Compare how two authors use the elements of a ghost story in ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ and ‘The Darkness Out There’. Which text do you think is the most effective and why? A ghost story is a story intended to scare and entertain. They are almost like horror stories; the only difference is that they aren’t always gory. They are told in many different forms, books, theatre and also in films. Ghost stories have been significant for 100’s of years, and are a very popular form of entertainment. There are many different types of ghost stories, however I am going to look at only two main types.
I will study a contempary ghost story, and compare it with a 19th century ghost story. Although both these stories are written at different periods of time and are distinct, they share some similar ingredients. They usually consist of supernatural occurrences, bad weather, strange noises, nighttime and isolation. All these conventions are combined together to make ghost stories effective. They create an eerie effect, and send shivers down our spines. The two stories that I will compare are called ‘The Old Nurse’s story’ by Elizabeth Gaskell, and ‘The Darkness Out There’ by Penelope Lively.
The ‘Old Nurse’s Story’ was first published in 1850. It is a Victorian ghost story, and therefore has many Victorian values. It reinforces social class, and the fact that people should only socialize and marry people within their class. It also reinforces family values and religion therefore only heterosexual relationships were recognised. Children had a very strict upbringing, they had no independence. This was because Victorians believed that rules had to be obeyed, and ‘children should be seen and not heard’. Ghosts and witchcraft were believed in.
‘The Old Nurse’s Story’, is narrated by a nanny, and is about mysterious events that occur in a forbidden area in a big house. Here, noises are heard, ghosts are seen and an old broken organ is heard playing. These mysterious actions take place by two family members (Lord Furnival and Miss Furnival) that had died. Both ‘Lord Furnival’, and ‘Miss Furnival’, are the previous occupants of the house. Together they try to lure a young girl called ‘Miss Rosamond’ to her death. ‘The Darkness Out There’ was written post World War 2, during the time when people were very xenophobic.
This explains the behaviour of two characters, (Mrs Rutter and her sister). During this time there was a lot more freedom, children had a less strict upbringing, ghosts weren’t believed in as much, but their stories were still told and were entertaining. Class systems were still in action, in spite of this, they were more rigid and had no boundaries. People could marry whom they wanted. ‘The Darkness Out There’ is narrated by an old woman called ‘Mrs Rutter’. Mrs Rutter is a devious woman, who enjoys scaring young children for entertainment.
In this particular story, ‘Mrs Rutter’, scares two children, called ‘Kerry’ and ‘Sandra’ who come to help her with household chores. She terrifies them by telling them about a German aircraft which had once come down after the war, and how her and her sister could hear two airmen crying for help. However they chose not to help them, but instead leave them in pain suffering, until eventually they died. As I mentioned earlier, although ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’, and ‘The Darkness Out There’, are both written at different periods of time, they both still use some of the same conventions.
Both stories are situated in the woods, in houses, which contain or are near scary forbidden areas. ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ is based in a ‘Manor House’ and is called ‘Furnival Manor,’ it had been in the family for generations. It is at the end of ‘fells’, and is in an enclosed area away from all the ‘towns and villages’. The ‘great and stately house’, is inside the gates of a ‘large wild park’, which is ‘gnarled with thorn-trees, and old oaks, all white and peeled with age’. The house already seems very creepy and mysterious.