Grace Marks: The woman of many names
Margret Atwood's Alias Grace explores the mind of Grace Marks, a girl convicted of murder at only sixteen years old. Throughout the novel, Grace's psychiatrist explores her motive and her life. Readers learn that she has had a hard life with many verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive people in it. Because of this, Grace attaches herself to people to feel secure. However, these people often meet horrible ends.
Grace adapts the name Mary Whitney while on the run. Readers know that Mary has a significant importance in Grace's life, but what we don't know is why Grace feels the need to pretend to be her.
The list of dead people in Grace's life is a long one: her mother, Mary Whitney, James McDermott, Nancy, etc. Grace has always expressed that she believes that when a person dies their soul needs to be set free. However, when her mother died she did not get the chance.
"I thought it was my mother's spirit, trapped in the bottom of the ship because we could not open a window, and angry because of the second-best sheet. And now she was caught in there for ever and ever, down below in the hold like a moth in a bottle, sailing back and forth across the hideous dark ocean, with the emigrants going one way and the logs of wood the other." (pg 122)
Jeremiah the peddler disguised as Dr. Jerome DuPont performs a sort of seance on Grace to determine the source of her memory loss. When doing this someone or something takes over her body and claims that Grace has never been behind her actions. Instead this mysterious figure has been behind all the murders. But the question is "who has taken over Grace Marks?"
Several names are brought up including James, Nancy, and Mary. However, the possessed Grace denies them all. The creature claims "I was cold, lying on the floor, and I was all alone: I needed to keep warm. But Grace doesn't know, she's never known!" (pg 402). It also says " You like riddles. You know the answer. I told you it was my kerchief, the one I left to Grace, when I , when I..." (pg 402).
It is important to notice that the spirit said it was cold on the floor, not under it. However the piece of evidence that gives it away is the line " She forgot to open the window, and so I couldn't get out! But I wouldn't want to hurt her." (pg 403). No one in the room seems to realize who the real culprit is, or at least who she claims it is.
It is clear that the person behind the murders is Grace's mother. She died quickly, and Grace never got the chance to release the spirit. Her mothers spirit now haunts her, years after her death.
Several questions remain unanswered; Why is she out for murder? Why blame her daughter for these things? Why carry so much anger? It could be because she is unhappy with her daughter, or because of her poor life, or because she cannot find peace in the after life.
However, this all could just be made up by Grace as a defense. She knows that if she blames her mother, she can escape her conviction. With the help of DuPont, she could fool everyone. After all, Jeremiah is an expert at deceiving the eye...