Alias Grace Chapters 1-5 Summary & Analysis

Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace

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Alias Grace Chapters 1-5 Summary & Analysis

Part I: Jagged Edge 

Each numbered part carries a different quilt pattern name. Each part contains one or more chapters and begins withtwo or more quotations from various sources. The quotations come from contemporaneous nineteenth-century newspaper accounts, Susanna Moodie’s retelling of events in her book Life in the Clearings (1853), Grace’s or James’s confessions, or literature of the period. Each quotation relates obliquely to the material contained in that part. 

Chapter 1 Summary

Grace Marks is walking around the prison yard in April 1851; she is 23 years old and has been in the prison since she was 16. As she walks, she describes a visual hallucination: she sees red peonies bloom from the gray gravel of the prison yard. When she reaches out to touch one, she discovers it’s made of cloth. Next, she sees Nancy kneeling in the yard, wearing Grace’s white cotton kerchief printed with a blue love-in-a-mist pattern. Blood and hair cover her eyes, and Nancy reaches out to Grace for mercy. This time, Grace says, she will help Nancy, wipe off the blood, and bandage her wounds, and none of it will have happened. She imagines Thomas Kinnear coming home in the afternoon and asking for coffee after his journey, and Jamie Walsh playing his flute at night. As Grace keeps walking, Nancy breaks apart and the red petals scatter.

Part II: Rocky Road

Chapter 2 Summary

The chapter consists of long poem describing the murder of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery at Richmond Hill by James McDermott and Grace Marks, the trials of James McDermott and Grace Marks, and the hanging of McDermott. In this poem,the reader learns that Grace was only 16 years old when the murders took place. The motive for the murders is jealousy and love. Grace’s love for Thomas Kinnearand her jealousy of Nancy Montgomery cause her to incite James McDermott to kill Nancy by promising him sexual favors in return. Out of love for Grace, James kills Nancy. In a fit of revenge after Grace rejects him, he kills Grace’s love, Thomas Kinnear. Nancy was Thomas Kinnear’s housekeeper and his mistress; she was also pregnant…

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