Madness, the supernatural and the unreliable narrator in Guy de Maupassant's Le Horla and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw
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In both Guy de Maupassant's Le Horla and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, narrators of questionable reliability claim to encounter other-worldly beings, leaving the reader to wonder whether the apparitions are real or the narrators are insane. This madness/supernatural conundrum recurs because of certain trends within the writers' cultural and literary milieux. From a literary standpoint, both Maupassant and James were working in the fantastique, a genre which, by definition, indicates that the reader hesitates between natural and supernatural explanations for the story's events. And, from a cultural perspective, both writers were writing in environments where the distinction between spiritualism and psychology was often unclear. Maupassant leaves his reader in hesitation as a way of expressing the cultural ambiguity between madness and the supernatural, whereas James utilizes the blur between madness and the supernatural to explore the "reading effect" that the reader experiences when left in hesitation. By reading James's text in light of realist theory, it becomes evident that in achieving the "reading effect," James is intentionally challenging one of the principal tenets of realism, that all ambiguity must be resolved by the end of the story. Upon closer examination, Le Horla evokes a less conscious, although similar "reading effect" and thuspushes the boundaries of realism in a comparable way. As James's and Maupassant's texts demonstrate, the fantastique inherently entails a connection between natural/supernatural questioning and denial of the sense of resolution that realism demands.
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Includes bibliographical references: leaves 62-63.
Smartt, Janna (1998). Madness, the supernatural and the unreliable narrator in Guy de Maupassant's Le Horla and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from