Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Alias Grace Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Grace and her family finally land in Quebec, where Grace buys onions for her siblings; the children are so hungry they eat the onions raw. The family then returns to the boat and continues to Toronto, where they disembark. In Toronto, Grace’s father rents lodgings from a widow named Mrs. Burt. Grace intuits that Mrs. Burt is trying to “[make] a match” with her father, who in turn plays the role of bereaved widower. Grace knows that her father is only “working on [Mrs. Burt’s] feelings because he was behind in the rent,” having spent all his money on alcohol. Grace tells Dr. Jordan, “I believe it was only then that I truly began to hate him.”
Grace claims to have begun hating her father when he tried to woo Mrs. Burt instead of earning money to pay off his late rent. This is a complicated claim, as it reflects Grace’s resentment of her father on multiple levels: he is flirting with a woman almost immediately after the death of Grace’s mother, and he has entirely abdicated his role as a parent and protector of his children. Though Grace does not explain why this was the moment when she first began to hate her father, it seems likely that, even at a young age, Grace was subconsciously aware of the gendered implications of her father’s actions. Not only did her father’s actions seem to register as disrespectful to her mother’s memory, but it seems likely that Grace was also aware of the unfair way that her father was manipulating Mrs. Burt. Grace has apparently been a perceptive observer of social and gendered power dynamics from a young age.
Themes
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Soon, Grace’s father tells her it is time for her to “earn [her] own bread,” though she is not even thirteen years old. Mrs. Burt is friends with a woman named Mrs. Honey, a housekeeper for Mrs. Alderman Parkinson. Grace receives a position, and is set to move to the Parkinson house in a week’s time. She tells Dr. Jordan, “I was thankful I had to go away, because if not, it would soon have come to broken bones between myself and my father.” Grace reveals that her father abused both her and her mother and that, at this time, she had begun to think about killing him. Finally the time comes for Grace to leave. She says a sorrowful goodbye to her siblings; her father is “not at home” when she leaves.
Grace’s revelation that her father physically abused her and her mother is important on multiple levels. It highlights the fact that Grace has been a survivor of violence by men for virtually her entire life, which—if it does not directly atone for any involvement she might have had in the Kinnear-Montgomery murders—at least makes her a more empathetic character, as she has weathered countless forms of abuse. Additionally, this information is important because a later chapter in the novel will obliquely hint that Grace’s father may have been guilty of sexually abusing her as well.
Themes
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon