Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To save a shortcut to an article to your desktop…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

The way you save a shortcut to an article on your desktop depends on what internet browser (and device) you are using.

  • Safari
  • Chrome
  • Internet Explorer
  • Opera


For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Beit-Hallahmi, B. (1976). The Turn of the Screw and The Exorcist: Demoniacal Possession and Childhood Purity. Am. Imago, 33(3):296-303.

(1976). American Imago, 33(3):296-303

The Turn of the Screw and The Exorcist: Demoniacal Possession and Childhood Purity

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi

The demonic in literature and art is a combination of forbidden aggressive and sexual drives. Often, it represents an attempt to overcome the presence of death by getting closer to “the other side.” More often it represents the breaking of aggressive and sexual taboos. In psychoanalytic terms, we may say that the demonic is a projection of the id, by which the forbidden drives of sex and aggression are thrown outward, so that the source of evil is seen outside the self; we then have to protect ourselves from its return into the self, and if it does return, we have to exorcise it. Our aim here is to look at two expressions of the demonic theme in literature and to test our thesis that in these two cases, one of the major meanings of protection from evil is protection from sexuality. In The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, and in The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, preadolescent children are possessed by evil. Our thesis is that the theme of the asexual purity of preadolescents (and its protection) is common to both The Exorcist and The Turn of the Screw. The two stories are worlds apart in literary quality, but while James' novel is known mainly to College English majors, the inferior quality of Blatty's novel has captured the imagination of the masses. While James is the master of ambiguity and depth, Blatty's characters are one-dimensional, and he expresses blatantly what James has kept equivocal.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2021, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.