Historical Criticism of Alias Grace

Topics: Murder, Grace Marks, Alias Grace Pages: 4 (1373 words) Published: April 8, 2010
A challenge in the recording of history is that oftentimes the truth cannot be known, but only interpreted. According to the first Premier of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin: “A lie told often enough becomes the truth” (Moncur On-Line). In the case of Margaret Atwood’s historical novel, Alias Grace, the renowned Canadian author went through the trouble of compiling hundreds of resources on historical figure Grace Marks in order to present Atwood’s version of the truth. By examining the author, what little is known of Grace Marks, and the novel itself, one can gain an idea of Atwood’s own perception of the truth about Grace’s character. In order to understand Atwood’s insights into Grace Marks, one must first understand the author’s motives.

Although Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, her family was forced to relocate frequently as a result of her father being an entomological researcher (Bennett 776). Consequently, it was not until the eighth grade that Atwood attended her first full year of formal schooling (ibid.). Despite this initial inconsistency in her education, Atwood was a very engaged student in high-school and became fascinated by the story of Grace Marks, as told by Susanna Moodie in Life in the Clearings (Toye 24). This publication is the first novel dedicated to the story, but also contains many inaccuracies (ibid.). Moodie’s portrayal of Grace implies that the motive of the double murder was Grace’s passion for her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and her demented jealousy of Nancy Montgomery (Atwood In Search 29). By claiming that the motive of the murders was Grace’s love for Kinnear and not James McDermott’s tremendous hatred for his two employers, Moodie’s story was in line with the public opinion of Grace Marks as a celebrated murderess. After writing a series of poems about Susanna Moodie, followed by a screenplay about Grace, Atwood became more interested in Grace Marks’ story (Rozen On-Line). Moodie’s version seemed too...


Cited: or Consulted
Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace. Toronto: Seal Books, 2000.
Atwood, Margaret. In Search of Alias Grace. Boucherville: Ottawa UP, 1997.
Bennett, Donna, and Russell Brown, ed. A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English. 1st ed. Toronto: Oxford UP, 2002.
Moncur, Michael. “Lenin (1870 - 1924).” Quotations Page Online. 4 Jan. 2006

Rozen, Deborah. “An Interview with Margaret Atwood.” Random House 4 Jan. 2006

Toye, William, ed. The Concise Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. 2nd ed. Toronto: Oxford UP, 2001.
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