International Journal of English and Literature (IJEL) ISSN 2249-6912 Vol. 3, Issue 2, Jun 2013, 117-126 © TJPRC Pvt. Ltd.
CONSTRUCTION OF SEX, GENDER AND CLASS IN MARGARET ATWOOD’S ALIAS GRACE MS SHAISTA IRSHAD1 & RASHMI GAUR2 1
Visiting Faculty, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology Allahabad, India 2
Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India
ABSTRACT This paper seeks to deconstruct and destabilizes the mythical narratives and historical accounts that approves and confirms the truth of the dominant power. It is explored how the construction of masculinity and femininity is deeply intertwined with differences in power between working class, middle and upper class people. Undermining the essentialist notion of gender and sex as fixed and biologically given, it is shown that how identities are constructed in language and discourse which itself is dominated by those who occupy the positions of power. It is further explained that gender is not only a social and cultural product but also varies according to other differentiating features as, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and other facets of identity.
KEYWORDS: Gender, Sex, Class, Construction, Performativity, Discourse INTRODUCTION Margaret Atwood‘s Novel Alias Grace (1996) is the winner of the 1996 Giller Prize, Finalist for Booker Prize and Governor General‘s Award in 1996 and also shortlisted for Orange Prize for Fiction in 1997. The novel Alias Grace is based on the real story of a woman named Grace Marks who was convicted of murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his house keeper Nancy Montgomery. She, along with servant James McDermott, was found guilty of the murder. When the crime was tried in court, McDermott was hanged to death while Grace‘s punishment was mitigated to life imprisonment because of, ―the weakness of her sex, and her supposed witlessness‖ (AG 538). After completing almost thirty years of her life imprisonment in Provincial Penitentiary in Kingston, she was finally granted pardon in 1872. After that she went to New York State and was never heard of again. The truth of her involvement in the murder was never revealed and it always remained a mystery whether Grace was ―a female fiend and temptress, the instigator of the crime, and the real murderer of Nancy Montgomery, or was she an unwilling victim, forced to keep silent by McDermott‘s threat and by fear of her own life ‖ (AG 538)? It was also not clarified whether she was genuinely ‗insane‘ or feigned madness for her liberation from prison, hence, ―the true character of the historical Grace marks remains an enigma‖ (AG 539). Atwood by rewriting the history of Grace Marks, deconstructs and destabilizes the account of ―official histories‖ which approves and ―endorse[s] the ―truths‖ of the dominant power groups‖ and is argued by critic Michael Foucault that ―systems of the dominant power groups are often synonymous with systems of power‖(qtd. in Vevaina 86). Atwood presents the construction of masculine and feminine gender as deeply intertwined with differences in power between working class, middle and upper class people. It is argued that ―the domain of gendered meanings‖ is influenced and affected by ideologies that may be defined in Marxist terms as a ―sets of ideas which reflect the interests of those members of society who are dominant economically‖ (Alsop, Fitzsimons and Lennon 80). Negating the essentialist notion of gender as fixed and biologically given, Atwood shows how identities are constructed in language and discourse which itself is
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dominated by those who occupy the positions of power. She proves further that gender is not only a social and cultural product but also varies according to other differentiating features as, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and other facets of identity. Thus Atwood‘s narrative, ―transgresses the margins that impose fixed conventions of representation…, by breaking the limits of the fixed categories of both gender and genre‖ and endows Grace Marks with the power to express and reconstruct herself by narrating her story thereby, ―giving voice to the one[s] that have been traditionally silenced‖ (Silveira 300). Grace is continuously influenced by the people around her that mould her in to the stereotype of femininity. Not only her employers but also the co-workers acquaint her with the conventional idea of femininity. Her friend and companion Mary Whitney makes her aware about the aim of woman‘ life: It was a custom for young girls in this country to hire themselves out, in order to earn money for their dowries, and then they would marry, and if their husbands proposed they would soon be hiring their own servants in their turn‖ and then they, ―would be mistress of a tidy farmhouse, and independent. (AG 182) In the novel more than human beings, characters, ―marry money‖ (AG 65). It is efficiently explained through the example of Dr. Jordon‘s mother who expects her son to get married. She suggests, ―Of course he could always marry money, as she herself did. She traded her family name and connections for a heap of coin fresh from the mint, and she is more than willing to arrange something of the sort for him‖ (AG 65). This is also explicated through Governor‘s daughter Lydia, who though in love with Dr. Jordon, ultimately marries Reverend Verringer because of his economically sound status overlooking his older age. Lydia‘s marriage, ―was a surprise, as she always used to make fun of him behind his back, and say he looked like a frog‖ (AG 493). Beauvoir‘s explains that ―If a man is reasonably eligible in such matters as health and position, she accepts him, love or no love…Marriage then are not generally founded upon love‖(453). Woman tend to ―look for a husband who is above her in status or who she hopes will make a quicker or greater success than she could‖ (450). Unmarried women are looked down by society, they are criticized, mocked, pitied and treated as incomplete and not fulfilling their feminine destiny. The ―unmarried woman …among the workers of the land … is a pariah‖ (Beauvoir 450). Grace, like other women characters, too thinks of getting married and is shown to be morose when she is not able to marry because of the murder charges and life imprisonment. She thinks, ―I would never be married now, or have any babies of my own… it is a regret‖ (AG 78). On the other hand for men the aim of the life of men is to achieve ―economic success‖. As compared to women, ―no young man considers marriage as his fundamental project‖ (Beauvoir 450). Dr. Jordon ignores continuous proposals of marriage from his mother‘s side in order to establish himself well professionally. Though, he does not refrain from flirting with Lydia and establishing physical relation with his landlady Mrs. Humphrey. The man ―undoubtedly dreams of woman, he longs for her; but she will never be more than an element in his life: she does not sum up his destiny‖ (Beauvoir 352). Despite being financially unstable he dreams of Grace as a perfect wife for him, ―she has beauty without frivolity, domesticity without dullness, and simplicity of manner, and prudence, and circumspection. She is also an excellent needlewoman…His mother would have no complains on that score‖ (AG 452). Grace‘s employer Thomas Kinnear, a wealthy Tory gentleman, too remains a bachelor because, ―Some gentlemen do not have an inclination for the married state, she said. [They were very pleased with themselves the way they are, and think they can get along without it… If they want a thing, all they have to do is pay for it. It‘s all one to them‖ (257 AG).
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De Beauvoir, emphasizing on stereotypical construction of men and women argues that men are not pleased with woman who openly exhibit their desire for men and marriage, and who are easily seduced ―young men mistrust women ‗who want to get married‘ … Nothing is more disagreeable to a man than to feel himself pursued, to realize that a woman is trying to hook him‖ (AG 452). This aversion is quite apparent in Dr. Simon who is pursued by Lydia. When he perceives the intention of her and her mother‘s, he, ―is alerted: he is familiar with such ruses‖. In order to put their efforts down he thinks of revealing, ―the smallness of his income immediately, so as to forestall her‖. Disliking Lydia for her ―innocent‖ advances towards him, he himself has no problem in flirting with her and despite having no intentions of marrying her, ―he doesn‘t wish to deprive himself of such an aesthetic pleasure‖ (AG 224). ―Man encourages these allurements by demanding to be lured: afterwards he is annoyed and reproachful‖ (Beauvoir 381). Women in Alias Grace are projected as consumable entities existing for the sexual use and consumption of men. Grace witnesses the sexual abuse of women not only in her mother‘s life but also in her friends Mary Whitney‘s and housekeeper Nancy Montgomery‘s life. She encounters sexually demanding and exploiting men on each step of her life: as maidservant faces amorous and sexual advances of her employers, as a prisoner is sexually attacked by guards and as a patient of hysteria is sexually molested by doctors. She is warned of men‘s nature by her relatives, women employers and co-workers. Mrs. Honey instructs her, ―Behave modestly… and not speak to any strangers, especially men‖ (AG 175). Mary too acquaints her with the ways of men, and their perception of women as sexual commodities. Despite being wary of men‘s ―nature‖ and ways, Mary dies due to abortion. She falls in the alluring trap of her employer Mrs. Parkinson‘s son, is sexually exploited and deserted when pregnant, ―the man had promised to marry her and had given her a ring… but he had gone back in his promise‖(AG 200). She was aware of her fate as, ―now no decent man would marry her, and she would have to go on the streets and become a sailor‘s drab‖ (AG 201). Nancy too faces similar circumstances at the hands of men. Before working for Kinnear she is involved in a sexual relation with a ―young layabout‖ at Wright‘s who ―ran off and left her‖ when she ―had a baby‖. After the death of her baby Mr Kinnear hired her even being a ―respectable men‖ as, ―it was clear from the first what he‘d had in mind, because once the horse was out of the stable it was no good shutting the barn door, and a woman once on her back was like a turtle in the same plight, she could scarcely turn herself right side up again, and was fare game for all‖ (AG 296). As a housekeeper Nancy is sexually used by her employer Thomas Kinnear and later on starts living as his mistress. But once Nancy gets pregnant, he starts taking interest in Grace. Grace perceives the declining interest of Kinnear in Nancy because of her pregnancy, ―she was in family way, and it often happens like that with a man; they‘ll change from woman in that condition to one who is not, and it‘s the same with cows and horses; and if that happened she‘d be out on the road, her and her bastard‖ (AG 359). Thus we see that construction of gender identity based on differentiation of sex leaves men and women defining themselves from different positions and spaces, which results in women‘s identity as ‗other‘. As complemented by Grace‘s words, ―Why should the one be rewarded and the other punished, for the same sin‖ (AG 321)? Grace too suffers from sexual harassment not only from her employers but also by other servants, guards of the Kingston penitentiary and doctors of lunatic asylum. They all try to sexually harass and molest her. All these sexual assaults are passively endured by Grace except for few muffled groans of protest. Being accused of murder and having reported by newspapers as the paramour of co-servant McDermott she becomes the target of sexual abuse and ―fare game for all‖ (AG 296). The prison guards remark in a humiliating manner to Grace: ―You know why God made women with skirts, it‘s so they can be pulled up over their heads and tied at the top, that way you don‘t get so much noise out of them, I
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hate a screeching slut, women should be born without mouths on them, the only thing of use in them is below the waist‖ (AG 279). The constructed gendered identity reduces Grace to the status of passive, inferior, fragile and weaker sex and permits her no voice of protest. While men are socially constructed to be free from all sorts of moral and chastity refrains, women are expected to be possessing, ―morals‖ that are ―irreproachable‖ with minds, ―as unbaked pieces of dough‖ which is the ―prerogative of men, ―to mould and form‖ (AG 101). Atwood reflects that not only gender but sex of the individual too is constructed according to the social and cultural expectations of femininity and masculinity. Dr. Simon challenges and argues against the perception of woman‘s biological nature and body by citing his own experience of dissecting a cadaver of woman from the labour class, ―their spines and musculatures were on the average no feebler than those of men, although many suffered from rickets‖(AG 8384). He contemplates, ―at least he isn‘t a woman, and thus not obliged to wear corsets, and to deform himself with tight lacing. For the widely held view that women are weak spined and jelly-like by nature, and would slump to the floor like melted cheese if not roped in‖ (AG 83). By this argument Atwood seems to be negating Freud‘s assertion of ―anatomy is destiny‖ and in alliance with Judith Butler‘s and other gender critics who believe in the idea of both gender and sex as ―performance‖ which is influenced and constructed by cultural and social expectations of masculine and feminine gender identity. Thus both gender and sex (body) are susceptible to the external influences and practices. Mikkola explains that ―Social forces can be said to construct certain kinds of objects (e.g. sexed bodies and gender individuals) and certain kinds of ideas,(e.g. sex or gender concepts)‖ where under object construction of sexed bodies, secondary sexual characteristics which are believed to be biologically governed ―are affected by social practices.‖ Jagger argues that, ―In some societies females‘ lower status has meant that they have been fed less and so, the lack of nutrition has had the effect of making them smaller in size‖ (37). Similarly Anna Fausto Sterling claims that, ―Uniformity in muscular shape, size and strength within sex categories is not caused entirely by biological factors, but depends heavily on exercise opportunities‖. She furthers argues that, ―A number of medical phenomenon involving bones(like osteoporosis) have social causes directly related to expectations about, women‘s diet and exercise opportunities‖(218). This is also supported by Greer who states that, ―Men‘s bodies are altered by the work that they do, and by the nutriment which sustains them in their growing period, and so are woman‘s but women add to these influences others which are dictated by fashion and sex appeal‖(35). Nancy Montgomery too is projected as trying to shape her body into expected contours of feminine gender. As described by Grace, ―Young ladies nowadays were starving themselves because of the fashion, which to be pale and sickly and they laced their stays so tight , they fainted as soon as looked at‖(AG 315-316). She further remarks, ―Demands are made upon them [women] to contour their bodies in order to please the eyes of others‖. Women are constructed, ―so insecure that they constantly take measurement to capitulate to this demand, weather it is rational or not.‖(40-41). She further argues that, ―it is hardly a natural phenomenon at all…Nineteenth century belles even went to the extremity of having their lowest ribs removed so that they could lace their corsets tighter‖(40). Therefore women, ―In each case… is tailoring herself to appeal to buyers market‖ (41). It is presented by Beauvoir that woman, ―develop[ing] her body through sports, gymnastics baths, massage and health diets; she decides what her weight her figure, and the colour of her skin shall be…she has the right to trained muscles, she declines to get fat; … frees herself from contingent flesh‖(549). Men and Women are stereotyped on the grounds of emotions and practicality too. Whereas ―men‘s energy is contoured…to become aggression and competitiveness‖ resulting in his practical violent approach, women become ―deformed and debilitated by the destructive action of energy upon the self‖ that‘s leads to her becoming emotional and sensitive‖ (Greer 77-78). While boys are brought up with instructions that ―A man doesn‘t cry‖, girls‘ ―tears … are viewed indulgently‖ (Beauvoir 298). In Alias Grace burst[ing] into tears and weeping are seen as womanly traits whereas men are
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shown to be strong and fully in control of them (AG 218). Age is another important factor owing to which men and women both have different parameters of judgment. This concern about age is reflected in Grace‘s thought in relation to Jamie Walsh, who proposes her on her sixteenth birthday, and she claims that he is still a boy. Grace broods, ―why it is, a girl of fifteen or sixteen is accounted a woman, but a boy of fifteen or sixteen is still a boy‖ (AG 304). Later again Grace repeats her thoughts about Dr. Simon too, ―He‘s a young man, my own age or a little older, which is young for a man, although not for a woman, as at my age a woman is an old maid but a man Is not an old bachelor until he is fifty‖(AG 41). Beauvoir explains, ―puberty, sexual initiation and menopause- … are much more decisive‖ in the female ―than in the male. Whereas man grows old gradually, woman is suddenly deprived of her femininity‖ (587). Women are seen as sexually cold and submissive in comparison to men in society. They are constructed to repress any sign of evident sexuality as only men are believed to be sexually active and overt. According to Irigaray, ―Female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters‖ (23). They are ―forbidden‖ to ―attempt to express their own pleasure‖ and it has to ―remain inarticulate in language‖, the language which is patriarchal (77). Essential feminine nature of women sexuality is challenged by Atwood through Mrs. Humphrey who, after being deserted by her uncaring husband, initiates sexual relation with her tenant Dr. Simon, refuting the commonly held perception of women‘s subdued and passive sexuality. As expressed in Dr. Simon, ―she‘s a respectable woman…Respectable women are by nature sexually cold, without the perverse lusts and the neurasthenic longings that drive their degenerate sisters into prostitution; or so goes the