Alias Grace Chapters 17-20 Summary & Analysis

Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace

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Alias Grace Chapters 17-20 Summary & Analysis

Part VI: Secret Drawer

Chapter 17 Summary

Simon dreams he is in his childhood home, in the attic passageway where the maids sleep. In his childhood and adolescence, he would sneak up to their rooms and rummage around in their belongings, touching their ribbons and undergarments. In his dream, he knows the maids are waiting for him inside their locked rooms. He finds himself in the sea. The maids caress himthen swim away. He is floating in an ocean containing his father’s sold objects: a silver tray, a gold watch, and so on. He wakes and associates Grace’s story of the ocean crossing and her father with his dream.

Simon believes that dreams may be a key to unlocking memories, as many psychoanalysts of the time believe dreams reveal the working of the unconscious mind. He records his dream in a journal.

His landlady faints bringing in his breakfast tray. He carries her to his bed to examine her. Once she regains consciousness, she tells him that she fainted because she’s had nothing to eat for two days since her husband has taken all their money and left. She owes the maid, Dora, three months wages, so Dora has quit.

Simon tries to find a way out of this responsibility, but Mrs. Humphrey has no friends or family in the town. He is forced to go shopping for food so that Mrs. Humphrey won’t starve, and also so that he will have something to eat. He realizes that he has no idea how to shop or to prepare food; there are no other men shopping in the market. He advances Mrs. Humphrey two months’ rent so she can get back on her feet. She is so grateful that she kisses his hand.

Chapter 18 Summary

As Grace waits for Simon, she has begun sewing blocks for Miss Lydia’s quilt—Pandora’s Box. Simon is surprised when Grace knows the story.

Mary Whitney is a laundry maid at Alderman Parkinson’s. She teaches Grace everything about the family they work for, how to be a maid, and about the world. Grace turns 13 shortly after her arrival. Mary is sixteen. The…

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