The next day Grace continues her story. She tells about going to church with Nancy one Sunday and how everyone in the community treated them coldly. Later that week, McDermott told Grace that Nancy had given him notice. In his anger, he implied that Nancy was a whore and said he didn’t want to work for her anyway. Grace felt shocked when McDermott called Nancy a whore. He explained that Nancy had been sleeping with Mr. Kinnear and that she’d had a baby by another man when she was working for a different employer.
Grace confesses to Dr. Jordan that she lost some respect for Nancy at this point and that the discord between them continued to grow. Grace also notes that McDermott grew more brooding and vengeful and expressed a desire to kill Nancy. Dr. Jordan interrupts Grace to ask if she believed McDermott. She answers no. He reminds her that, in his confession, McDermott had claimed that Grace had planned to poison Nancy and that she repeatedly asked for his help. Grace replies that just because something has been written down does not make it true. Jordan agrees, and Grace continues with her story.
Grace recounts that Nancy gave her the afternoon of her birthday off. Not knowing what else to do, Grace wandered into the orchard, thinking about how she no longer knew the whereabouts of her family and so was effectively alone in the world. Depressed, she lay down to sleep, only to wake up when Jamie Walsh approached. Jamie expressed his affection for Grace and asked to be her sweetheart. This cheered Grace up, but she declined. When she returned to the house later that afternoon, she found Mr. Kinnear standing on the verandah with a telescope. He asked her who the man in the orchard was. She heard suspicion in his tone and went into the house feeling spied upon.
Analysis: Part VIII
Grace’s reflection on the beauty of a sunrise she didn’t actually see showcases the power of her imagination. Locked in her cell with its window out of reach, Grace has no way to look out on the world beyond the prison. Even so, she uses her imagination to conjure the vision of a beautiful pink sunrise, which takes the place of the actual sunrise. Despite its fictional status, Grace’s sunset still brings her real solace. Grace demonstrates the power of her imagination again when she sings to herself a song that Jamie Walsh used to play. In her mind she changes the lyrics to make the song “come out in a better way.” Just as there was no one to challenge her account of the morning’s sunrise, Grace acknowledges that there’s no one to hold her account for rewriting the lyrics. Once again, Graces uses her imagination to produce a fiction that pleases her more than reality. Yet Grace’s fictions also pose a problem. If she feels entitled to make up fictions that better suit her desires, then the reader may not be able to trust her account of her life events.
In the first half of Part VIII, Grace expresses concern about Dr. Jordan’s well-being, which offers a sign of her own growing affection for him. Grace never makes any explicit claims about feeling attracted to Dr. Jordan, and from a certain perspective she implicitly denies any such attraction. For instance, she takes pains to report how jealous inmates terrorize her for her work with Dr. Jordan, and they call her a “spoiled whore,” as if they assume she’s getting special treatment in exchange for sexual favors. This account of cruelty born from jealousy helps subtly to discount the notion that Grace is the “doctor’s pet” her fellow prisoners believe. Yet, when Lydia confesses to Grace her desire to have tea with Dr. Jordan and listen to his theories, Grace is quick to caution her against doing so. Grace believes that Lydia would prove an unsuitable partner for Dr. Jordan, and that he would not reciprocate her feelings. Although Grace’s warning may be a sign of her consideration for Lydia, it may also indicate that Grace wants to keep Dr. Jordan for herself.
Even as Grace shows an increasing affection for Dr. Jordan, she continues to thwart his efforts to understand her past. In an attempt to perk him up, she tells him she had a dream, which is what she thinks he wants to hear. But once again she withholds crucial information, and Dr. Jordan continues to develop a distorted picture of Grace’s mind. As with previous examples where Grace withheld information, here she does so because she doesn’t trust Dr. Jordan’s ability to understand who she really is. She feels that Dr. Jordan has a tendency to over-interpret evidence, and this tendency will make him overlook the real significance of what she has to say. Grace’s concern also stems from her annoyance that Dr. Jordan must write down everything she says. In previous meetings he quoted from the official confessions that she and McDermott gave during their trial, and she pointed out that just because the words were written down doesn’t make them true. Even though Dr. Jordan agreed with her then, he persists in writing down everything she says. But Grace knows that whatever he’s writing still can’t quite be the full truth.