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Alias Grace
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Alias Grace > Question #2: Seasons

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The daily and seasonal rhythm of household work is described in detail. What role does this play in the novel?


Sylvia Valevicius | 81 comments Regardless of whether Grace is a prisoner, or when she was in home service, the mundane tasks of daily life are a reality. Grace takes pride in her ability to perform these tasks well. Anachronistically-speaking, Grace learns to live in the NOW, during this rhythmical passage of time. Thus, she keeps her sanity, and some degree of happiness by having control over these chores. In addition, throughout the novel, the household work described in such detail, puts the Reader alongside Grace, which creates a significant role as 'witness' to her life and character, which ultimately places the Reader in simpatico with her. We like her. We really do!


message 3: by Allison (last edited Oct 19, 2016 08:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allison | 396 comments Hmmm...I am halfway through this novel and have not really noticed too much in a daily and seasonal rhythm of household work. Perhaps it is coming in the second half? There is work to be done for sure, but everyone seems to have their own responsibilities and as a far as I can tell Grace's job seems to be limited to either laundry (in her past) or, in her present, sewing.

That said, I do remember a few sentences as to the passage of time being measured in Grace's own mind from certain points in her life, so that she can better handle the great expanse of time that looms ahead of her.


Jennifer Patrick | 57 comments Mod
As I was reading this book, I certainly noticed the daily household and work. Perhaps it was the sign of the time because there is so much to do?


Jennifer Patrick | 57 comments Mod
Sylvia wrote: "Regardless of whether Grace is a prisoner, or when she was in home service, the mundane tasks of daily life are a reality. Grace takes pride in her ability to perform these tasks well. Anachronisti..."

I agree with your statement Sylvia. I certainly noticed it in this book. I think that is why it is such an easy and fast read.


message 6: by Wendy (new) - added it

Wendy (wrintou) | 2 comments I was reminded of Downton Abbey's opening credits when the maids/staff are picking up, cleaning, cooking etc when thinking about Grace's role from a time she lived at home through to working for the governor's wife. Hard work for sure but I think she took great pride in her work. And she learned early on that other's valued those skills and it gave her some power over her destiny. The seasonal rhythm was most evident for me when Simon was describing his time in Kingston - especially the humid summer weather. His description of Dora was the best. I thought is was an excellent story.


Allison | 396 comments Wendy wrote: "I was reminded of Downton Abbey's opening credits when the maids/staff are picking up, cleaning, cooking etc when thinking about Grace's role from a time she lived at home through to working for th..."

I agree about the Downton Abbey imagery (also, reminded me a bit of Jo Baker's novel, Longbourn). And Wendy, you are right about Grace's pride in her work (which, if true, says a lot about her character, and quite frankly points to the possibility of her innocence).

The seasonal rhythm for me was most evident in descriptions of mosquitos, heat and cold, and the quilts (those for summer - done in lighter colours and with cotton stuffing; and those for winter - done in richer, more vibrant colours, and stuffed with wool). I am not a quilter, but I loved the passages about quilt patterns and quilt making.

Grace's description of her happiest Christmas ever, being the one spent with Mary Whitney, for which Mary made her mittens, was very touching and I could really feel the season in these passages. The descriptions of how the snow changed as well made deep impressions on me -- the light, non-packing kind to the bone-chilling sleet kind.

I got a good sense of the damp (being around the lake) in both Toronto and Kingston, and the humidity in Richmond Hill when Grace scrubbed the filthy floor of the winter kitchen.

When Grace first starts working for Kinnear, there is a tremendous description of what she does in a day's work and the pride she takes in so many of her little tasks, like keeping her own room and bed neat and tidy (and how much she knows she will appreciate it at the end of the day, when she can return to her room in its tidy and comforting state). Again, I think this speaks to her character and adds credence to the likelihood of her innocence. Either that, or she is an excellent manipulator of character right down to the details in her story re-telling that she could convey such a sense of an honest, hard-working maid.


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