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Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Part VI

Summary Part VI

Summary: Part VI

Dr. Jordan dreams of walking down a corridor with a door at the end that opens to the sea. Water floods in, bringing along various objects that used to belong to his father. Upon waking Dr. Jordan attributes the various details of his dream to the story Grace told him the previous day. He also thinks about contemporary theories concerning the significance of dreams.

Mrs. Humphrey comes into his room to deliver his breakfast, and Dr. Jordan startles her. She faints, and he carries her to his bed to revive her. He has a violent sexual fantasy involving Mrs. Humphrey. He wonders where such “manifestations of the imagination” come from, and he posits that the boundary between “a civilized man” and “a barbarous fiend” is thin.

Dr. Jordan asks Mrs. Humphrey whom he can find to help her, and she insists she has no friends to call upon. She also confesses to him that Dora has left because she had no way to pay her. Dr. Jordan promises to pay two months of rent in advance to help relieve Mrs. Humphrey’s financial troubles.

When they come together for their meeting, Grace notes to herself that Dr. Jordan appears distracted. She explains that she’s begun work on a new quilt for Miss Lydia using the Pandora’s Box pattern. She surprises Dr. Jordan when she demonstrates her knowledge of the Greek myth of Pandora, who shut all the chaos of the world away in a box, at the bottom of which lay hope.

Grace continues her story. She describes the grand household of Mr. and Mrs. Alderman Parkinson, where she met and quickly befriended her fellow servant, Mary Whitney. Grace recalls that Mary was beautiful and neatly dressed. Mary had a respectful and demure manner when speaking to her social superiors, but in private company, she used coarse language and made scathing critiques of the wealthy classes.

Mary took Grace under her wing, helping her to get settled and fashion a new dress using buttons they purchased from a handsome door-to-door peddler named Jeremiah Pontelli. She also helped Grace navigate her first period. Grace’s father occasionally turned up during her first months at the Alderman Parkinson household. He intended to take all of Grace’s wages, but Mary scared him off, and Grace never heard from him again.