The Old Nurse’s Story

Length: 5 Pages 1159 Words

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, w Continue...


Young Rosamond might have paid a price herself if the cold had harmed her, but otherwise the guilt of Miss Grace is seen to be the reason for these supernatural happenings so that her death would presumably end them. 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. That is indeed what happens, and how much the past and present can interact is unclear. They are sent to Furnivall House, a mansion the child's mother had never even seen. The sound itself raises suspicions; the response of others in the house increases those suspicions and suggests that something out of the ordinary is happening. (4) Two types of reality are created here, the one the reality of those living in the real world, and the reality existing in the East Wing of the house, behind locked doors. He still has sway over the family largely because of the guilt of Miss Grace about what was done to Miss Maude and her child and because of her own (Miss Grace's) role in driving them out into the snow. It is not clear if the ghost child meant Rosamond any harm, but taking her outside into the cold has the potential for great harm just the same. The nurse is only about eighteen, no more than a child herself. hich 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 description does not evoke the supernatural as such but does suggest the sort of setting where the supernatural might be found. The child, Rosamond, is four or five at the time. As the story unfolds, the supernatural is revealed to be a case of the past impinging on the present. The supernatural elements increase in number and impinge more and more on the life of the people in the house.