Monday, 3 September 2007

"Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood: revision overview

Key areas to revise as you annotate and revise "Alias Grace" Read the more detailed notes to flesh out these ideas.

Significant Characters A.O. 1
Grace Marks
Atwood’s objective portrayal of Grace keeps her innocence and guilt in a creative tension.

Other characters views of Grace (male and female)

The character of Dr Jordan

Mary Whitney > Grace

Jeremiah > Jerome Dupont (mesmerist) > Gerald Bridges (Hypnotist)

The Prison Governor’s wife and Lydia

Mrs Rachel Humphries

The Reverend Verringer

Nancy and Thomas Kinnear
Jamie Walsh
Mrs Jordan
James McDermott
Several doctors, including Dr. Workman.
> = becomes also

Motifs and key words A.O. 1 and A.O.3
Peonies (red and white)
Work – sewing/sewing machines
Dreams – somnambulism

Add more key words you think are important.

Key Themes A.O. 3
Relationships between men and women.
Sensuality and desire

Class and power between the classes and sexes
Identity (includes role-playing, changes. Grace’s growth through change - being a lady (Grace rises to this status by the end of the novel.) Sonambulism (sleepwalking) split identity (in souls – doubledement!)
What it means to be Canadian – trapped between the major identities of Colonial Britain and the increasingly powerful USA.

Journeys (Grace – a female Ulysses, who “crosses the ocean three times” and ends up at Ithaca, New York.)

The symbolism of dreams for the unconscious (The ocean of the unconscious mind.)

Storytelling and narratives (Grace as a “Sheherezade figure,” quilts, etc.) unreliable narratives, by men, Grace, etc.

Narrative stances/positioning A.O. 3

Narrative stances: third person and Grace’s first person. Think about the overwhelming use of the tense of each narrative.

Metafiction (see Wikipedia or my notes for these terms.)


The quilt structure.

Epigrams, extracts from texts to create tone and atmosphere and to intrigue, puzzle or to set up an objective tension in the reader on Grace’s innocence or guilt.

Give independent opinions and judgements and articulate judgements by other readers A.O. 4

Revise the various ways of interpreting texts. Almost all apply to Alias Grace, from Colonialist to Psychoanalytical.

The cultural and historical and other contexts A.O. 5ii

Ireland: poverty/clashes between the protestants and Catholics in the North.

Emigration – the voyage and arrival.

Toronto 1830s -40s:
great disparities between the rich and poor. Classes: rich and poor – employing class and servants.

The Lyon-Mckenzie led rebellion in the 1837 and its support from servant class. He was supported by the USA.

Position of men and women: during the period setting of the novel and now.

Victorian attitudes to women and crime: the ideas behind “The Penitentiary.

The Victorians’ obsession for doctors, medical research,
mesmerism, hypnotism, spiritualism, hidden knowledge, etc.

Key Chapters To Focus On:
5. Puss In The Corner
10-11. Young Man’s Fancy
13. Broken Dishes
17 -20. Secret Drawer
21. Snakefence
27-31. Fox And Geese
32-36. Hearts And Glizzards
42-45. Falling Timbers (44 very important)
45-47. Solomon’s Temple
All of Pandora’s Box 48-49
50 The Letter X
All of The Tree Of Paradise, particularly 53
Atwood's Afterword (Don’t forget this!)

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