In Alias Grace, mouths are associated with violence, and particularly with the way male-dominated society systematically disempowers women. For example, when Grace’s father refers to his children as mouths to feed, young Grace imagines that her pregnant mother’s belly is filled with a mouth that is “eating away” at her, suggesting that Grace sees childbearing as destroying women. Grace also has a recurring dream about Nancy Montgomery where the only visible part of Nancy’s bloody body is her mouth—and of course, Nancy’s murder was plotted in part due to James McDermott’s misogyny. The association between mouths and violence against women is not just in Grace’s head; Dr. Simon Jordan physically uses his mouth to dominate women, as when he covers Rachel Humphrey’s mouth with his “to silence her.” He also has a vivid fantasy about Grace in which he presses his mouth against her and “applies [Murderess] to her throat like a brand.” Similarly, James McDermott covers Grace’s mouth when he attempts to rape her, and the guards who consistently harass Grace on her way to the Governor’s house make comments like, “I hate a screeching slut, women should be born without mouths on them.” Thus, Alias Grace sees mouths—and women’s mouths, in particular—as an invitation to violence, since silencing women is a way to maintain power over them.
Mouths Quotes in Alias Grace
When I was quite young, six or seven, I put my hand on my mother’s belly, which was all round and tight, and I said What is in there, another mouth to feed, and my mother smiled sadly and said Yes I fear so, and I had a picture of an enormous mouth, on a head like the flying angel heads on the gravestones, but with teeth and all, eating away at my mother from the inside, and I began to cry because I thought it would kill her.
But is it red where it most counts, says the other, a fire in a treetop is no use at all, it must be in a fireplace to cast enough heat, in a little cookstove, you know why God made women with skirts, it’s so they can be pulled up over their heads and tied at the top, that way you don’t get so much noise out of them, I hate a screeching slut, women should be born without mouths on them, the only thing of use in them is below the waist.