Alias Grace Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Alias Grace Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Grace and McDermott arrive in Toronto around five in the morning, and McDermott insists on breakfasting at the City Hotel, though this causes Grace to “[shiver] with apprehension, because of all the attention he was calling to himself.” Grace and McDermott then have to wait for the eight o’clock ferry across Lake Ontario to the States. As the sun comes up, Grace is horrified to realize that McDermott is wearing Mr. Kinnear’s boots. She asks him about it and he says that he is also wearing one of Mr. Kinnear’s shirts; he removed the bloody shirt from Mr. Kinnear’s body, as well, and replaced it with his own. This upsets Grace because she realizes that the shirt now on Mr. Kinnear’s body was one of the four that McDermott purchased from Jeremiah the peddler; she is concerned that Jeremiah will be blamed for participating in Kinnear’s murder.
This passage is, on some level, humorously and darkly ironic, as McDermott’s brash and bungling actions contrast with Grace’s natural subtlety—making it clear that Grace could have been the much more successful villain, had she chosen to be. This passage is also important because of Grace’s horrified reaction to the fact that McDermott is wearing Mr. Kinnear’s clothes. Grace seems unable to admit that her actions are comparable; something about the fact that McDermott removed Mr. Kinnear’s bloody shirt (even though this is not the shirt McDermott is now wearing) seems to strike Grace as deeply improper. Perhaps this passage reveals a blind spot in Grace’s personality; in the same way that Dr. Jordan would be unlikely to think of himself as a misogynist, Grace seems unable to see her own actions as unfeeling, even when they are.
Themes
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Grace convinces McDermott to change his clothes and she does the same. The moment he leaves to shave, Grace says, “was the moment [she] could have run for help.” However, she says she did not wish to betray McDermott: “There is something despicable about betrayal; and I’d felt his heart beating next to mine, and however undesired, still it was a human heart; and I did not wish to have any part in stilling it forever, unless I should be forced to.”
Grace’s feeling of loyalty toward McDermott seems to exceed their shared class status and extend to their shared identity as human beings. On the surface, this seems to be more evidence of Grace’s deep compassion, particularly for people who are suffering or isolated. Yet it is difficult to reconcile Grace’s sense of compassion for McDermott with the fact that she may have been an accomplice to murder, if not a murderer herself. Grace’s philosophy on life is deeply complicated, containing many contradictions.
Themes
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Grace and McDermott board the ferry with Charley Horse, whom they have taken with them in their escape. Grace is posing as Mary Whitney and McDermott as her brother, David. On the ferry, some young boys begin to flirt with Grace and she—“attempting to allay suspicion”—“return[s] their sallies with good humour, though it told against [her] at the trial.” As the ferry makes its way toward Lewiston, New York, Grace has a realization that a quilt pattern she is familiar with but has always found confusing, called Lady of the Lake, is actually “a pinwheel design, which must have stood for the paddle going around.” “I thought,” she said, “that things did […] have a design to them, if you only pondered them long enough. And perhaps it might be with recent events, which at the moment seemed […] so entirely senseless.” She calls this realization a lesson in faith.
Grace’s realization about the Lady of the Lake quilt pattern shows how desperately people want to believe in a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. This seems to account for the power of storytelling: it satisfies some deep human need for a conclusion. This passage is also important due to the detail of Grace flirting with the boys on the boat. This detail reflects Grace’s tolerance of the man’s harassment in her carriage ride to Richmond Hill; both instances demonstrate the way that the reason women cater to men’s sense of ownership over them is often because they are merely trying to ensure their own survival.
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
The ferry lands in New York State. While on the boat, McDermott had attempted to sell Charley Horse and the wagon; as a result, “the Customs Officer in Lewiston put[s] a duty” on these two items. Grace and McDermott do not have the money to pay this duty, so they are forced to stay the night in Lewiston, with McDermott deciding that he will sell some of their other possessions the following day in order to pay off the money owed. The two spend the night at an inn, where McDermott tries to force his way into Grace’s room. When Grace denies him entry, McDermott calls her “a slut and a whore” and she tells him “he should think of some new words to use, because [she is] heartily tired of those.” Grace makes up her mind that night to wake up early and sneak away, as she is convinced that McDermott will end up murdering her after he forces her to marry him. As she is falling asleep she takes comfort in the thought that “in a hundred years [she] would be dead and at peace, and in [her] grave.”
Grace’s quip that McDermott should think up some insults that don’t involve her sex drive epitomizes her unique brand of humor and self-assurance. At the same time, it also underscores the fact that McDermott is accusing Grace of having a voracious sexual appetite only because her sexual preferences do not happen to encompass him. This further highlights the idea that men in Grace’s society, regardless of their class status, feel entitled to women’s bodies. This passage is also noteworthy because of the melancholy comfort Grace takes in death; she thinks of it as being “at peace.” Not only does this reflection seem to arise from Grace’s sense of fatalism, but it also emphasizes her depression and sense of purposelessness.
Themes
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
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