76 pages 2 hours read

Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1996

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Mysterious Memory

Atwood explores the mysteries of memory through the narration of both Grace and Simon. Both have issues with their memories: Grace claims to have no memory of the murders of Nancy Montgomery and Thomas Kinnear, and as Simon works with Grace, he loses his focus, sense of purpose, and his memory for the details of what Grace tells him. The longer he works with her, the more confused he gets.

Grace has many traumatic memories: the death of her mother on the Atlantic crossing, Mary Whitney’s death after a botched abortion, and the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. Though she remembers her mother and Mary’s deaths, both deaths are followed by long periods of unconsciousness and memory loss. Grace’s inability to remember the murders speaks to the trauma she endured in the past and her current inability to cope with what is happening to her.

According to the psychological understanding of the times, which was beginning to grasp the workings of the mind that post-Freud, twentieth-century culture takes for granted, Grace is either shamming for attention or insane. There is no middle ground. Simon’s approach in trying to help her recover her actual memories without judgment is a modern one, though fitting for the cutting-edge of the time.