Monday, 3 September 2007

"Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood: Mrs Rachel Humphrey

Mrs Humphrey
(“Rachel”, when Simon gets to know her better)

She is incapable of functioning without servants (Dora). Mrs H can’t even cook an egg or clean her house.

Jordan thinks “she is an interesting study” in herself: Her idea of herself, for instance, is much more exalted than present circumstances warrant” 85

Jordan sees her as living a life of quiet desperation (my idea) See 85-6 for his analysis of her.

Simon after buying Mrs H. some much needed supplies.
(Simon) “’Think nothing of it. I could not let you starve.’ His voice is heartier than he intends, the voice of a jolly and insincere uncle who can scarcely wait to bestow the expected quarter-dollar on the grovelling poor-relation niece, pinch her cheek, and then make his getaway to the opera.” Simon silently curses and envies Major Humphrey’s freedom from Mrs H. 166.

Mrs Humphries hints that she has her body and will trade that:“Women like me have few skills that they can sell”. 166 (The whole scene here is melodramatic, “Her eyes fill with tears” and the moment is “slightly dampened” by “the trace of butter that remains upon” Mrs Humphries’ mouth”. 167

Dora tells Grace, “ . . . Dr. Jordan should watch himself, because if ever she saw a determination to get a man’s trousers of him, it was there in the eyes of Mrs. Humphrey.” 353

Mrs. Humphreys gets depressed and “She’s been raiding his supplies” of Laudenum . 376

Dupont to Simon: “But will you go as far as to admit that women in general have a more fragile nervous organization, and consequently a greater suggestibility?” 350 (Men’s views on women or can they be applied to several characters including Grace and Mrs Humphries?)

She also claims to be a sleepwalker
Mrs Humphrey claims to have been sleepwalking when she went to Simon’s bed:
This is the very thing Rachel claims of herself: she was sleepwalking, she says. She thought she was outdoors in the sunlight, gathering flowers but somehow found herself in his room, in the darkness, in his arms, and already then it was too late, she was lost”. . . .”He doesn’t for a moment believe this story, but for a refined woman of her class he supposes it’s a way of saving face.” (Mrs Humphreys claims to be a somnambulist “since childhood”. The links with Grace are obvious. It also highlights the question for Simon whether he should believe “Grace’s” somnambulism when he immediately discounts “Rachel’s”. 423

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I teach Film, Media and English Lit.