scientific theory‖ (AG 424). Mrs. Humphrey, at various instances in novel tries to actively seduce Dr. Simon into sexual relation. However being aware of the social inhibition imposed on women where they are denied display of active sexual desire and sexual pleasure, she disguises her assertive initiatives under psychosomatic symptoms like, somnambulism, which is understood by Dr.Simon. He voices the different norms of social concerns for ―respectable women‖ and ―prostitutes‖. Whereas for respectable women the display of sexual desire is prohibited in support of displaying ―aversion‖ which, for prostitutes it‘s totally the opposite, ―A whore must feign desire and then pleasure, whether she feels them or not; such pretences are what she‘s paid for. A cheap whore is cheap not because she‘s ugly or old, but because she is a bad actress‖ (AG 425). As expressed in Dr. Simon‘s words Mrs. Humphrey‘s ―pretence is a pretence of aversion‖ as ―for a refined woman of her class… it‘s a way of saving face‖ (AG 423), therefore, ―it‘s her part to display resistance, his to overcome it. She wishes to be seduced, overwhelmed, and taken against her will‖. She attempts to ―disguise‖ her pleasure as ―pain‖ (AG 425). Dr. Simon is able to recognize Mrs. Humphrey pretext because of being well aware about the inner chastity of women as an illusionary and an unrealistic ideal to achieve, ―he is under no illusion as to the innate refinement of women‖ and offers a suggestion, ―hypocrisy is surely justified; one must present what ought to be true as if it really is‖ (AG 100). It can be explained using Judith Butler‘s arguments that, ―the gender performances which we enact are performances in accordance with a script- a script which supplies us with ideals of both masculinity and femininity‖ (Alsop, Fitzsimons and Lennon 142, 143). Refuting the existence of sex as ―a prediscursive anatomical facticity‖ (Gender Trouble 8) Butler argues that both sex and gender are products of discourse constructed by reiterative performances in culture and society. Thus the novel challenges the existence of essential or natural feminine and masculine traits and proves them to be social constructs acquired through performances. She undermines essentialism by performance of her characters where both masculinity and femininity can be appropriated by person of either sex. Grace Marks outwits men with her both gender and class performance and undermines all their efforts of knowing the truth of her identity and sickness. Atwood proves through the character of Grace that gender is a social and cultural construct having no essential or biological core to it. In doing so she resembles Edward Said‘s idea of inheritance. He
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challenges ―the notion that inheritance rests solely on ―filiations‖, defined strictly by blood, and argued instead for ―affiliative‖ notions of inheritance based on performance, hard and ―collegiality‖ ‖ (Said 20). Grace through her performance surpasses presumed traits associated with her gender and class. Dr. Simon, who visits her each day for her psychological treatment of amnesia, is forced to say: She has manifested a composure that a duchess might envy. I have never known any woman to be so thoroughly self-contained… Her voice is low and melodious, and more cultivated than is usual in a servant- a trick she has learned no doubt through her long service in the house of her social superiors; and she retains barely a trace of Northern Irish accent with which she must have arrived. (AG 153) Similar perception is framed by Thomas Kinnear too about Grace. He is amazed to see, ―a naturally refined air‖ and ―pure Grecian profile‖ in a servant and claims that if clad in, ―right clothes with her head high … mouth shut‖ she could pass as ―a lady any day‖(AG 324). In words of Mary, ―being a servant was like anything else, there was a knack to it which many have learnt‖ and ―being a servant was not a thing we were born to… one day I would be the mistress of a tidy farm house, and independent‖(AG 183). ―Mary‘s philosophy of rising by ―hard work‖ (a vision of class based on one‘s performance and not inheritance) is aligned more generally in the novel with performative and fabricated conceptions of identity‖ (Goldman 6). Thus it can be seen here that the manners and attitude of upper class society are learned and acquired along with gender identity. Grace proves that servants and lower class people do not inherit their passivity and docile attitude in blood instead these are the matter of socio-cultural exposure and influences. Grace moulds herself and performs her identity as constructed by people‘s expectations around