a governess. “Go to my creepy country estate,” says her new boss, “and take care of a couple of orphans. It pays great, but there’s just one rule: don’t bug me -- no matter what happens.”

Things do happen, of course. AND things have happened in the past, which the boss failed to mention. Such as the untimely death of the previous governess. (You saw that coming, right?)

Then it’s all ghosts and creepy kids and who is lying to whom and more ghosts until suddenly - BAM - the story is over before the big secret comes out. IF there was a big secret. Maybe the big secret is that there wasn’t a big secret.

When you’re done with the story, you can go online and read the many, many theories about just what happened. These are often called “literary criticism,” but they’re really just seriously geeked-out Taco Bell conversations.

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