Finished Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace the other day, and have been attempting to plan this wrap-up post in some semblance of organization and importance.
A brief synopsis of the ending: While the hypnosis session by Dr. Dupont (Jeremiah the pedlar) appears to answer the question of Grace’s guilt or innocence by introducing MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder), the effects do not set her free. I’ve read Sybil, The Three Faces of Eve, When Rabbit Howls, as well as many more medically established accounts of MPD, and so I was rather disappointed with the session, probably as much as were any of the characters who then were unable to come to a clear cut and dry decision. My own response was Yeah, right.
But this is my perception of Atwood’s perception of the case and of Grace herself. I am basing this on not only the rather dubious Dr. Dupont, who would indeed and had the opportunity to help Grace–even after fifteen years, but Grace’s own lack of thought (in the book, anyway) about the revelation that her "darker side" in effect was guilty as sin, which would bring me to believe that she plotted with Jeremiah/Dupont to stage the hypnosis session.
Grace is not pardoned for fifteen more years, and then at the urgence of the Warden and others who still believe in her innocence. There is a cold cunning to Atwood’s Grace that is underlying the prim properness and is given out in hints throughout the book, but this especially, when she hears of the granting of her pardon:
Yes, she said, it is really true. You are pardoned! I am so happy for you!
I could see that she felt some tears were in order, and I shed several. (p. 442)
When Grace is preparing to leave the prison, she goes through her old trunk to find proper clothing and finds most items are of Nancy Montgomery or Mary Whitney. Her description of the state of clothing is very similar to her descriptions of the current state of the ladies themselves, and I find that in these excerpts:
The emotions I experienced were strong and painful. The room seemed to darken and I could almost see Nancy and Mary beginning to take shape again inside their clothes, only it was not a pleasant notion, as by now they themselves would be in much the same dilapidated state. (p. 445)
Janet had a parasol, which she held over both of us as we proceeded. A parasol was the one item I lacked, as the silk of Nancy’s pink one had all rotted away. (p. 448)
Grace’s savior, the gentleman who offers home and hearth–and in fact, marriage–turns out to be Jamie Walsh, the young lad who, while infatuated with Grace at the time, testified against her at the trial.
As Atwood herself suggests, we will never know the truth of the Grace Marks murder case, and her novel is a fictionalized version of reality, using as much of the old records dug up in research as possible to base her story upon. As mentioned before, I have a problem drawing the line between fact and fiction and am almost anal about not passing fancy off as truth. And while it is clearly stated in Atwood’s Afterword what is truth and what has been pieced together (as in quilting) with theory to develop the story, it has not assuaged my fears enough to entirely break down the wall of resistance I built against believing Atwood’s tale. In concept, I more easily believed Marquez’s Buendia family as though they were based on experience, they were clearly fictional characters in a based on experience but fictional world.
All in all, I did enjoy Alias Grace very much, but in a more reading for entertainment and writer technique way than when reading McCarthy or Marquez–or Delillo for that matter (though I did not like The Body Artist particularly).