Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Nancy Montgomery Character Analysis

Nancy is Thomas Kinnear’s housekeeper and lover who is murdered by James McDermott and Grace (though Grace’s involvement is unclear). At the time of her murder, Nancy was pregnant with a child most likely fathered by Mr. Kinnear. Before working for Mr. Kinnear, Nancy was a servant at a different household; there, she became pregnant by an unknown man and gave birth to a baby that died. The reader only encounters Nancy through Grace’s eyes, and Grace describes Nancy as “two-faced”—she can often be friendly and teasing toward Grace, but she is also jealous and short-tempered. Grace has a complex, highly ambiguous relationship with Nancy. She is convinced that Nancy resents the fact that Grace worked in a fancier household (Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s). Though she insists that she cannot remember whether she was complicit in strangling Nancy, Grace definitively recalls hearing the axe blow that felled her. Despite recalling this sound, Grace makes several strange comments about how long it took her to be sure that Nancy was actually dead. These comments could be interpreted either as a sign of Grace’s guilty conscience, or an indication that she did not want to believe that Nancy was actually dead because she, on some level, cared for her. Grace’s complex feelings toward Nancy are unequivocally made more complex by the fact that Grace resents Nancy for “getting away with” the same crime (sex out of wedlock) that ultimately led to Mary Whitney’s death.

Nancy Montgomery Quotes in Alias Grace

The Alias Grace quotes below are all either spoken by Nancy Montgomery or refer to Nancy Montgomery. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Alias Grace published in 1997.
Chapter 3 Quotes

They are like birdcages; but what is being caged in? Legs, the legs of ladies; legs penned in so they cannot get out and go rubbing up against the gentlemen’s trousers. The Governor’s wife never says legs, although the newspapers said legs when they were talking about Nancy, with her dead legs sticking out from under the washtub.

Related Characters: Grace Marks (speaker), Nancy Montgomery, The Governor’s Wife
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 22 Quotes

[…] and one day they did see a bear, and Nancy ran away screaming, and climbed a tree. Sally said the bear was more frightened than Nancy was, and Nancy said it was probably a gentleman bear and it was running away from something dangerous that it had never seen before, but might have caught a glimpse of as she climbed the tree; and they laughed very much.

Related Characters: Grace Marks (speaker), Nancy Montgomery
Page Number: 200-201
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 39 Quotes

I was horrified, and asked how could he do such a thing; and he said what did I mean, as I was wearing Nancy’s dress and bonnet myself. And I said it was not the same thing, and he said it was; and I said at least I had not taken the boots off a corpse.

Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 48 Quotes

“You killed her,” breathes Lydia. “I always thought so.” She sounds, if anything, admiring.

“The kerchief killed her. Hands held it,” says the voice. “She had to die. The wages of sin is death. And this time the gentleman died as well, for once. Share and share alike!”

Related Characters: Grace Marks (speaker), Mary Whitney (speaker), Miss Lydia (speaker), Dr. Simon Jordan, Mr. Thomas Kinnear, Nancy Montgomery
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 401
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 53 Quotes

But three of the triangles in my Tree will be different. One will be white, from the petticoat I still have that was Mary Whitney’s; one will be faded yellowish, from the prison nightdress I begged as a keepsake when I left there. And the third will be a pale cotton, a pink and white floral, cut from the dress of Nancy’s that she had on the first day I was at Mr. Kinnear’s, and that I wore on the ferry to Lewiston, when I was running away.

I will embroider around each one of them with red feather-stitching, to blend them in as a part of the pattern.

And so we will all be together.

Related Characters: Grace Marks (speaker), Mary Whitney, Mr. Thomas Kinnear, Nancy Montgomery
Related Symbols: Quilts
Page Number: 460
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nancy Montgomery Character Timeline in Alias Grace

The timeline below shows where the character Nancy Montgomery appears in Alias Grace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...walled-in prison yard, hallucinating about peonies growing from the gravel. Her hallucination expands: she sees Nancy Montgomery kneeling on the ground in front of her, blood streaming from her head and... (full context)
Chapter 2
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...tell / That brought them to disgrace.” The poem claims that Grace was jealous of Nancy, Kinnear’s lover, so she persuaded James McDermott to kill Nancy in exchange for the promise... (full context)
Chapter 12
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...to prompt her to think of a cellar, since that is where Thomas Kinnear’s and Nancy Montgomery’s bodies were discovered.) He switches tactics and asks Grace about her dreams. She recalls... (full context)
Chapter 22
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
...to job. While she is working at the house of a Mr. Watson, Grace meets Nancy Montgomery, a childhood friend of Mr. Watson’s cook. Nancy tells Grace that she is housekeeper... (full context)
Chapter 23
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...is introduced to a “shy and awkward” boy of fourteen named Jamie. She then spots Nancy cutting flowers in front of the house; Nancy waves to Grace but, Grace says, “she... (full context)
Chapter 24
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While Grace is unpacking her things in her new room, Nancy arrives to greet her. Grace notes that Nancy wore a pair of gold earrings at... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Nancy comes down to the kitchen while Grace is making tea. When Grace prepares to take... (full context)
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Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Later that day Grace and Nancy have their “first falling out” while Grace is “doing up Mr. Kinnear’s room.” Grace explains... (full context)
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
...women he noticed a shirt of his was missing a button, and Grace notes that “Nancy had been in the wrong twice, for that shirt must have been washed and ironed... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Grace tells Dr. Jordan that “Nancy was very changeable, two-faced you might call her, and it wasn’t easy to tell what... (full context)
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
While Nancy takes her meal in the dining room with Mr. Kinnear, Grace has to “make do... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
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...churning butter and doing some mending, Mr. Kinnear passes by and makes some flirtatious comments. Nancy later comes out and tells Grace that Mr. Kinnear is on his way to Toronto... (full context)
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Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Nancy helps Grace with the butter and they discuss Mr. Kinnear’s tense relationship with his half... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Night falls and everyone prepares for bed. Nancy asks Grace to sleep with her because she is afraid of sleeping alone when Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 28
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Grace picks up with the night she and Nancy went to bed together because Mr. Kinnear was on business in Toronto. She says that... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Mr. Kinnear’s friends arrive for dinner, and Nancy has Grace wait table. Mr. Kinnear’s friends crudely tease Grace about her attractiveness, telling her... (full context)
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
On Sunday, Nancy asks Grace to accompany her to church, lending her a dress, bonnet, and gloves. Grace... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
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Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
Later in the week McDermott tells Grace that Nancy has given him his one month’s notice. He claims he “[does] not care to stay... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Grace begins to have arguments with Nancy. “But,” she says, “I so far remembered my place as not to strike her back;... (full context)
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...say that in McDermott’s confession, he stated that it was Grace who wanted to murder Nancy and Mr. Kinnear, by poisoning their food. Grace replies, “Just because a thing has been... (full context)
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
In the narrative of Grace’s past, the next Wednesday is Grace’s sixteenth birthday. Nancy tells Grace she can have her afternoon free; Grace suspects this is because Nancy wants... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...days pass; Grace has been at Mr. Kinnear’s for almost a fortnight. Mr. Kinnear and Nancy are both away from home, and Grace is alone with McDermott. Jeremiah the peddler visits... (full context)
Chapter 31
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
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,... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
That night, Nancy and Mr. Kinnear dine together, while Grace eats in the kitchen with McDermott, wondering what... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 33
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...I will not tell your mistress, it will be our secret.” She feels sure that Nancy told her she would pay her her wages and then she would have to leave,... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Grace says that Nancy informed both her and McDermott that they were to leave in two days’ time; she... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Grace says that Nancy returned from her friend’s house and dined with Grace and McDermott. Nancy and Grace then... (full context)
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Justice and Religion Theme Icon
That night, at Nancy’s suggestion, Grace and Nancy went to bed in Mr. Kinnear’s room. According to Grace, Nancy... (full context)
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
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...the novel, with Grace walking in the prison yard, seeing the red cloth flowers and Nancy bleeding and strangled. The dream ends the same way: with Grace in a cellar, a... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...be a carcass”; she tells Simon that she was thinking about both the rooster and Nancy. Though she admits this sounds like an “odd” thought, she “wish[es] to relate everything that... (full context)
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Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
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...the cow. When she returned she found McDermott. She asked if he planned to kill Nancy that morning, and he assented. Grace said, “Surely you cannot bring yourself to do such... (full context)
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
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...to do, so she went out to the garden to pick chives for the breakfast Nancy had ordered. She tried to pray, but says she could feel God’s “cold breath” and... (full context)
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...about the many details listed in her confession—such as her saying she witnessed McDermott drag Nancy by her hair. Distressed, Grace says that this is what her lawyer, Mr. MacKenzie, told... (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...to carry on her daily duties, and when Mr. Kinnear came in to ask after Nancy, Grace told him “she had gone to town in the stagecoach.” Mr. Kinnear was confused... (full context)
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...seven in the evening, Mr. Kinnear came downstairs for dinner and was very worried about Nancy. McDermott asked Grace to call Mr. Kinnear into the kitchen so he could “shoot him... (full context)
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...“well, and in good spirits” and “better dressed than usual,” implying that Grace was wearing Nancy’s stockings. Grace dejectedly insists that the stockings were her own, and that “there is nothing... (full context)
Chapter 38
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...the hall, saying, “If you don’t like that bed […] I shall do it in Nancy’s, for you are as great a slut as she was.” (full context)
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
In Nancy’s room, Grace sees that the bed is “all spattered with dark blood,”; a book lying... (full context)
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Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...leave. McDermott agrees and, Grace says, “in the end we ransacked the house.” Grace takes Nancy’s clothes, but leaves the dress Nancy had been sewing for herself. “I’d heard the dead... (full context)
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Before leaving, Grace tidies the house, even emptying Nancy’s chamber pot, as she feels that leaving it full would be “somehow disrespectful.” She also... (full context)
Chapter 43
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 45
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
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...Finally, he says, he did his best to absolve Grace despite her insistence on wearing Nancy’s clothes at the trial and the fact that she “had muddied the trail considerably” by... (full context)
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...the details of the second case.” He maintains that if she had been tried for Nancy’s murder, Grace would have been hanged. “But in your opinion,” Simon says, “she was innocent.... (full context)
Chapter 47
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
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...feel like he has been to “some discreditable peepshow.” He then visits Mr. Kinnear’s and Nancy’s graves. He picks a rose from the bush growing over Nancy’s grave, “with some half-formed... (full context)
Chapter 48
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
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...intrigued, continues feeding DuPont questions about the murder to ask Grace. Grace admits to strangling Nancy, but then gleefully says, “You’ve deceived yourselves! I am not Grace! Grace knew nothing about... (full context)
Chapter 52
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...she “would no doubt have been put in prison anyway, even if he hadn’t mentioned Nancy’s dresses.” Jamie proposes marriage, and Grace eventually consents, even though she has a hard time... (full context)
Chapter 53
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...with her from the Penitentiary, and one of the pink and white floral dress that Nancy wore on the day Grace arrived at Mr. Kinnear’s and that Grace wore when she... (full context)