Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Alias Grace Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Several days after Jeremiah’s visit, a doctor comes to the house. The day prior, while trying on a dress in front of her mirror Nancy had remarked that she was getting too plump,” and this morning she had felt dizzy after breakfast. Grace suspects the doctor must have been summoned on Nancy’s behalf. The doctor meets with Mr. Kinnear, but Grace spies Nancy speaking to the doctor in the driveway as he is leaving. 
This moment again shows Grace’s youth and inexperience. The fact that Nancy has gained weight and is seemingly experiencing morning sickness still does not tip Grace off to the fact that she’s pregnant. Perhaps the fact that Grace is so flabbergasted by their cross-class relationship accounts for her inability to fathom a pregnancy.
Themes
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Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Mr. Kinnear calls for Nancy, who is still outside with the doctor. Grace answers and says Nancy is lying down, because she thinks Nancy “might not want it known what she’d been doing.” Mr. Kinnear asks for some coffee. When Grace goes to the kitchen to fetch it, she finds Nancy, who angrily insists that she will take Mr. Kinnear his coffee. She also tells Grace to scrub the kitchen floor, because she is “tired of living in a pigpen.”
The fact that Grace covers for Nancy suggests that, despite their recent arguments, Grace still feels a sense of loyalty to Nancy. While harsh, Nancy’s angry reaction to Grace is also partially understandable to the reader, who by this point has likely realized that Nancy is pregnant by Mr. Kinnear and is frustrated that he is seemingly paying so much attention to Grace.
Themes
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Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
The day has become hot and still, and Grace labors over the kitchen floor, scrubbing on her knees with her dress pulled between her legs and tucked into her apron. She hears someone enter and assumes it is McDermott; she tells him not to walk on her clean floor in his dirty boots. When she turns around, she finds Mr. Kinnear smirking at her, and she hurriedly tugs down her skirts, thinking “Why couldn’t he have the decency to say who he was?” Nancy then comes into the kitchen and sees Grace conversing with Mr. Kinnear. She angrily orders Grace out of the kitchen and tells her to pin up her hair because she “look[s] like a common slut.” Mr. Kinnear makes a quick exit. Alone with Nancy, Grace considers throwing something at her, but all of the sudden she realizes that Nancy is pregnant—or, “in trouble,” as Grace thinks. Her realization makes Grace feel “as if [she’s] been kicked in the stomach.”
Though Grace remains deferential to Mr. Kinnear after she realizes he is spying on her, she also seems frustrated by him. This is a rare moment in which Grace critiques Mr. Kinnear’s behavior, and it seems to suggest that Mr. Kinnear was far lewder toward Grace than she even realized—or, perhaps, than she is admitting to Dr. Jordan.
Themes
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That night, Nancy and Mr. Kinnear dine together, while Grace eats in the kitchen with McDermott, wondering what Mr. Kinnear will do when he finds out about Nancy’s pregnancy. She hopes Mr. Kinnear won’t cast Nancy out, “a waif on the common highway and a prey to wandering scoundrels,” but she also feels angry that Nancy might get off scot-free, when Mary Whitney died “for the same sin.”
Grace’s concern and disdain for Nancy seem to both be born of her memories of Mary Whitney. Grace doesn’t want Nancy to be cast from the house and possibly assaulted on the highway, but her sense of justice tells her that Nancy deserves to die for her sin just as Mary Whitney did. It seems possible that Grace’s vindictive notion of justice might be in part due to the fact that she actually believes it is wrong for Nancy to have gotten pregnant by Mr. Kinnear. However, the more likely interpretation is that Grace is still so devastated by and angry about Mary Whitney’s death that she is subconsciously channeling that anger at Nancy. In moments like this one, it seems possible that Grace had enough motive to have killed Nancy—though it is important to note that, even if she did, she did not do it for love of Mr. Kinnear, as the newspapers claimed, but ultimately for love of Mary.
