Grace opens this chapter by saying: “I have often thought of writing to you and informing you of my good fortune, and I’ve written many letters to you in my head; and when I’ve arrived at the right way of saying things I will set pen to paper, and thus you will have news of me.” She continues to narrate her life, ostensibly addressing Dr. Jordan. Grace first hears about her pardon from the prison warden’s daughter, Janet (she adds that there have been several new governors and wardens since Dr. Jordan left Kingston). When Janet tells her the news, Grace feels as if she might faint. Janet assures her that she really has been pardoned; Grace says, “I could see that she felt some tears were in order, and I shed several.”
That Grace narrates this chapter as an unwritten letter to Dr. Jordan is important for two main reasons. The first is it highlights how important it is to Grace to tell her story in “the right way”; she will not write it down, as she did the two letters to Dr. Jordan included in the preceding chapter, until she has worked out the exact way to word everything. The second is that it emphasizes how important Dr. Jordan was to Grace as a listener; it matters that Grace conceives of herself as writing her story down in letter format, which inherently assumes an audience, rather than merely writing it down in, say, a journal entry format. Finally, note how Grace forces herself to cry to conform to Janet’s expectations. This shows that Grace’s emotions are far more complex than society expects or allows her (not) to express.
That night Grace is “made a fuss of” and allowed to sleep in the Warden’s house. She feels almost as if she is dying and being reborn. At breakfast in the morning the Warden and his family beam at her, and she thinks, “I have been rescued, and now I must act like someone who has been rescued.” Grace finds it strange that she has become “an object of pity rather than of horror and fear”; she thinks this “calls for a different arrangement of the face.”
All of Grace’s comments about her release from prison relate to the question of power. The fact that she feels she has become an object of pity and must behave as someone who has been acted upon shows that she views her liberation as a stripping away of her agency. This passage also shows that society expects Grace to act in a certain way; there is an accepted narrative of how released prisoners should act, and Grace must now conform to it.
After breakfast, Janet asks Grace why she seems so depressed, and Grace replies that she has no family or friends to go to now that she has been released. Her pardon thus seems more like “a death sentence” than a “passport to liberty.” Janet tells Grace that “a home has been provided” for her, which Grace thinks “is what you say of a dog or a horse that is too old to work any more, and that you don’t wish to keep yourself or have put down.”
Again, Grace feels that being freed from prison has actually reduced her from a state of full personhood to a state of less-than-human. It is as if justice cannot retroactively be served to her. This section also emphasizes how deeply lonely Grace’s life is and always has been.
Janet helps Grace unpack the box of her things that was put into storage upon her imprisonment. Most of Grace’s clothes are moth-eaten, so Janet hunts up some material and other clothes from her friends. Grace is unsettled by the drastic fashion changes that have occurred in the twenty-nine years she has been in prison, particularly the fact that “there is less difference in dress between maid and mistress now than there used to be.” Grace is grateful for Janet’s help in assembling a wardrobe for her. She says, “I was still fearful of what was to come, but at least I would look like an ordinary person and no one would stare, and that is worth a great deal.”
This passage highlights the importance of clothing, which will allow Grace to escape being treated as a spectacle, as she has been while imprisoned. It also emphasizes how drastically the world has changed during Grace’s long imprisonment; Grace’s discomfort with the more egalitarian fashion of the day shows how important clear, visible class distinction has always been to her sense of identity.