Alias Grace is the most recent novel by Margaret Atwood, Canada’s most prominent modern novelist. The novel is, as Atwood writes in her afterword, ‘a work of fiction, although it is based on reality’(538) centred on the case of Victorian Canada’s most celebrated murderess, Grace Marks, an immigrant Irish servant girl.
The manner in which Atwood imaginatively reconfigures historical fact in order to create a subversive text which ‘writes back’ to both the journals of a Canadian literary ancestor, and to Canada’s nineteenth century self -image, illustrates what critic Linda Hutcheon has called ‘the use of irony as a powerful subversive rule in the rethinking and redressing of history by both the post-modern and post-colonial artist ‘(131).
Atwood’s interest in the Mark’s case was first raised by her work on the journals of Susanna Moodie, a 19th-century emigrant to Canada. In a disparaging memoir entitled Roughing it in the Bush , published in London and addressed to an English audience, Moodie concentrated on the ‘otherness’ and ‘foreigness’ of Canada to refined European sensibilities, thus emphasising the privilege of ‘home’ over ‘native’ and ‘metropolitan’ over ‘provincial’. (Litvack 120). Life in the Clearings, Moodie’s sequel, intended to show the ‘more civilised’ side of Canada west, contained an account of her visit to the notorious Grace Marks in a Toronto Asylum. Moodie portrayed Grace as a shrieking, capering madwoman, and concluded her account with the pious hope that this ‘raving maniac’ would find some ‘peace at the feet of Jesus’ in the next world.
In the seventies, Atwood wrote a play for television which was based closely on Moodie’s recounting of the case, but in returning to the story twenty years later in Alias Grace, recounts a much more ambiguous, open - ended tale than the cut and dry ‘femme-fatale urges dim farmhand to murder’ account rehashed in Life in the Clearings.
Alias Grace can therefore be read both as a fictionalised account of a notorious true life case and also as a genuine instance of post-colonial ‘writing back’, as Canada’s most prominent present day (female) novelist, a leading exponent of modern Canadian literature, significantly revises a tale recounted by a female literary antecedent who spent most of her time unfavourably comparing the Canadian colony to ‘Home’.
... middle of paper ...
...llowing exchange between Simon Jordan and Grace’s ally, the Reverend Verringer, for it not only emphasises the manner in which Atwood’s novel is in some ways a ‘writing back’ to Moodie, but also casts a significant light on Grace’s entire narrative, by suggesting that patchwork quilts are not the only things she constructs from virtual scratch .The exchange between Verringer and Simon whilst discussing Susanna Moodie’s account of the Mark’s case is highly relevant :
‘Mrs Moodie is a literary lady, and like all such, and indeed the sex in general, She is inclined to- ‘
‘Embroider’, says Simon.
‘Precisely’, says Reverend Verringer. (p223)
Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace. London : Virago, 1997.
Hutcheon, Linda. ‘Circling the Downspout of Empire’. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. London : Routledge, 1995. p130-135.
Le Clair, Tom. ‘Quilty Verdict’. (Review) The Nation, September 1996.
Litvack, Leon. ‘Canadian Writing in English and Multiculturalism’. English Post-Coloniality. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. London: Routledge, 1998.
