This quote evokes pictures in the mind of the reader which are frighteningly hideous. A lot of the sentences in The Wharf finish open-ended, which gives space for the reader to make their own interpretation of what is happening to prevail. This lack of closure is also creates cliff-hangers. The language used in The Old Nurse’s Story uses longer and more elaborate sentences. Because it is told in the first person narrative, this style of language mirrors they way in which some would verbally reminisce. The fact that the ‘old nurse’ is able to distinctly recall every little detail about what happened years ago strikes the reader as being strange, and could perhaps be sinister. This sense of history adds to the story’s powerful affect.
A scene in The Old Nurse’s Story which sows an example of the kind of imagery which aids the powerful effects is the scene in which the shepherd brings Rosamund to her minder. Gaskell creates a disconcerting effect by using monosyllabic words, which also create tension. The words ‘still’, ‘white’ and ‘stiff’ were used to describe Rosamund. The usage of such short and sharp words causes the reader to think that the climax of the story has been reached. Pathetic fallacy is also used in the book to create sinister effects. For example, in The Old Nurse’s Story, Gaskell describes the weather as being ‘stormy’. Stormy, unsettled weather is the traditional setting for a ghost story.
Another example of pathetic fallacy is when Gaskell describes the ghost of Lord Furnival playing the organ tempestuously and with ‘frightening violence’. This again is what is now seen to be the typical setting of an evil occurrence; darkness, spooky music and bad weather. As the occurrence of the evil signs increases throughout the story, further tension is created as the reader thinks the climax of the story is approaching.
In The Wharf, when the woman was walking down the wharf, de la Mare describes her vicinity as being ‘dark’. Usually, darkness signifies that something wicked is about to happen. Also, when earlier on in the story, when the draught blows out the candle, it symbolises the dying of hope. The description of the house also creates a disturbing effect. It appears to be the typical ‘house of horror’. It is described as being ‘desolate’ and ‘scooped out of the thick dark wood’. Also, traditionally, at midnight on New Year’s Day, the boundary between the living and the dead is said to be weaker, and both of these time frames are present in The Old Nurse’s Story.
The pace and tension of the two stories is another contrasting difference. The pace at the beginning of both stories is slow, as the authors establish the characters and their surroundings. In The Old Nurse’s Story, the pace quickens as clues about what is to happen appear. As the reader nears the climax of the story, the shortening of the sentences, and the ever-increasing specificity of time quickens the pace.
In The Wharf, pace of the story does not speed up as quickly. The climax of the story is reached in the middle, rather than the traditional method of reaching it at the end. In The Old Nurse’s Story, tension is built up when we are left with many unanswered questions, such as why is the east wing forbidden, and why was the painting of Miss Maude facing the wall? In The Wharf, pace and tension are built up when we are taken through the woman’s mysterious dream. The dream leaves us with unanswered questions about what made the memories so horrific. Before we are actually taken through the experience of the dream, the woman describes it in such a way that we anticipate what will happen.
The woman says, ‘…was like the throes of a nightmare in a hot still huge country – a country like Africa, enormous and sinister and black.’ This entices the reader to read further, as they want to find out what she could possibly be describing in such a way. The pace of The Wharf decreases after the dream, as the woman is brought to the realisation that the soul disposal was just a product of her inner psyche. A topic which is explored to a varying extent in both of the stories is the bounds of reality. In The Wharf, the woman’s nightmare causes her to convince herself that all souls are worthless, ‘…she knew that this refuse was the souls of men.’
Despite this not being real, the breakdown triggers a period of depression during which she questions the point of life. Mr. Simmonds helps her to come to her senses and realise that although it is true that all things die, this is part of the circle of life. The products of the woman’s inner psyche therefore passed through the bounds of reality into what she believed were real life. This creates a influential and disturbing effect as it shows how difficult it can be for someone to exert a conscious control over the unconscious mind. In The Old Nurse’s Story, a less psychological method of showing where the bounds of reality lie was used.
The trees surrounding, and almost becoming part of the house signifies just how close humans can come to the boundary between life and death, ‘…many trees close around it, so close that in some places their branches dragged down against the wall.’ The trees provide an element of mystery and evilness, which is shown to be slowly cloaking and overshadowing the house. The Old Nurse’s Story has a quicker pace than The Wharf, which creates tension and maximises the effectiveness of the story. Despite the variance in the techniques adopted by the respective stories, they both achieve similar affects which are suited to their target audiences.