The Old Nurse’s Story

English GCSE Coursework Essay In Response To The Question ‘How Effective Is Elizabeth Gaskell In Creating A Sense Of Foreboding And Danger In ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ For A Modern Audience?’
It is my belief that, for a modern audience, the author is effective in creating a sense of foreboding and danger in ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’. This is done by:
* The grandiosity and size of the estate in relation to Hestor and Miss Rosamond and their background; also, their youth and difference in society in relation to the residents of the manor (excluding the servants).

* The withholding of information by the servants and reluctance to divulge into past happenings.
* Writing through Hestor’s point of view- therefore exaggeration of key points.
* Hestor and Miss Rosamond viewing experiences at the manor from the outside looking in due to the lack of time spent at the manor, and the descriptions of Mrs Stark and Miss Furnivall.
* The Vulnerability of both Miss Rosamond and Hestor.
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The size, grandiosity and history to the manor create an image that Hestor is out of place at the manor due to her background in a lower class. This is illustrated in “Then, at one end of the hall, was a great fireplace, as large as the sides of houses where I come from.” This indicates a wide difference in class, as rich people have larger and more grand houses than people with less money. The “as large as houses where I come from” is a simile that shows the massiveness of the fireplace, but also that Hestor came from a poorer background than what was displayed at the manor.
A mysterious atmosphere is created by the reluctance of the servants to tell Hester about the past at the Lords Furnivall estate, especially over the organ playing and the Spectre Child. The servants’ unwillingness to mention the past is displayed when Hester enquires about the organ playing:
“I asked Dorothy who had been playing the music, and James said very shortly that I was a gawk to the winds soughing through the trees for music: but I saw Dorothy looked at him very fearfully, and Bessy, the kitchen maid, said something beneath her breath, and went quite white.”
This implies that there is something going on, or has gone on, that the servants are not letting on to Hester about. This is evident in the way that James replies “shortly”. This indicates that he was trying to quash the conversation. Also, Dorothy and Bessy’s reactions shows that they know something on the contrary and are not allowed to tell Hester about it. By Dorothy looking fearfully, she is scared of the consequences if she told Hester about the history of the organ player.
When Dorothy shows Hester the picture, she is very anxious to turn the picture back around to conceal the hidden side of the portrait. She also tells Hester to never tell anyone that she knows about the portrait, and that Dorothy told her. This implies that Dorothy is not allowed to tell Hester about the portrait, adding to the mysterious atmosphere. This is shown in: “If I show you, you must never let on, even to James.” This implies that Dorothy is scared of the repercussions of her showing the portrait to Hester. This shows the that information on the portrait is withheld as the reader doesn’t know what happened to the girl in the portrait, and both the reader and Hester wants to know more about the girl, heightening the mysterious atmosphere.
By the story being told through Hestor’s point of view, some points, especially during times including danger, are exaggerated, thus adding to the sense of danger and foreboding. This is shown in: “It was bitter cold; so cold that the air almost took the skin off my face as I ran” This use of poetic writing indicates that the coldness was exaggerated due to the story being written in Hester’s point of view. The use of a metaphor enhances the exaggeration of the coldness.
By Hestor and Miss Rosamond being so new to the manor, they seem to view experiences from the outside looking in, and are unfamiliar with the residents. Also, with the cold descriptions of Mrs Stark and Miss Furnivall, Hestor and Miss Rosamond might take a while to settle into their new life at the manor. Hestor and Miss Rosamond first visit the manor at the start of the story: “Miss Rosamond and me were to go to Furnivall Manor House.” This implies that they would have to settle in to the environment at the Furnivall Manor House because they were new to the house. The cold description of Mrs Stark and Miss Furnivall is: “The hard, sad Miss Furnivall, and the cold Miss Stark.” This induces the reader to believe that the two elderly ladies at the manor were far from welcoming. The inhospitalitle description of the elderly residents indicates that Hestor and Miss Rosamond would not settle in at the manor straight away.
The vulnerability of Miss Rosamond and Hestor adds to the sense of foreboding in the story. In Miss Rosamond, this occurs because she was orphaned at a young age, and she has no knowledge of the dangers of befriending and following the Spectre Child. This is illustrated by: “Hester, I must go! My little girl is there; I hear her; she is coming! Hester, I must go!” This indicates that Miss Rosamond does not know the dangers of the Spectre Child because if she did she would be more reluctant to go with her. Hestor was vulnerable because she came from a lower status in society; she was overwhelmed by the manor and was very new to her environment.
This is indicated when she recollects that she was “Right glad when they rung for the old footman who had shown us in at first.” This implies that she was overwhelmed by the situation that she found herself in and wanted someone to keep her company in her new surrounds. This indicates that she was insecure and agitated when she first entered the manor. By Hestor being agitated when she first goes into the manor, the author is showing that she is vulnerable in her new environment.
Overall, Elizabeth Gaskell is effective in creating a sense of Foreboding and Danger in ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’. This is done by having two vulnerable main characters in which the story is viewed through the elder’s perspective. The situation of the story, and the past that is central to the story are extremely effective techniques.