Meyer describes Plot as the author's arrangement of incidents in a story; it is, in a sense, what remains after a writer edits out what is irrelevant (Meyer 64). Writers use plot devices to select and order the events that constitute a story's plot so that what is told is brought into focus (Meyer 64). In Joyce Carol Oates' story The Night Nurse', the author does a magnificent job incorporating many, if not all, of the plot devices described in Meyer. From foreshadowing to flash back and the authors use of suspense, readers are held captive from the moment the story begins. Oates integrates plot devices from the opening scene using the technique, in medias res. By plunging the reader into a crucial situation that is an extension of earlier events, in this case, very early events, that happened (Britannica 2002). Not long after the introduction, Oates uses foreshadowing to hint and suggest what is to come. This organization and presentation of events and scenes is done so that the reader is prepared, to some degree, for what is to occur later in the work (Britannica 2002). With both of these plot devices Oates able to employ flashback and exposition. Allowing the reader to be exposed to events that happened before the opening of the story (Meyer 64) and even be provided with necessary background information about the characters, conflicts, and relationships (Meyer 2197). Oates then uses suspense to help secure and sustain the interest of the reader (Meyer 2212) throughout the second half of her story.
Oates begins the story in the middle of a plot. Based around a female character in the prime of her own life. A woman, Oates describes, accustomed to exercising authority as the chief administrator of an arts council (Oates 655), and thinks herself a good person, well-liked, respected, and in good health (Oates 661). The character Grace, or Grace Burkhardt, as we come to remember her by, finds herself in a medical emergency and has to be taken to the hospital for surgery.