Themes
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Grace tells McDermott she is going to bed, but instead she listens at the parlor door, wanting to overhear Mr. Kinnear reading The Lady of the Lake (a book Grace used to read with Mary Whitney) aloud to Nancy. Grace overhears the two flirting and when Mr. Kinnear asks Nancy what she thinks of Grace, Nancy replies that she has heard Grace talking to herself and wonders if she is “quite right.” Grace continues to eavesdrop after Nancy and Mr. Kinnear have gone upstairs to bed, hearing Mr. Kinnear call Nancy “a dirty girl” and Nancy laughing.
Grace doesn’t offer much commentary on the conversation she overhears, but she is very aware of the way that class differences color Nancy and Mr. Kinnear’s relationship. Note also the mention of Grace talking to herself—possibly foreshadowing Grace’s “possession” (or alibi of being possessed) by Mary Whitney.
Themes
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Grace has a difficult time sleeping, because she is terrified of the thunderstorm that moves overhead. As she lies in bed she hears a voice near her ear say It cannot be and she is so terrified she passes out. She then has “a very strange dream,” in which she is walking through the yard and feels two arms come around her from behind. She thinks it might be Jeremiah, or McDermott, or Mr. Kinnear, but then she realizes, it is “another man, someone I knew well and had long been familiar with, even as long ago as my childhood […] nor was this the first time I’d found myself in this situation with him.” Just then Grace hears a horse neighing, and recognizes it as the horse ridden by Death on the Day of Reckoning. She realizes that it is Death who has wrapped his arms around her, and as he kisses her with “his lipless mouth” she feels “horror” but also “a strange longing.” Suddenly the sun rises, and Grace sees headless angels in robes washed with blood “sitting in silent judgment upon Mr. Kinnear’s house, and on all within it.” Grace then loses consciousness in the dream.
The first important aspect of this passage is the fact that Grace hears a voice that says, “It cannot be,” which is the exact thought she herself had when she realized Nancy was pregnant. In retrospect, the reader will realize that (if Grace is to be believed) the voice speaking to Grace here is that of Mary Whitney, who is about to once again take possession of Grace’s body. Grace’s dream itself is hugely important. The violent imagery that she associates with God and divine justice seems to partially explain why she feels so powerless when the murder plot actually begins to unfold. More importantly, the fact that Grace realizes the man in her dream is someone she knew from her childhood implies that Grace was sexually abused by her father. Because she left her father’s house when she was only twelve, this means that Grace was very young when her father sexually abused her. Though this information is never again referenced, it is important to note that Grace has likely suffered intense trauma at the hands of men since she was a young girl. Though this does not excuse the violence that Grace may have committed, it certainly contextualizes her fraught relationship to the questions of sex and power.
Themes
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Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
When Grace awakens she finds that her nightdress is wet and her feet are dirty. She worries that she “must have been walking around outside without knowing [she] was doing so,” as she did after Mary Whitney’s death. She goes outside to pump some water and finds that she forgot to bring the washing inside; the rain has blown it into the trees, making it look “as though our own clothing was sitting in judgment upon us,” like the angels in Grace’s dream. Grace wishes she could take Jeremiah up on his offer to run away, but she does not know how to contact him.
Once again, this is a passage that will take on more significance in hindsight, as it seems to be evidence that Grace has once again been possessed by Mary Whitney (though she, allegedly, is not aware of this at the time that she is narrating this story to Dr. Jordan). Grace’s comment about the clothing in the trees is noteworthy because it symbolically represents Grace’s fear that all of society is looking down on the “sin” taking place in the Kinnear household. In this way, Grace’s vision-like dreams might be acting as a way for her to build her case that the Kinnear-Montgomery murders were somehow fated, or at least justifiable.
Themes
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Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Grace notices that Dr. Jordan is furiously taking notes and she feels glad that she “can bring a little pleasure into a fellow-being’s life.” She thinks, “I wonder what he will make of all that.”
This fleeting comment should raise a huge red flag, because it indicates that Grace may have been manipulating her story in order to satisfy Dr. Jordan’s craving for the sensational, and/or to intentionally mislead him. Once again, the reader is reminded that Grace’s narration cannot be taken at face value, since she has much to gain or lose from how she represents herself.
Themes
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