Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Alias Grace Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Grace makes the long journey to Richmond Hill. She has very few possessions, but she brings with her an old shawl of her mother’s and a blue flowered handkerchief left to her by Mary Whitney. During the journey, the man sitting next to Grace in the coach badgers her and presses himself against her. Grace tells Dr. Jordan that the man was drunk and “when they are in that state it is just as well not to provoke them,” so she didn’t say anything.
The brief appearance of Mary’s handkerchief is important to note, because this is the handkerchief with which Nancy is ultimately strangled. The passage also shows how women like Grace are constantly subjected to sexual harassment, and how they have no recourse to combat it.
Themes
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Grace arrives in Richmond Hill at an inn, where her neighbor from the coach tries to assault her. Jeremiah the peddler shows up and defends Grace. Soon thereafter, Mr. Kinnear arrives to fetch Grace. Dr. Jordan interrupts to ask Grace what Mr. Kinnear looked like, and when she gives a simple, succinct answer he replies, “You did not observe him very particularly!” Grace responds, “I would have needed to turn my whole head, because of my bonnet. I suppose you have never worn a bonnet, have you Sir?”
Plot-wise, this moment is important because it represents another reason why Grace feels indebted to and fond of Jeremiah. On a thematic level, Grace’s response to Dr. Jordan’s rebuke of her as a storyteller represents a critique of the way that society restrains women from observing and interacting with their society. Though Grace knows that Dr. Jordan fancies himself her instructor (such as when he tried to teach her about Pandora’s Box), this moment shows that Grace is actually instructing him, opening his eyes to the harsh realities that women face in a society structured to disempower them.
Themes
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Mr. Kinnear drives Grace to his home in his wagon. When they arrive, Grace hears chopping from the back of the house (which she notes is smaller than Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s). She is introduced to a “shy and awkward” boy of fourteen named Jamie. She then spots Nancy cutting flowers in front of the house; Nancy waves to Grace but, Grace says, “she made no move to come over to me; and something squeezed tight about my heart.” Finally, a man holding an axe emerges from behind the house; Nancy orders the man, whom she calls McDermott, to show Grace to her room. Jamie trails along, asking questions that Grace is too tired to answer. “It is strange,” Grace tells Dr. Jordan, “to reflect that of all the people in that house, I was the only one of them left alive in six months’ time.”
Grace’s comment on the relative size of Mr. Kinnear’s house reveals her bizarre sense of snobbery, which will ultimately become a huge contributor to her dislike for Nancy. This passage is also important because of Grace’s powerful emotional association with her first memory of Nancy, in which she feels that Nancy snubbed her. Though Grace does not elaborate on the heart-squeezing feeling she had this first day at Mr. Kinnear’s, it seems likely that she was immediately disappointed in Nancy for not giving her the kind of welcome she would have expected of Mary (or even, perhaps, her mother). This moment thus seems to suggest that Nancy never could have measured up to Grace’s expectations for her, and that the ghost of Mary Whitney almost literally blocked Grace and Nancy from ever becoming friends.
Themes
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon