Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood
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Summary

Part IX, continued

Summary Part IX, continued

On his walk home, Dr. Jordan wonders whether Grace really has amnesia, or if she’s tricking him. He considers the possibility that Grace has intentionally used publicly available facts about the case to make her own story seem convincing. Regardless, he recognizes that he wants to be convinced and that he wants her to be innocent.

When Dr. Jordan arrives home, Mrs. Humphrey asks him to join her for dinner. He declines, and instead goes out on a rowing trip to which Lydia had invited him earlier.

Analysis: Part IX, continued

On the night before Nancy’s murder, Grace has two dreams that point backward and forward in time, at once recalling events that had already occurred and foreshadowing events yet to take place. Her first dream featured Mary Whitney, indoors and holding a glass jar with a firefly in it. The firefly escaped from the jar but then could not escape the room because the window remained shut. The trapped firefly references the past scene following Mary’s death when Grace thought she heard Mary’s voice asking to be let out through the window. In the dream, the firefly disappeared from view without Grace seeing where it went. This detail foreshadows the future hypnosis scene in Part XIII, which reveals that Mary’s spirit may have slipped into Grace’s body without her knowing. Grace’s second dream similarly references both earlier and later events. Grace describes a dream in which she comes upon Nancy, on her knees and with blood pouring from her head. Grace recalls the image from her past of Nancy on her knees when Grace first arrived at the Kinnear estate and saw Nancy cutting flowers. Yet the image of Nancy’s bloody head clearly foreshadows her murder, which would occur the following day.

The dream Grace recounts about Nancy also relates to the novel’s theme about the uncertainty of truth. As Grace admits to Dr. Jordan, even though she remembers the events as a dream, others informed her that the images did not really come from a dream but from her waking reality. The image of Nancy on her knees covered in blood continues to haunt Grace in the present, and she cannot be certain about whether that image originated in a dream if she actually witnessed such a thing. And just as Grace remains unable to confirm the true source of the image, Dr. Jordan cannot be sure about anything Grace says. Although it remains possible that Grace’s amnesia is genuine, he believes it equally possible that she is intentionally duping him. The question of Grace’s guilt or innocence therefore hangs in the balance. Dr. Jordan admits that he wants to be convinced of Grace’s innocence, but the skepticism he needs to maintain objectivity consistently gets in the way of him truly believing what Grace says.

Despite the fact that Grace has complicated Dr. Jordan’s intellectual pursuits, she continues to spark feelings of affection in him. When Grace expresses her frustration at not being able to recall her memories with any certainty, her outpouring of emotion moves Dr. Jordan to pity. He longs to embrace her and calm her nerves. Although he does not actually put his arms around Grace, his desire to do so represents an important psychological development for his character. By assuming the role of protector, Dr. Jordan can reaffirm his sense of masculinity. The increasingly tortured relationship he has with Mrs. Humphrey has challenged his perception of his own masculinity, both because that relationship has led him to perform what he considers to be demeaning domestic labor on Mrs. Humphrey’s behalf and because it has flooded his mind with unwelcome sexual fantasies that he feels unable to control. In contrast to the confusion of his relationship with Mrs. Humphrey, Dr. Jordan’s desire to take Grace in his arms feels straightforward. Not only does it restore what he considers the appropriate dynamic between a man and a woman, but it also restores his sense of authority as a doctor caring for his patient.