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Literary Devices in The Old Nurse's Story

Frame Story: “The Old Nurse’s Story” is an example of a frame story, in which an outer story—”the frame”—sets the stage to tell another story within the first. In “The Old Nurse’s Story,” the text’s narrator is a caregiver named Hester who was once in charge of a toddler named Rosamond. Hester’s current audience is Rosamond’s children; she tells them a story set in Rosamond’s childhood, which serves as the inner narrative of the frame story. Another layer of storytelling is added when the servant Dorothy recounts an incident in previous years, which Hester in turn summarizes to her audience.

Literary Devices Examples in The Old Nurse's Story:

The Old Nurse's Story

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"it might not be true, or it might, what she had been told...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Another layer of the frame story is created here: while Hester tells a story to Rosamond’s children, Dorothy tells a story to the then-teenage Hester. The layers of hearsay contribute to the folkloric, instructional tone of the whole story. With that many narrators, it’s difficult to tell exactly what is truth and what is fiction.

"and, my dears, so I think now...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

After having spent so much time on past events, Hester’s words “and, my dears, so I think now” remind readers of the story’s frame structure. Her audience listens, as eager as readers to find out what happens next.

"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”).

"I would have gone with the little child to the end of the world...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Here, Hester’s devotion to Rosamond is hyperbolically stated. Due to Rosamond’s naturally likeable disposition and her tragically familiar circumstances, Hester’s affection for the baby is unparalleled; this sets the stage for Hester’s protection of Rosamond when she finds the latter in danger.

"(that was the baby, who is now your mother)..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

From this phrase, the scene is set at several decades earlier, when the children’s mother was just a baby. It also reinforces the story’s frame structure.

"You know, my dears, that your mother was an orphan..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The opening lines of this story establish the scene: the elderly nurse of the title is going to tell a story to a group of children about their mother. This removes some of the suspense from the story: readers know from the onset that Rosamond and the nurse outlive or escape whatever perils they might face, so suspense must be created in other ways. This is also an example of a frame story, in which a character tells a story within the text itself.

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