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Alias Grace Analysis

2101 words - 9 pages

Impact of Victorian Society on Grace Mark’s Life
Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace explores the life and society of nineteenth-century Canada and the roles that were subconsciously assumed for its citizens. The novel explains the life of Grace Marks, an impoverished female immigrant from Ireland who works as a chambermaid to keep her family afloat. She is accused and tried for the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his pregnant mistress, Nancy Montgomery. Atwood does an outstanding job at presenting a novel that depicts the gender and class stereotypes of that era. Throughout the course of the story, readers get to see the blatant depiction of nineteenth-century Victorian attitudes in ...view middle of the document...

One afternoon when Grace enters to Governor’s home, she makes the remark that “...although an object of fear, like a spider, and of charity as well, I am also one of the accomplishments. I come into the room and curtsey and move about, mouth straight, head bent, and I pick up the cups or set them down, depending; and they stare without appearing to, out from under their bonnets" (Atwood 22). She understands that people are watching her and judging her, but she also understands there is nothing she can do about it because that is the way her society was run.
Women were expected to be devoted to their husbands and to put one’s family needs before one’s own (Wilson 43). Becoming a wife and a mother was the ultimate goal and young women did whatever they had to in order to achieve this (Wilson 44). Because of limited occupation availability, women were financially dependent essentially from birth until death, starting with dependence on their birth family and ending with dependence on their husbands (Wilson 54). Grace Marks lived in a world where women were forced to cook, clean, and provide a paradise for their husbands- individual desires were practically nonexistent. In fact, strong-willed women who desired independence or women who put their needs ahead of their husbands were viewed as “mentally unstable” or “whores” (Jackson).
Men viewed women as a subordinate to them and as a sexual object whose main use is sexual intercourse and taking care of home life (Wilson 42). Young ladies who derived pleasure from sexual intercourse or sought out higher education were ostracized and lamented by their peers. It is no wonder that Grace Marks was treated the way she was by men, doctors, employers, and fellow inmates because, in a society such as this, people were more concerned with what people were saying about them than who they actually were. Grace Marks was a working female from Ireland that was incriminated; four characteristics deemed undesirable in their own light within Victorian society. Even Dr. Simon Jordan himself cannot resist viewing Grace as an object of his sexual desire. During a visit at the prison, he makes the lustful comment that he wants “to open her up like an oyster” (Atwood 159).
After Grace was found guilty for murdering Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery, she was subjected to the mental asylum where she claimed residency for nearly fifteen years. While a resident there, Grace undergoes severe mental strain and depression as she is subjected to sexual and verbal tension from prison guards, other inmates, and visitors of the mental ward. The problem lies within the information, or lack thereof, about mental health during the early nineteenth-century. During this period, it was the established social standard that people with illnesses such as smallpox or the plagued should be placed in an asylum or sanitarium (Pouba 12). Women with loose morals or women who strove for independence were institutionalized simply because society...

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