The Garden Party

The Relationship Between Incident and Character in 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'Bliss' 12th Grade

‘What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?’ - Henry James

It can be argued that a person’s character and individual nature is affected by exterior incident. This occurs in both Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and Katherine Mansfield’s Bliss, however each protagonist’s experience differs. For Bertha Young in Mansfield’s short story, the incident –discovering Pearl’s affair with her husband –does not change her character; her nature is the only thing that remains the same, whilst the outward circumstances continue to change. In James’ short story, the governess is so affected by the incidents –seeing both the ghostly figure of the man in the tower and the woman by the lake –that she struggles to identify between an outward incident and one conjured by her own mind. Her character changes indefinitely, only adding to the horror of the incidents. Therefore, it is difficult to provide a definite argument as to the relationship of incident and character. For the governess, the reader witnesses the effects of the incident; for Bertha, we merely see the beginning of the end.

Within The Turn of the Screw, many of the governess’ actions are determined by the supernatural...

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