Alias Grace Chapter 43 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Alias Grace Chapter 43 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Grace reports that Dr. Jordan has left Kingston for Toronto. She misses his company and worries that “when he goes away, as he is bound to do sooner or later, there will be a sad emptiness in [her] heart.” She wonders what she will tell him when he returns; “I could say this,” she thinks, and continues with her story, which is not in quotation marks but is now addressed in the second person directly to Dr. Jordan.
The fact that Grace continues narrating her story to Dr. Jordan even in his absence shows the comfort she takes in being able to finally tell her story to an audience. Her sense of loneliness following Dr. Jordan’s departure also highlights, yet again, how alone Grace has felt her whole life.
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Grace is arrested first, followed by McDermott. As the two are transported back across Lake Ontario to Canada, McDermott insists that Mr. Kinnear was most likely killed by a “suspicious-looking man” (Jeremiah) who had been “hanging around” the house, which angers Grace. Grace and McDermott are imprisoned in Toronto. Grace asks for her box of clothes and notes that the newspapers “sneered at [her] for referring to it as [hers]”—but, she insists, “although it was true this box and the clothes in it had once been Nancy’s, they were hers no longer, as the dead have no use for such things.” Grace adds, “I don’t think I could have scratched myself or wiped my nose without it being written up in the newspapers, and malicious comment made on it in high-sounding phrases.”
Grace’s rather cold assertion that Nancy’s clothes ceased to be hers the moment Nancy died speaks to the complex and ambiguous relationship between these two women. Despite the fact that Grace despised Nancy for living a life above her station, Grace seems almost to want to follow Nancy’s lead; by donning her clothes, she also styles herself as a gentlewoman, rather than a servant. This passage also shows how obsessed the public became with Grace’s story. Furthermore, Grace’s resentment at being described in “high-sounding phrases” suggests her anger at not being able to speak for herself and in her own words.
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
An inquest is scheduled to be held soon after Grace’s arrest, and Grace begins to worry because she can “see that feeling [is] running very much against me.” The Toronto prison guards tease Grace about being hanged, and one of them tries to sexually assault her; a fellow prisoner defends Grace, telling the guard to “keep away”—“which he did mostly,” Grace says.
The ostensibly casual way in which Grace mentions yet another instance in which she was sexually assaulted (by yet another male figure in power) shows how culturally normal male violence against women is. It also seems likely that Grace has learned how to describe her assaults so dispassionately as a kind of survival tactic, to prevent herself from becoming emotionally exhausted.
Themes
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Grace thinks, “I will tell Dr. Jordan about this, as he likes to hear about such things, and always writes them down.”
The fact that Grace is unable (or unwilling) to recognize that Dr. Jordan is interested in her sexual trauma because he finds it erotic—rather than because he feels compassion for Grace or wants to help her—implies that Grace is desperate for an audience who will hear out her story, regardless of that audience’s motivation for listening.
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
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The Inquest takes place in City Hall, in front of a large audience. Though Grace truly feels as if she had not been “present at [the murders] at all,” she knows that if she says this she will be “laughed to scorn,” especially since the butcher has testified to seeing and conversing with her the day of the murders. Grace tells a made-up account of the day, but feels justified in saying that she really heard the gunshot, as “indeed they found the ball from the gun, in the wood of the summer kitchen door frame, which showed I was not lying.”
Grace’s reluctance to state her truth—that she genuinely cannot recall the murders—at the inquest shows how aware she is that her gender predisposes her to being viewed as “mad.” The comfort she takes from the evidence proving that at least part of her story is true suggests that whether or not people think her guilty is of less importance to her than whether people think she is insane.
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Grace is held for three months in the Toronto prison until her trial in November. She is assigned a lawyer, Mr. Kenneth MacKenzie, in October, and he advises her to “say what must have happened, according to plausibility, rather than what [she herself] could actually recall,” which Grace resolves to do. Grace spends most of the three months in solitary confinement; she talks to Mary Whitney and on one occasion hears her laughing. She also sees her dream/hallucination of the red flowers for the first time.
The fact that Grace’s lawyer counsels her not to tell her own story but rather to tell one that is more believable shows how dismissive MacKenzie is of Grace’s ability to narrate her own experience. Grace’s long solitary confinement is also important, as it might help account for her confusion and distress at the trial (provided she was not actually feigning this reaction).
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Grace recalls that the last time she met with Dr. Jordan he asked if she remembered Susanna Moodie’s visits to the Kingston Penitentiary and the Toronto asylum. Grace said she did remember, but when Dr. Jordan said that Mrs. Moodie’s account states that Grace was held in the violent ward of the asylum, Grace replied, “I do not recall behaving in a violent manner towards others, unless they did so first to me.” Grace also insisted that Mrs. Moodie’s account of Grace seeing red eyes following her around was inaccurate. She said she had told Mr. MacKenzie she had been seeing red spots, and when he pressed her she clarified that they were red peonies. “I suppose it’s the more usual thing,” Grace told Dr. Jordan, “to have eyes following you around. It is more what is required, under the circumstances.”
Grace’s closing statement in this passage shows that society has ideas about how women should behave even after they have “gone mad.” This emphasizes the fact that women’s behavior is constantly monitored and evaluated against societal standards of propriety. The passage also suggests that MacKenzie misrepresented the information Grace shared with him, a fact that will be confirmed in a later chapter, and which reveals that MacKenzie is a less trustworthy figure than what he has hitherto been described to be.
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Grace thinks that the next thing Dr. Jordan will want to hear about when she sees him is her trial, which began on November 3rd. She recalls searching the crowd for Jeremiah, who was not present. Jamie Walsh testified against her, which pained her because she “valued his good opinion of [her], and it was a grief to lose it.” Jamie also pointed out at trial that Grace was wearing Nancy’s dress, which, Grace says, caused a stir akin to “the uprush of voices at the Judgment Day,” and she “knew [she] was doomed.”
Grace’s decision to wear Nancy’s dress at the trial is inexplicable—not even Grace herself tries to account for it. The fact that there are aspects of her behavior that Grace cannot explain further undermines Dr. Jordan’s, and indeed the public’s, conviction that there exists a hidden, concrete truth about Grace’s guilt or innocence.
Themes
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Grace says that when she had to testify, she tried her best to “remember the right answers,” and that Mr. MacKenzie did his best to argue she was “very soft and pliable, and easily imposed upon.” However, the jury found Grace guilty, and the judge sentenced her to death, at which Grace fainted and “fell on the railing made of pointed spikes that was all around the dock,” sustaining an injury right next to her heart. “I could show him the scar,” Grace thinks.
That MacKenzie resorts to depicting Grace as weak and impressionable reflects how society was unwilling to see her as a villainous murder—despite the fascination this also holds. MacKenzie calculates that it will be more tolerable for the public to see Grace as a weak-minded woman than to see her as capable of planning and committing violence. The passage also highlights that, at her trial, Grace tried to tell the “correct” version of events; this makes the fact that Grace is now able to tell her true version of events even more significant.
Themes
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon