Helen Stoner finds herself in a difficult predicament. Her fears, real to her, are assumed to be the "fancies of a nervous woman" (p.4). Her fears seem trivial to others for several reasons. She admits the situation and her fears are vague. Her suspicions rely on the interconnection of a number of small points. Her fears stem from two factual points about her life. Her stepfather is a brutal man, having thrown a man from a parapet and threatened Holmes by bending a fireplace poker. Secondly, Helen's sister died from an unknown cause. The coroner's inquiry, already suspicious of her stepfather, could find no cause to hold him or anyone liable. She has no evidence of any real danger.
If this were not enough, her vague suspicions are compounded by her status in life. As a single woman during this period in time, she does not have the same standing or respect as a man or married woman. This is highlighted by her admission she does not have money, but shall soon marry and have "control of my own income" (p.3).