Grace Marks: Murderess of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery

Topics: Alias Grace, Victorian era, Margaret Atwood Pages: 5 (1923 words) Published: January 10, 2014
The dominant time of the novel is 1859, although the first chapter is set in 1851, and the last section in 1872. Grace has been convicted for over 15 years, is a model prisoner and works at the Prison Governor’s house as a servant. Grace’s story develops as an articulated dialogue between Grace and Dr. Simon Jordan, the American psychologist who has been summoned to investigate Grace’s mental health. He applies the newest methods in the blossoming field of psychology with special regard to analogy-related practices. Asking Grace to tell the story of her life, he believes she might possibly regain her memory and remember what happened the day that Kinnear and Nancy were murdered.

It appears that Grace is a terrific storyteller. Dr. Jordan is mesmerised by the detailed description she provides of her poverty-stricken family in northern Ireland, the journey across the Atlantic Ocean in the hold of a filthy ship, her father’s drinking and violence, the death of her friend and fellow servant, Mary Whitney, and finally the few weeks in service at Kinnear’s. Grace says she doesn’t remember much of the day of the crime because she fainted several times, shocked by the violence of McDermott, though her descriptions of people and situations prior to that experience are extraordinarily precise. Although Grace’s story is told in a camera-clear manner, Simon is not able to find out the truth about Grace.

Alias Grace points out that there were many different opinions about Grace Marks in the nineteenth century. Public opinion was divided into two major groups representing the two major political parties at that time: Tories and Reformers. Because Grace was an immigrant, a woman and a representative of the servant class, the two political factions used her to display their political clout. The Tories wanted Grace (and McDermott), as servant-class people to be punished for the crime of insubordination, and problems connected with massive immigration from Europe. Grace, surely, was a female fiend who won over McDermott with her good looks and persuaded him to kill Nancy, because Grace was in love with Thomas Kinnear and jealous of her, as his mistress. Conversely, Reformers saw in Grace an innocent victim, compelled by McDermott to help him kill the two people, and forced to follow him because he threatened her. Reverend Verringer - the novel’s main representative of the group that supports Grace and is trying to obtain her release thanks to a petition - emphasises several times the fact that Grace was very young at the time of the crimes and being a woman had no will power to resist a man like McDermott.

Grace’s story is basically told from two different points of view, the most important being her own as opposed to Simon’s. Grace is an excellent storyteller, she portraits Victorian society form the bottom to the top, intermingling historical, social and cultural facts. Her position is a particular one, for she has the privilege of having a one-man public craving to hear her talk about herself. Nobody had ever shown any interest in her story, because people were not interested in hearing the truth. She had been judged and condemned before the trial had even begun, because she was a young, handsome servant girl, who after the murders had fled to the United States with her “paramour” McDermott, whom she was found in the same hotel with. In Victorian society a woman sleeping under the same roof with a man was seen as morally wrong as if they had shared the same bed. Shortly, she was a fallen woman, and one who had also helped murdering her master and housekeeper. Grace’s words had been used against her, the confession she gave at the trial contrived by her lawyer, Kenneth MacKenzie in order to prove her insanity and reduce her punishment.

The part of the novel told from Grace’s point of view is structured on different levels, highlighting the main features of Victorian morality and social structure, and fashioning her own...
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