Alias Grace

Alias Grace

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Introduction Margret Atwood a long time celebrated author,

has most recently published Alias Grace. Atwood has taken

a different approach to this novel. Although fictional this

story has been based on reality. Grace Marks, the main

character is indeed, on of the mid-eighteen hundreds most

famous criminals. She was the celebrated villain of the

Kinnear-Montgomery murders. This novel has a terrific

sense of mystery but also enough interest to engage the

reader into its historical drama. Plot Summary Alias Grace,

begins in the main character, Grace Marks', sixteenth year of

incarceration for the murder of Thomas Kinnear, her past

employer. Her supposed accomplice in the murders has

already been killed for the murder of Kinnear, although

Marks being a woman was handed a lighter sentence of life,

although originally sentenced to death also. The death of

Nancy Montgomery, Kinnear's housekeeper and mistress,

was disregarded as both villain had already been sentenced

to death. Grace is around thirty years old, being accused of

the crimes when she was only sixteen. Grace is prison where

she has been mentally tortured during her rotation from

prison to asylum over time. Doctors who wish to "examine"

her frequently visit. She has now has a subconscious

aversion to these doctors and the world which she knows.

She has become accustomed to being silent and unseen. This

novel begins with the interest of a young doctor in Grace,

Dr. Simon Jordan. He is noted as being from a wealthy

family and of good name, but is more interested in studying

abroad about sanity and those enclosed in asylums rather

than interest at home. He has little experience in dealing on a

personal basis with the question of sanity of patients, but is

intrigued by this fabulously sensationalized murderess. A

group that has continuously tried for the pardon of Grace

Marks has recruited him. In hopes of discovery that she has

been found mentally sane and furthermore innocent on all

counts of murder. Dr. Jordan's main purpose is to help

recover the lost memory of the time during the murders. This

memory which some to believe was conveniently forgotten

helped convict her during the trial; almost as if she had

admitted to the killings. During the course of his visits with

Grace, Dr. Jordan encourages her to tell of her life before

the murders. Grace begins her story with her family in

Scotland. Grace had been left with her abusive father and

the smaller children after her mother died on the passage to

America. A trip taken for necessity rather that need: for her

father was in a bit of financial trouble in Scotland. Grace is

sent out in Canada as a servant.

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Here is where Grace meets

her first true friend, Mary Whitney. Mary teaches Grace to

be her own person. Unfortunately, Mary has a horrible death

due to a bad surgical abortion and Grace is left alone and

trouble by the gruesome death of her friend. Grace travels

from house to house looking for the right setup for her

services. Finally, she meets Nancy Montgomery the

housekeeper of Thomas Kinnear. She takes a job under

Nancy mistakenly believing in their friendship. Soon Nancy

is overtaken with Grace in the house, she becomes

increasingly jealous of her role with Mr. Kinnear. This leads

to the obvious discovery of a romantic relationship between

Kinnear and Montgomery. With the proposed dismissal of

Grace and the hired hand McDermott, Grace is led with

McDermott into killing the two and robbing them for their

own escape. Although not long after, in a hotel, Grace and

McDermott, even though ironically using the alias Mary

Whitney, are arrested. At this point in Dr. Jordan's analysis

of Grace months have passed. He has become more and

more involved in the Grace Marks story. This reaches the

point to where he believes he has fallen in love with her. In

return he has taken to his landlady to relieve his frustrations

of his untouchable desires for Grace. Dr. Jordan becomes

even more involved with the case and is determined to find

out the memory lapses in Grace's story. The group who

hired Dr. Jordan has become restless for his slow process to

uncovering the truth. Dr. Jerome DuPont enters the medical

study of Grace Marks. Although Grace has known Jerome

before but as a peddler and friend named Jeremiah. Much to

the dismay of Jordan, DuPont is given the opportunity to put

Grace into hypnosis, in full view of her peers. During this

momentous scene, Grace is hypnotized into a state of

unconsciousness where she able to retrieve memories not

perceived during consciousness. Grace, after asked many

specific questions, uncovers the mystery of the night of the

murders. In fact, the time not remembered by Grace, is of a

personality not her own but that of Mary Whitney. Here

Mary Whitney declares her guilt, but states that Grace would

have no recollection of this time. After this scene, all goes

back to its original way for many years. Dr. Simon Jordan's

affair with his landlady becomes too controversial and

abruptly leaves town and neglects to say goodbye to his

patient or his female admirers. The group dedicated to

Grace's innocence still argues for her release but now basis

their reasoning on mental insanity of the Grace during the

murders. Grace is returned to prison for which she is still

hopeful for her release on account of her hypnotic trance

confession. Much time has passed and Dr. Jordan has no

longer been heard from. Only from letters of

correspondence with others do the readers discover he has

been injured in the Civil War. He has become engaged, but

the event is being postponed until his mental capabilities are

restored. Coincidentally, his mother questionably states his

reference to his fiancee as "Grace". Now at the age of

forty-five, almost thirty years after the murder, Grace, still

working as a servant outside of prison, is set free. With her

new freedom Grace becomes deeply disturbed. Prison has

become her life, and now she knows little of what else to do.

Grace with the help of the Governor and his daughter they

help her find her in this emotional transition. As a special

request they help her with her personal items and bring her

to the state of New York where a home has been provided

for her. In a surprise turn of events, a boy who used to also

work for Kinnear, who also helped convict Grace during the

trial, asks Grace to live with him. He is sorry for testifying

against her and asks her forgiveness. Grace eventually

marries the man and goes on to live a life with her husband.

The novel ends with the final correspondence to Dr. Jordan

from Grace an update from her of present life with her

husband. Setting The setting of Alias Grace is extremely

important in the story. The story takes place in the novel and

in actuality in the mid to late eighteen hundreds. The murders

of Nancy Montgomery and Thomas Kinnear occurred on

July 23, 1843. The crime and court proceedings are all

dated to their actual time and place. The murders took place

in Kingston a small town in Canada. This is important

because during this time in history their was little sense of the

American way of thinking "innocent until proven guilty"

theory. The judge, jurors, and the public had all decided

Grace Marks was guilty before she was even tried. There

was no sequestering of juries in those days to prevent false

accusations from tainting the opinions of those trying Grace

Marks. Also during those times, the sentencing was more

brutal than today. If a person was found guilty of murder the

sentence was death by hanging. This was true for the fate of

McDermott ended in this way. Almost as malicious, life in

prisons and asylums were considered inhuman or even

barbaric by today's standards. In addition, the correct

diagnosis of mental disabilities was nearly nonexistent.

Therefore, in this case, the purpose of using hypnosis was

widely unorthodox, and its unveiling of multiple personality

disorders was a stunning revelation. Many cases of guilt by

insanity were tried and put to death while other mentally

capable convicts were entered into an asylum.
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