Mary helped Grace learn her duties around the house, which largely consisted of laundry and mending. She instructed Grace that being a servant required looking at matters from a special perspective. For example, she told Grace that even though servants have to use the back stairs to keep away from the family, it’s better to think that “the front stairs were there so that the family would keep out of our way.” Mary also expressed a profound distrust of men, particularly of wealthy gentlemen. Grace lists these among Mary’s many “democratic ideas.”

Life went on as usual until the spring of the following year when Mary became pregnant. Mary explained that she had been seeing a man who had promised to marry her, but he had gone back on this promise, abandoning her to survive on her own. Though Mary never confirmed it, Grace believed the father to be one of Mr. and Mrs. Alderman Parkinson’s sons. George had stayed on in Toronto after his school holidays and had frequently flirted with Mary.

Mary sought assistance from a shady doctor and borrowed money from Grace for a procedure. It was not until after the procedure, when she helped Mary hobble home in excruciating pain, that Grace realized the doctor had given Mary an abortion. Mary died that night in bed.

While preparing her body the next day, Grace thought she heard Mary’s voice in her ear saying, “Let me in.” Grace then rushed to open a window, thinking that she had misheard and that Mary’s spirit was telling her, “Let me out.” Grace fainted, and when she finally revived ten hours later, she ran about the house crying and asking where Grace had gone. Others in the house feared for her reason.

Analysis: Part VI

The discussion of the myth of Pandora’s box is significant to understanding the power dynamic between Grace and Dr. Jordan. When Grace informs Dr. Jordan that the quilt she’s making follows the Pandora’s Box pattern, he assumes that she doesn’t know the myth of Pandora from which the pattern gets its name. Grace observes that her reference to Pandora puts Dr. Jordan in an “instructive mood,” and she anticipates that he’s about to teach her something, which is something she believes “gentlemen are fond of doing.” The way Dr. Jordan assumes Grace’s ignorance demonstrates the implicit dynamic in which he believes he has more knowledge—and hence more power—than she does. Yet Grace does know the myth of Pandora, as she proves to Dr. Jordan when she recounts the myth in detail. Grace’s demonstration of knowledge unsettles the power dynamic that Dr. Jordan had assumed. Accordingly, his newly “instructive” mood disintegrates and returns to its former state of despondency.

The myth of Pandora also has symbolic importance for the story of Grace’s own life. According to Greek mythology, Pandora opened a box that contained all the evils of humanity, including disease, war, and a host of other problems that have blighted human history. When she opened the box, all these evils were released into the world. Yet at the bottom of the box there remained one last thing: hope. Like Pandora, Grace took part in actions that have caused a lot of suffering. She stands convicted of being an accessory to two murders, and in addition to the harm those murders caused the victims as well as their families and friends, Grace’s involvement also upset the order of Richmond Hill and scandalized the wider Toronto region. Grace has therefore opened a kind of “Pandora’s box,” making her responsible, at least in part, for a great deal of chaos. And yet, as suggested by Reverend Verringer’s commitment to proving her innocent and Dr. Jordan’s dedication to restoring her memory, there also remains hope for Grace.