Van Herk, A. ‘Alias Grace’. Canadian Literature (1998) 156, 110-12.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- 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.... [tags: Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood, ]
1878 words (5.4 pages)
- Marriage Within "Alias Grace" and the 19th Century Within the nineteenth century, women lacked many rights; specifically, the rights that protect them as individuals and the rights that allowed them to live by their own means. Women were often identified as "second class citizens," as they were often viewed as inferior to men both physically and mentally. Evidently reflective of those views, the promise of marriage was used to manipulate women, marriage also took away the self sustenance of women, and when separated from their husbands, women resorted to some form of prostitution to survive.... [tags: Marriage, Husband, Social class, Wife]
1198 words (3.4 pages)
- Within the nineteenth century, women lacked many rights; specifically, the rights that protect them as individuals and the rights that allowed them to live by their own means. Evidently, the promise of marriage was used to manipulate women, marriage also took away the self sustenance of women, and when separated from their husbands, women resorted to some form of prostitution to survive. Within Margaret Atwood 's "Alias Grace," the shortfalls of marriage faced by the fictional women accurately represent the actual social issues of Ontario during the 1800 's.... [tags: Marriage, Husband, Wife, Sociology]
1020 words (2.9 pages)
- Margaret Atwood’s novel, Alias Grace, nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel, depicts a young 16 year old girl who is found guilty of murdering her employer and his lover in conspiracy with James McDerrmott. James McDermott is put to death by hanging, but Grace is brought to prison because she is of the “weaker sex.” This is a reflection of the construction of femininity and masculinity of the mid and late nineteenth century. A social issue of the Victorian age was women being treated as subordinate to men.... [tags: victorian era, subordinate women]
1338 words (3.8 pages)
- Set in the Victorian era where women remained at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, Alias Grace's female characters emerged out of the stereotypes of its time. Not only were they unique and extremely dynamic but Margaret Atwood's characters stood for more than just the unconventional women of such a society. They were strong and able women who overcome the traumas in their lives. They chose not to be labelled by impressions of the ideal women rather they made their own mark in society.... [tags: victorian era]
890 words (2.5 pages)
- Margaret Atwood’s novel Alias Grace is a work of historical fiction that has drawn upon several historical sources. As Atwood states these sources are often contradictory to each other and their creators have their own motives and biases in producing them. Atwood uses these contradictory versions of the same events very cleverly to underline the fact that the truth of Grace Marks’ guilt or innocence is no clearer now then it was at the time of her conviction. The novel also provides an interesting look at the historical records of women from different classes and circumstances.... [tags: lower class women, fiction]
1441 words (4.1 pages)
- Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace Margaret Atwood was born on November 18, 1939 in Ottawa, Ontario, and since then she has lived in various places such as Boston, London, France, Italy, Germany, and Alabama. She currently resides in Toronto. Atwood has written numerous poems, novels, short stories, children’s books, magazine articles, and works of nonfiction. She has also written three television scripts, and she has edited anthologies. Some of her well-known novels include The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, and Alias Grace ("Atwood").... [tags: Literary]
1190 words (3.4 pages)
- In ‘Alias Grace’, one of her most satisfying novels till date, Canadian author Margaret Atwood takes us back into the mid-1800s in the life and mind of Grace Marks, who was notoriously convicted for the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear and his house-keeper Nancy Montgomery. Reading Susanna Moodie’s account of the story, Atwood became interested and dug deeper into the story only to find several discrepancies in Moodie’s version of the story. Hence, she started writing her own version of the story, Alias Grace, which although primarily based on reality, is a work of historical fiction.... [tags: Literary Analysis]
654 words (1.9 pages)
- Atwood’s Presentation of her Female Characters Early in the novel Atwood presents us with the division between ladies and women. The example given is Grace compared to the governor’s wife and the ladies who frequently visit her. It seems that grace wishes that she was a lady when she comments “I have no gloves” this shows that Grace is conscious of her appearance even if she is in prison. Grace cannot sit on the governor’s wife’s settee without thinking of the ladies that have sat there before her who have bums “like wobbly soft boiled eggs”.... [tags: Alias Grace Margaret Atwood Essays]
764 words (2.2 pages)
- Innocent or Guilty. Grace Marks, the main character in Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, is undoubtedly guilty. The evidence against her is way too much to consider innocence. Feeling sympathy towards Grace seems easy, especially since she tries to make it out to seem that she is the victim, but when looking at the facts only, it is obvious that the evidence all points against her. She has motives, Grace has left evidence, and her stories are not consistent with each other. The evidence, as well as the motives signify her guilt, not her being a victim of an unfair system.... [tags: essays research papers]
1103 words (3.2 pages)