"This second morsel, as I watched her, she was very markedly and intently attempting to tighten in its place"

Though some critics have seen Flora's act in Freudian terms, interpreting it as a mime of the rudiments of sex, it is hard to ignore the more obvious resonances with the novella’s title. Since this has to do with the role of the author in keying up dramatic tension, Flora’s turning of the wooden screw suggests that she is somehow deliberately driving forward the plot. This is typical of James’s technique of generating paranoia by littering the text with almost subliminal insinuations that each of the characters may be manipulating events in a way that just eludes the reader's understanding. At the back of this, of course, is anxiety about exactly who has authorial control and whether they are using it to manipulate the reader.