An unnamed narrator explains that the following story is a case study from the collected papers of Doctor Hesselius, who has written an essay on the condition of the young woman at the center of the story. Since the audience for this case, however, is the “laity” (or the non-scientific public), the narrator announces that he or she will publish just the woman’s version of the narrative, gleaned from her correspondence with the doctor, rather than publishing the doctor’s scientific essay about the case. The young woman, who will become the narrator of the story, has since died and is therefore unable to provide any further contribution than has already been made, though the narrator remarks that her story seems thoroughly and intelligently told.
The story is told from Laura’s recollections, relayed by her correspondence with the doctor. Since the story is told from memory, rather than as the events are happening, Laura has more clarity about how the events of the story affected her. While one might expect the passage of time to muddy Laura’s memories, the observation that her story is “thoroughly told” hints at how great an impact her experiences had on her. The reader is also only hearing the parts of the story that Laura decides to tell, and the account is therefore a subjective one.