Character Analysis in The Old Nurse's Story

Hester: The narrator of the story, Hester is a governess tasked with caring for Rosamund, an only child. Hester’s audience is Rosamond’s unspecified number of children.

Rosamond: Rosamond is a child in Hester’s telling of the story. She will eventually mother several children, to whom Hester will once again be a caregiver.

Miss Grace / Miss Furnivall: Grace is Maude’s younger sister, who appears sad and haunted by the past. Since she never married, she gained the title Miss Furnivall when Maude married. Grace falls in love with a traveling musician.

Mrs. Stark: As her name suggests, Mrs. Stark is cold and aloof, rarely showing emotion to either Hester or Rosamond. She is a servant and close confidant of Miss Furnivall.

Maude Furnivall: Grace’s older sister, Maude also falls in love with a traveling musician.

Dorothy: Dorothy is James’s wife and fellow servant. She tells the manor’s history to Hester.

James: James is a servant, having been with the Furnivall family for decades. He is married to Dorothy.

Old Lord Furnivall: The father of Grace and Maude. He loved to play the organ.

Character Analysis Examples in The Old Nurse's Story:

The Old Nurse's Story 5

"my lamb—my queen—my darling..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Through Hester’s repetition of various titles for Rosamond, readers get a stronger sense of Hester’s deep-seated devotion to the child along with her hysteria at almost having lost Rosamond. While Rosamond is someone Hester must protect (a “lamb”), she is also someone who holds complete sway over Hester due to her total affection for Rosamond (“my queen”).

"The hard, sad Miss Furnivall, and the cold Mrs. Stark, looked pleased when she came fluttering in like a bird, playing and pranking hither and thither, with a continual murmur, and pretty prattle of gladness...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Hester’s description of toddler Rosamond recalls a chattering bird, bringing cheerfulness and conversation to previously silent and darkened places. Rosamond’s good humor serves as a contrast to Mrs. Stark and Miss Furnivall, who are both quiet and unfriendly. Note also that birds are notoriously fragile creatures; Hester’s protectiveness of Rosamond is shown in her word choice to describe the child.

"she looked so cold, and grey, and stony, as if she had never loved or cared for any one..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Notice the adjectives chosen to describe Mrs. Stark, Miss Furnivall’s companion. They are completely interchangeable with how one would describe the Furnivall manor in which they now live: impassive, aloof, and inhospitable. Mrs. Stark is as much a part of the home as the stones it’s made of.

"who was like a sunbeam in any family, be it never so grand..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Notice the simile used to characterize Rosamond: she is like a “sunbeam,” a bright flash of warm, comforting light in an otherwise dreary landscape. Hester calls Rosamond her “pet” out of affection, not out of condescending ownership, showing the true bond that exists between the two.

"but for sweet, winning ways, you've none of you come up to your mother...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Through the nurse’s caring, heartfelt descriptions, readers learn that Rosamond was an especially delightful child to care for. This not only sets up Hester’s attachment to Rosamond but also it demonstrates the lengths she’s willing to go in order to keep her safe.