Hello, readers of Divine Grace ~ Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful responses last week. I have begun sending comments and grades to those of you who are attending class regularly. You should hear from me with grades by Friday. Our readings for Week 4 are lengthy, but Atwood’s text gives us much to consider in the life of Grace Marks and the many people in her sphere before, during, and after the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. Reading Assignments: Alias Grace (Atwood 134 – 324) Review Behind Closed Doors, excerpt from chapter 1 (Vickery 34 – 45) pdf on our conference Review Behind Closed Doors, excerpt from chapter 2 (Vickery 49 – 60) Writing Assignment: For this week’s critical written response, we will address the topic of oppression in its many forms that are present throughout Alias Grace, Parts VI – IX. There are four themes below, or you may choose a theme that you believe otherwise represents the oppression of a person, or a group of people, in some way within the societal confines of our story. Critical essay length: Three-to-four pages, with a minimum of ten quotations from this week’s reading, pages 134-324. You must include quotations from Behind Closed Doors wherever applicable. Due: Sunday, September 30th. (Note the extension because of this week’s length reading.) Discussion response: This week, you will write only ONE longer discussion response to another student-colleague’s essay, also due by Sunday night. Please choose an essay that addresses a topic other than the one you wrote about to further analyze the topics in Alias Grace. You will be expected to find pertinent but unique quotations from the text that are subtly buried in Atwood’s text. Your job in your one discussion response is to help illuminate what is otherwise hidden in darkness. Critical Essay Writing Prompts: (Choose One) Topic #1: Bachelors, maids, mistresses, and marriage. Margaret Atwood continually pushes us to question the oppression of women, especially the ideals surrounding a ‘proper’ marriage. She clearly argues that marriage does not mean equality, as indicated by characters such as Mrs. Marks, Grace’s mother, and Mrs. Humphrey. Yet, Margaret Atwood also leaves us wondering if being single is a better fate. Nancy Montgomery is Mr. Kinnear’s maid and mistress. Dr. Simon Jordan believes that he “cannot continue to live alone in this house with his landlady” (Atwood 288) who surely has “breasts. . . made of soft flesh” (289). Dr. Jordan recognizes that he should “marry or burn” (289); his mother’s letters remind him of the importance of marriage. Read the excerpt from Chapter 2 of Behind Closed Doors: “Men Alone: How Bachelors Lived” (Vickery 49 – 60). What are your conclusions regarding the portrayal of bachelors, single women, and/or marriage in Alias Grace? Topic #2: Misogyny and blaming women. As some of you discussed in our first week of Alias Grace: what can we conclude about Atwood’s implied reference to Calvanistic doctrine of Divine Grace (Atwood 253) and the 19th century belief that women are to blame for just about everything? Remember Dr. Jordan’s first object to Grace? “The apple of the Tree of Knowledge is what he means. Good and evil” (Atwood 40). What is Atwood saying about women as temptresses? Don’t women just want knowledge (40, 82)? Why does Atwood depict women as bewitching forces with whom men cannot control themselves? Is that really how the world works? Later in Atwood’s text we see many examples, including” “we should beware of the woman sitting at the door of her house . . . or of any who might tempt us” (Atwood 253). Even when Grace recounts her memories through narrative, Dr. Jordan falls asleep and states, “It’s as if [Grace] is drawing his energy out of him” (291). When Grace is in the wash house, she is called “Doctor’s pet, spoiled whore (239). Grace often feels that Dr. Jordan “wanted to shift the blame” (258). She is correct, indeed; it seems they all wanted to shift the blame (169). You may note that Grace conversely states to Dr. Jordan, “I would never blame a human creature for feeling lonely (258). But how could a single young woman make her way in the world when she is always to blame? Using ten quotations from pages 134-324 in Alias Grace, show how women are blamed. What are your conclusions? Topic #3: The medical and judicial systems. This is a tricky one. Who, in your opinion, is being oppressed by the medical or judicial system? Let’s not forget how Mary Whitney dies (174-180). And Grace Marks frequently refers to feeling as though she’s being tricked in some way; she knows that questions must be answered as expected. She describes the court, specifically lawyers, as people who “will supply you with speeches of their own . . . like magicians who can throw their voice” (295). But she knows that it was “the skill of Mr. MacKenzie, who pleaded my extreme youth” (258) that she was not hanged for murder. Perhaps you would like to address and argue that Dr. Jordan a victim of his own career — the burgeoning medical world and the study of memory and psychology surely held oppressive forces and expectations over those learning in this new field. Even the Governor, his wife and daughters are caught in the trap of a system of promoting ‘justice’ in numerous, nuanced ways. The range of this topic is up to you. Choose ten quotations between pages 134-324 to show the oppression of the medical and/or judicial systems and how they affected the characters within Parts VI-IX. Topic #4: Rooms, boxes, drawers, and (lack of) privacy. Public living and the lack of privacy are frequently mentioned throughout Alias Grace. In our first week of reading Alias Grace, she stated “I have…no belongings, no possessions, no privacy to speak of” (101). On the ship to America, Mary’s family took “all of the boxes into the room with us so as not to be robbed of our earthly goods (112). As we continue to read this semester, we learn that many people — especially servants– had no privacy; not only did they live with another servant, they were part of a larger household. Part VI is titled “Secret Drawer” (135) in which Grace’s shared attic room “was now very cold” (168). And even in Dr. Jordan’s dreams in his rented rooms at Mrs. Humphrey’s house, he dreams that “the [maids’] doors are closed, and also locked” (140). Does a locked door equal privacy? Be sure to read and reference (quote) the chapter 1 excerpt from Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors (Vickery 34 – 45) wherein she frequently refers to the lack of personal space, lack of privacy, and the need for secret boxes and drawers. Using ten quotations from parts VI – IX of Alias Grace, analyze locks, rooms, drawers, boxes, bureaus and any manner of ways in which privacy — or the lack of privacy — operates in the living spaces depicted in this part of the book. Note: You will notice that Vickery’s real life examples of a bachelor’s life in Georgian England parallel Atwood’s Dr. Simon Jordan in Kingston, Ontario quite seamlessly. We also can see a diary excerpt from a Welsh minister (Vickery 55); perhaps our Reverend Verringer may have kept a similar one. You can also find chapters 1 & 2 from Behind Closed Doors in our week 2 and week 3 forums. You will notice that I took some liberty in using specific pages of Vickery’s work in chapter two; I opted for brevity. Read, enjoy, and write well!

WOMEN/BACHELOR/MISOGYNY/MAID/PRIVACY/MARRIAGE
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