Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Windows Symbol Analysis

Windows Symbol Icon

Somewhat paradoxically, windows in Alias Grace are associated with confinement. The windows in the penitentiary are placed high up in the walls so that prisoners cannot see out of them, and when Grace’s mother dies on the family’s passage to Canada, Mrs. Phelan introduces Grace to the idea that a window should be opened when a person dies so that their soul can escape the room. Grace is devastated by the fact that she could not open a window for her mother, who died in the hold of the ship, and she is even more disturbed by forgetting to open the window of her room at Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s after Mary Whitney dies. At the hypnosis near the end of the novel, Mary Whitney’s spirit claims to have possessed Grace’s body because there was no open window through which she could escape. Grace is haunted by the feeling that she must “open the window,” and she has several dreams about windows over the course of the novel, which reflects the constricted nature of Grace’s life and choices.

Windows Quotes in Alias Grace

The Alias Grace quotes below all refer to the symbol of Windows. 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 27 Quotes

In fact I have no idea of what kind of a sunrise there was. In prison they make the windows high up, so you cannot climb out of them I suppose, but also so you cannot see out of them either, or at least not onto the outside world. They do not want you looking out, they do not want you thinking the word out, they do not want you looking at the horizon and thinking you might someday drop below it yourself, like the sail of a ship departing or a horse and rider vanishing down a far hillside.

Related Characters: Grace Marks (speaker)
Related Symbols: Windows
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
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Windows Symbol Timeline in Alias Grace

The timeline below shows where the symbol Windows appears in Alias Grace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 14
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...spirit [was] trapped in the bottom of the ship because we could not open a window, and angry at [her] because of the second-best sheet.” She tells Dr. Jordan, “I was... (full context)
Chapter 20
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...Mary’s voice whisper, Let me in. Grace panics, realizing that she has not opened the window. She tells Agnes she’s feeling ill and runs to open the window, thinking Mary’s voice... (full context)
Chapter 32
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...was alarmed by a noise “as if of someone attempting to break in through a window.” Simon agrees to come downstairs to “check the locks and shutters”; he asks her to... (full context)
Chapter 33
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...listening to a voice tell her “You must unlock the door, you must open the window, you must let me in.” She then dreams that she is outside; she smells fresh... (full context)
Chapter 35
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...and Grace realized it was Mary’s soul “trying to find its way out but the window was shut.” Grace awoke in tears. When she fell back asleep, she had a second... (full context)
Chapter 36
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...Simon, “I didn’t wish to look at it.” She went into the kitchen, opened the windows, and cleared the dinner plates from the previous night, taking them into the scullery. When... (full context)
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...at the front of the house. She says, “I was thinking, I must open the window; but that was foolish, as I was already outside.” Mr. Kinnear arrived home then and... (full context)
Chapter 48
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
...admits that she inhabited Grace’s “clothing” (i.e. her body) when Grace forgot to open the window the night Mary died. (full context)
Chapter 49
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...asleep and dreams of Grace; when he awakens he presses his mouth against the train window. (full context)