her. After being convicted of murder, her lawyer ―constructs her as a poor motherless child, uneducated, and illiterate, and little better than a half wit‖ (AG 419). She repetitively performs this constructed identity in lunatic asylum and in prison. In Kingston penitentiary, criminals are expected to repent for their crimes, ―whether you have done anything or not‖. Grace learns ― how to keep [her] face still‖ making her eyes ―wide and flat‖ and is believed by others to , ―have repented in bitter tears‖ (AG 29). Media and newspapers, as opposed to lawyer‘s version, construct her as monster claiming that, ―if they want a monster so badly they ought to be provided with one‖ (AG 36). At the end, when she is granted pardon after 28 years of life imprisonment she is reconstructed by others as, ―a baby snatched out of river… the one lost lamb that had been rescued‖(AG 513). Again and again she keeps on performing the identities imparted to her by others. She immediately appropriates the discursively ordained identity by Warden‘s family, ―now I must act like someone who has been rescued‖ (AG 513). She contemplates: seen perhaps as an innocent woman wrongly accused and imprisoned unjustly, or at least for too long a time, and an object of pity rather than of horror and fear. It took me some days to get used to the idea; indeed I am not quite used to it yet. It calls for the different arrangement of face; but I suppose it will become easier in time. (AG 513) The novel presents Thomas McDermott too, ―performing both gender and class‖ (Alsop, Fitzsimons and Lennon 98). He, despite being a man is dominated by Nancy, no better in position, than himself, because of the superior and privileged position of housekeeper she enjoys on account of being Kinnear‘s mistress and paramour. As a result she adopts dominating and subordinating attitude towards both Grace and McDermott and they are expected to ―take orders from her‖. McDermott and Grace, ―didn‘t like being ordered by woman‖ (AG 295) but were forced to perform her orders because of
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their low position. Jerry Aline Flieger writes, ―gender operates in a continual state of construction and reconstruction as the subject—whether female or male – moves through shifting power positions, gendering subjects as ―feminine‖ or ―masculine‖, regardless of their sexual identities‖ (Ingersoll 2). The novel explores the criticism of the upper class society. Grace satirically comments on the life, power and position of upper class people, including her employers, doctors and lawyers. They are described as, ―feeble and ignorant creatures, although rich, and most of them couldn‘t light a fire if their toes were freezing off, because they didn‘t know how…and if they were to lose all their money tomorrow and be thrown out on streets, they would not even be able to make a living by honest whoring‖ because, ―the thing these people hated the most was to be reminded that they too had bodies and their shit stank as much as anyone‘s, if not worse‖ (AG 182-83). This criticism is supported by in Mary‘s words, ―People dressed in certain kind of clothing are never wrong. Also they never fart…if there is a farting in a room where they are, you may be sure you done it yourself… even if you never did, you better not say so or its all damn your insolence, and a boot in the backside and out on the street with you‖ (AG 36). Grace justifies their faults as, ―it is only how they are brought up‖ (AG 249). Thus it is family, peer, social circle and cultural norms which construct the identity and gendered spaces for men and women both. The stereotypical image of masculine and feminine gender is to a great extent promoted and enhanced by media, the literature, newspapers and magazine. ―The combination of sex, violence, and the deplorable insubordination of the lower classes was most attractive to the journalist of the day‖ (AG 537). Bell Hooks holds the role of media to be greatly responsible for perpetuating and strengthening the stereotypes of both masculinity and femininity, instilling norms of appropriate gender behaviour. For e.g. Suzanna Moodie is believed to give, ―colourful description‖ of Grace‘s confession in Penitentiary (AG 90). She is criticized of, ―put[ing] some fine speeches into the mouth of her subjects, which is highly unlikely they ever made‖ (AG 437). It is, ―argued that it was Mrs. Moodie‘s repressed awareness of the division within her own identity which lured her to the multiplicity displayed by ―the celebrated murderess,‖ Grace Marks‖ (Vevaina 92). Another example is of magazines read by Kinnear, that consist of articles on ―how a lady should behave‖ (AG 