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Alias Grace Literary Essay: The Consequence Of Childhood

1748 words - 7 pages

Childhood is often perceived as a period of innocence and purity. However, it is also the period of time where a person’s fundamental character is established, which can be easily affected by the conditions of the child’s environment. Alias Grace, a novel by Margaret Atwood, contains many themes centered on the concept of childhood and the influence of a person’s past. The book features a famous convicted murderess, Grace Marks, and a doctor, Simon Jordan, who interviews her at the Kingston Penitentiary where she is held in order to find the truth behind her convicted crime. In the novel, the relationship between Grace and her family contributes the most to her character development throughout her life. Grace’s family influence causes her to develop independence, protective characteristics, and murderous thoughts which all influence her actions later in life. The conditions of her childhood are essential factors and contributors to Grace’s individuality.
Grace’s many siblings and weak-willed mother caused the need for her to develop strong independence in order for her survival. She is born in a poor family of many siblings with a submissive mother and an abusive father. Grace is the oldest among her many siblings, that remain in the house and within contact, which resulted in her having many responsibilities. Dr. Jordan would often hold conversation sessions with Grace in order to find out her connection to the murder of her employer and the head servant of the house. Their talks mainly consist of Grace retelling her life. During one of Grace’s flash backs, she remembers: “This was when our father began to tell me that I was almost a grown woman […], it was time I went out into the world to earn my own bread, […]”(Atwood 146). At the young age of thirteen, Grace is sent out of the house to earn money for the family. With her father being abusive and unreliable she learns to work and fend for herself in order to survive in the world, causing her to establish her own independence. Grace’s mother is unable to support Grace as her submissive character only creates more difficulties, so Grace is left to deal not only with her own problems but also that of her family’s. In one of Grace’s initial flashbacks, she recalls her mother: “She was a timid creature, hesitating and weak and delicate, which used to anger me. I wanted her to be stronger, so I would not have to be so strong myself.” (118). Grace’s need for independence to support herself in place of her weak-willed mother allowed her to grow up unlike traditional and ‘frail’ women of the 1800’s. This also nurtures her capability for independent thought which shows later in her life when she faces conflict, such as when she was forced to flee from Richmond Hill, the place of her employment, in order to avoid death. Thomas Kinnear, Grace’s employer, and Nancy Montgomery, the head housemaid and Kinnear’s mistress, are killed by James McDermott who is also a servant of the house. Grace is forced to...

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