Atwood's Framing of the Story in "Alias Grace"

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One of the main themes of the postmodern movement includes the idea that history is only what one makes of it. In other words, to the postmodern philosopher history is only a story humans frame and create about their past (Bruzina). Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace is an excellent exploration of this postmodern idea. Through use of postmodern writing styles and techniques, Atwood explores how the framing of a story influences its meaning. By mixing different writing mediums such as prose, poetry, period style letters, and historical documents such as newspaper articles, Atwood achieves a complex novel that explores a moment of history in a unique way. The different genres allow for the reader to experience different perspectives of the same story- the murder of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. Atwood masterfully weaves researched historical “facts” with fictionalized accounts of the murders, primarily through Grace’s story telling, into a complex and realistic version of the mysterious event.

Alias Grace exemplifies postmodernism’s preoccupation with the past. Other novels of the genre also explore the past through a modern lense. For example, John Gardner’s Grendel explores the famous epic poem Beowulf in a new, postmodern light. Similarly, Alias Grace uses the Kinnear-Montgomery murder to explore the societal issues of the past and compare them to the social issues of the present. As explained by Gillian Siddal,

[W[hile Grace Marks lived in the nineteenth century, Atwood produced the novel in the twentieth century, and thus her Grace has, anachronistically, access to postmodernist conventions that allow her to construct her life story. In a way that challenges essentialist notions of identity. [She refuses] to engage ...

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...ood, Margaret. Alias Grace. New York: First Anchor Books, 1996. Print.

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Margaret Atwood Revisited. Ed. Robert Lecker. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1999. 87-110. Print. Twayne's World Authors Series.

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