370). Grace tries to resist and protest the sexist oppression of men and her discursively constructed gender identity and space by feigning amnesia, and madness. Like Grace, the other characters in the novel have ―multiple or at least dual selves, but while those on the lower rung of the social ladder get branded as liars and anti-social elements, others on the higher rungs escape censure altogether‖(Vevaina 93). Dr. Jordon is shown to suffer nervous breakdown since he is: horrified by the darkness unleashed from his personal Pandora‘s Box. The power politics within society however, will not permit respectable people like him to be regarded as abnormal and institutionalized for their mental condition. Instead as a member of the medical profession, it is he who has the power to institutionalize others. (Vevaina 93) Grace says, ―One does not find the same afflictions among the well-to-do- as among the poor‖ (AG 491). Having learnt -from her lawyer Kenneth McKenzie- all the tactics of manipulating the truth cunningly by presenting herself, deplorable, fragile, illiterate and victim of McDermott‘s plot, she ―transgresses the borders of confinement imposed by the ideologies of power and directs the processes of production of meanings‖ by taking ―the narrative of her story into her own hands‖ (Silveiria 304). Dr. Simon‘s treatment process involves the retelling of Grace‘s past life events, which would help him unravel the hidden knot of truth or fabrication ―to reestablish the chain of thought…which was broken perhaps by the shock of the violent events in which she was involved‖ (AG 97).
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Thus by constructing and narrating her story in her own words, she learns, ―how to perform the Male Narrative Paradigm, bringing reader to a peak of desire for the ―revelation scene‖ the ―epiphany‖, or showing forth, in which Mary Whitney apparently justifies Atwood‘s title as the supposed ―other‖ who has learned to speak in to alias of ―Grace‖ ‖(Ingersoll). By becoming assertive speaker she deconstructs and destabilizes the notion of identity as fixed, coherent and stable, revealing through her narrative, ―the ―truth‖ through her ―performativity‖ which underpins the truth of identity as constructed through performativity in discourse (Ingersoll). She fulfills Helene Cixous‘s concept of ‗ecriture feminine‘ in reconstructing a space for herself in language and society by assertively appropriating her voice and narrating her story and then revealing truths to Dr. Simon and Dr. Jerome by writing letter. Cixous suggests that women can challenge, ―Historical and political constructions‖ and subvert the ―dominant linguistic order‖ of patriarchal society by fully inhabiting their bodies and writing from them (Davies 59). At last when Dr. Jordon‘s efforts fail in knowing the truth of her madness, her case is handed over to Jeremiah, the peddler, performing as Dr. DuPont, who owing to his excellent performance passes of easily as a specialist in Neurohypnosis. It is through DuPont‘s hypnotism that Grace exploits her condition in trance, gives voice to her long oppressed, muffled and suppressed voice openly. She seemingly pretends to be suffering from double consciousness or de-doublement and appropriates her voice giving the impression of being uttered from the mouth of Mary Whitney. Speaking in Mary‘s voice she verbally attacks all those men who treated her and other women no better than sexual objects. She attacks Dr. Jordon publically and avenges his perception of her as sexual commodity. ―I know when what you are thinking when you sit in that stuffy little sewing room with me‖. She speaks of her awareness of his intentions, that like other men, he too wanted to kiss her and touch her. She tells them, ―I had him (McDermott) on a string and Mr. Kinnear as well. I had the two of them dancing to my tune‖ (AG 465)! She not only exposes Dr. Simon‘s lust for her body but also his sexual intentions for Lydia. Thus using the disguise of Mary‘s voice she constructs an identity and space for herself where she is purged of all accusations of being a murderess, which otherwise was not possible. Thus it is explored through the novel that gender, sex and class are all the outcome of socio-cultural constructions that are handed to us through discourse. Grace Marks is able to fight against patriarchal ideologies by appropriating her own voice and narrating her story. She deconstructs patriarchal language and ―scientific discourse‖ of 19 th century and avenges the wrong done to her by passing scathing comments to her exploiters in the guise of madness (Showalter 90).
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