Grace, the novel’s protagonist, is an Irish immigrant to Canada who, while working in the home of Mr. Thomas Kinnear, participates in murdering him and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. For much of the… (read full character analysis)
A young, Harvard-educated American doctor with dreams of opening his own private asylum, Dr. Jordan comes to Kingston to evaluate Grace Marks. Dr. Jordan is genuinely interested in the causes of mental illness, and… (read full character analysis)
Mary is Grace’s dearest friend. The two meet when Grace begins work at Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s, where Mary is also a servant. Mary, who is several years older than Grace, takes Grace under… (read full character analysis)
A Scottish-born gentleman living in Richmond Hill, outside Toronto. Mr. Kinnear has a reputation for seducing his servants, and his flirtatious behavior toward Grace, along with the fact that he and Nancy are lovers… (read full character analysis)
A hired hand at Mr. Kinnear’s who works mostly in the stable. McDermott is a few years older than Grace, and is also an Irish immigrant (though he is Catholic, while Grace is… (read full character analysis)
As a boy, Jamie works running errands for Mr. Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. Jamie is awkward, shy, and smitten with Grace. He often spends evenings at the Kinnear house playing his flute for… (read full character analysis)
A travelling salesman whom Grace meets while working at Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s. Jeremiah is one of Grace’s few friends, and there are some hints that she might be sexually attracted to him. Jeremiah, a… (read full character analysis)
In addition to Grace, Grace’s mother has eight living children, has given birth to three stillborn infants, and has had one miscarriage. Grace remembers her mother as having “long auburn hair” and “round blue… (read full character analysis)
Born in England, Grace’s father is trained as a stonemason, but his crippling alcoholism renders him unable to find a job or provide food for his family. Grace’s father physically abuses Grace’s mother and, late… (read full character analysis)
Grace’s lawyer in the trial of Mr. Thomas Kinnear’s murder. MacKenzie insists that Grace make up a plausible story about the day of the murders, rather than admit that she has no memory of… (read full character analysis)
Dr. Simon Jordan’s landlady and lover during his stay in Kingston. The reader only meets Rachel through Dr. Jordan’s eyes; he describes her as simpering and clingy. According to Dr. Jordan, though Rachel pretends… (read full character analysis)
Rachel Humphrey’s alcoholic husband who leaves their home near the beginning of the novel. By the time Rachel receives a letter announcing the Major’s imminent return, she is already deeply enmeshed in an affair… (read full character analysis)
The maid at Rachel Humphrey’s house, who also occasionally works in the laundry at the Governor’s wife’s house. Grace dislikes Dora’s taste for gossip. Dora and Dr. Simon Jordan also do not like… (read full character analysis)
Medical superintendent at the Toronto asylum. Dr. Workman began working at the asylum three weeks prior to Grace’s departure (and return to the Kingston Penitentiary). Dr. Workman, based on the letter he writes to… (read full character analysis)
Grace’s attending doctor during her stay at the Toronto asylum. Dr. Bannerling sexually abused Grace, yet maintains the hypocritical position that neuro-hypnotism (as practiced by Dr. Jerome DuPont) is immoral because it leaves… (read full character analysis)
A Swiss doctor and mutual acquaintance of Dr. Simon Jordan, Dr. Joseph Workman, and the Reverend Verringer. Dr. Binswanger recommends Dr. Jordan to the Reverend as someone who might be able to… (read full character analysis)
A woman in her mid-forties, the Governor’s wife hosts twice-weekly discussion meetings in her home and is also a member of the committee Reverend Verringer heads, which is working to secure a pardon for Grace… (read full character analysis)
One of the Governor’s wife’s two daughters. Lydia is pretty and sweet, and has a crush on Dr. Simon Jordan. Lydia is also captivated by Grace, and is kind to her, although… (read full character analysis)
Dr. Simon Jordan’s mother. Mrs. Jordan complains often of being ill, though she may be a hypochondriac. She is solicitous about her son, to the point of being almost single-minded; ever since Simon’s father… (read full character analysis)
An author, based on a real person. Susanna Moodie never appears in the novel; she is only referenced for having written an exaggerated account of Grace Marks after visiting her in prison and in the… (read full character analysis)
One of Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s two sons, a student at Harvard College. Though it is never explicitly confirmed, it is strongly suggested that George is the father of Mary Whitney’s child. According to… (read full character analysis)
A kind, elderly Catholic whom Grace befriends on her family’s sea voyage to Canada. When Grace’s mother falls ill, Mrs. Phelan helps Grace care for her younger siblings, since Grace’s father is rendered useless by… (read full character analysis)
The landlady with whom Grace and her family live upon their arrival in Toronto. Mrs. Burt is initially very kind to Grace and her siblings; Grace suspects that Mrs. Burt, herself a widow, is plotting… (read full character analysis)
Mr. Kinnear’s horse, of whom Grace is very fond. At different times both Mr. Kinnear and James McDermott express a bizarre jealousy of Charley Horse, whom they feel Grace likes more than either of… (read full character analysis)
Grace’s aunt, older sister to Grace’s mother. Aunt Pauline is domineering and disapproving of her sister’s marriage. Still, Aunt Pauline is very devoted to her sister and helps to support her nieces and… (read full character analysis)
A Methodist minister and head of the committee that is working to secure a federal pardon for Grace. The Reverend loyally maintains a belief in Grace’s innocence, and he is ultimately successful in obtaining a pardon for her. He is depicted as relatively sympathetic, if slightly self-important, character.
Dr. Edward Murchie
A friend of Dr. Simon Jordan’s. Edward and Simon were undergraduates at Harvard together.
Miss Lydia’s sister.
William P. Jordan
Dr. Simon Jordan’s late father.
Mrs. Alderman Parkinson
Grace’s first employer. Mrs. Alderman Parkinson is an American, and Grace describes her as “an imposing figure of a woman.” Mrs. Alderman Parkinson coddles her son George when he takes ill, and Grace seems to think that she does not suspect her son of impregnating Mary Whitney.
Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s other son, also a Harvard student.
Housekeeper for Mrs. Alderman Parkinson.
One of the chambermaids at Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s.
Another chambermaid at Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s.
A friend of the Governor’s wife. Mrs. Quennell participates in the Governor’s wife’s discussion circles, and is a practitioner of Spiritualism, which involves communicating with the dead.
Aunt Pauline’s husband, a shopkeeper. Uncle Roy pays for the passage of Grace and her entire family from Ireland to Canada.
Two unnamed men who escort Grace to and from the Governor’s house every day and who both verbally and physically harass her.
Daughter of the warden who is in charge at the time of Grace’s release from prison. Janet helps Grace make a new wardrobe after her release, and also escorts her to the States, where she stands as bridesmaid at Grace’s wedding to Jamie Walsh.