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Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Part V

Summary Part V

Summary: Part V

On the ninth day of their work together, Grace remarks to herself that Dr. Jordan smells of shaving soap and leather. His scent makes her feel reassured. During their session, Grace works on sewing blocks for a Log Cabin quilt, which she explains (though not out loud to Dr. Jordan) is the name of a pattern for a type of quilt that “every young woman should have before marriage.” Dr. Jordan asks Grace what type of quilt she would choose if she could make one for herself. She knows she’d make a Tree of Paradise quilt, but she gives him a noncommittal answer.

Dr. Jordan asks Grace what she dreamt last night, and though she tells him she can’t remember, she recounts for the reader a dream in which she was standing at the kitchen door in Mr. Kinnear’s house. A man she didn’t recognize was there, trying to sell her a dismembered hand, and she worried that the blood would get on the clean floor.

Dr. Jordan then produces a copy of Grace’s confession from the time of the murders, and he asks why she had used the name Mary Whitney as her alias when she and James McDermott escaped to the United States. Grace explains that Mary was a good friend who had died long before.

Grace then begins to tell Dr. Jordan the story of her own life, starting with her childhood in Ireland. She recounts how her mother got pregnant by an Englishman, who then married her to cover up the sin of having sex before marriage. Though both her parents felt trapped by each other, they proceeded to have many children. Grace was the second of twelve, only nine of whom survived.

Grace’s father had a hard time finding steady work, and he squandered what money he did earn on drink. Grace’s mother’s sister, Aunt Pauline, helped keep the children fed until she herself finally had a child. At that point Pauline’s husband, Uncle Roy, made arrangements for Grace’s family to cross the Atlantic and start a new life in Canada.

Grace’s family suffered horrific conditions on the ship. The passengers had limited access to the decks above and spent much of their time confined in the stuffy quarters below, where everyone lived cramped together and smelled each other’s filth. Two to three weeks into the journey, Grace’s mother fell gravely ill and died. She was buried at sea.