The Old Nurse’s Story

             The supernatural elements in Elizabeth Gaskell’s short story “The Old Nurse's Story” develop slowly, building on the atmosphere the author creates as she describes the characters, the setting, and the situation. Certain Gothic elements are evident in the story, from the isolated old house to the limited number of people in the house, the storms outside, and the mysterious sounds heard inside.
             The supernatural element enters the story after the situation is made clear, and there is no hint from the Old Nurse as she tells her story to her mistress’s children that this will be a ghost story. Instead, she appears simply to be telling the children a story about their mother, beginning with the hiring of the nurse before her mistress would be born to their grandmother. The nature of the story is revealed only as the supernatural element becomes apparent to the nurse in the old house. She has no preconceived notions about this and has not been told any stories about the ghosts in the family. Indeed, she has to force people to tell her anything about the meaning behind these events.
             The reader might assume that something of the sort is going to happen once the nurse and her charge have been transferred to the old house, which is described in eerie terms and which has a number of mysteries about it, though the nurse states them simply as facts and seems not to have the imagination needed to invent something to fear. The child, Rosamond, is four or five at the time. The nurse is only about eighteen, no more than a child herself. The two are cut loose from what they have known by the death of both of Rosamond’s parents, after which their lives are decided by lawyers and relatives they have never seen. They are sent to Furnivall House, a mansion the child’s mother had never even seen. As they approach the house, the nurse describes what she sees, noting how the house stands with many trees around it. The description ma...

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The Old Nurse’s Story. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:09, December 09, 2016, from