Demetris C. White
23 September 2018
Literary Response Essay
In 1859, I am sitting on the purple velvet settee in the Governor’s Parlor, the Governor’s wife’s Parlor; it has always been the Governor’s wife’s parlor although it is not always the same wife, as they change them around according to the politics (Atwood 21). I have my hands folded in my lap the proper way although I have no gloves. The gloves I would wish to have would be Smooth and White and would fit without a wrinkle.
In the beginning, the door opens, and a man enters. 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’s fifty, and even then, there’s still hope for the ladies, as Mary Whitney used to say. He’s tall, with long legs and arms, but not what the Governor’s daughters would call handsome; they incline to the languid ones in the magazines, very elegant and butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, wish narrow feet in pointed boots (Atwood 37). This man has a briskness about him which is not fashionable, and rather large feet, although he is a gentleman, or next so it is hard to tell.
However, for information regarding the chief object of your inquiry, I regret that you must seek elsewhere. The female prisoner, Grace Marks, whose crime was murder, was returned to the Penitentiary at Kingston in August of 1853, after a stay of fifteen months. As I myself was appointed only some three weeks prior to her departure, I had little chance of making a thorough study of her case. I have therefore referred your letter to Dr. Samuel Bannering, who attended her under my predecessor. As to the degree of insanity by which she was primarily attested, I am unable to speak. It was my impression that for a considerable time past she had been sufficiently sane to warrant her removal from the Asylum. She had, towards the latter end of her stay, conducted herself with much propriety; whilst by her industry and general kindness towards the patients, she was found a profitable and useful inmate of the house (Atwood 48). Because she suffers occasionally under nervous excitement and a painful overaction of the heart.
Dora returns his lack of esteem. She appears to feel that he has rented these rooms with the sole object of causing trouble for her she fricassees his handkerchiefs and over starches his shirts, and loses the buttons from them, which she no doubt pulls routinely. He’s even suspected her of burning his toast and overcooking his egg on purpose. After plumping down his tray, she bellows, “Here’s your food.” As if calling a hog; then she stumps out, closing the door behind her just one note short of a slam (Atwood 57).
“I am so glad you could honor us,” she says (Atwood 81). She tells him that Governor is regrettably away on business, but that she herself is deeply interested in the work he is doing; she has such a respect for modern science, and especially for modern medicine; such a few advances have been made. Especially the ether, which has spared so much distress. She fixes him with a deep and meaningful gaze, and Simon sighs inwardly. He is familiar with that expression: she is about to make him an unsolicited gift of her symptoms.
But after a time, there were farms and houses visible on the shore, and the land had the appearance of being more placid, or tamer as you might say. We were required to stop at an island and to undergo an inspection for cholera, as many before us had brought it into the country on the ships; but as the dead people on our ship had died of other things – four besides my mother, two from consumption and one from apoplexy, and one jumped overboard – we were allowed to proceed (Atwood 123). I did have the chance to give the children a good scrubbing-off in the river water, although it was very cold – at least their faces and arms, which they were very much in need of.
After that, the racket brought us all to the window; and when they’d reached the back door, he gave them a penny to spend, and they ran off; and when Cook asked him what all that was about, he said he would rather have the following under his command than pelting him with lots of mud and horse dung, which has their habit with peddlers, who could not chase them away without abandoning their packs; which if they did, would swiftly be pillaged by the little ruffians; so he’d chosen the wiser course, and employed them, and taught them the song himself (Atwood 153-154).
But also, the snow and ice began to melt, and a few birds returned, and they began to sing and call; so, I knew it would soon be spring. And one day in late March, as we were carrying the clean wash up the back stairs in baskets, to hang it in the drying room, Mary said she was ill; and she ran downstairs and out into the backyard, behind the outbuildings. I set down my basket and followed her, just as I was, without my shawl; and I found her on her knees in the wet snow near the Privy, which she had not had time to reach, as she had been overcome by a violent sickness (Atwood 175).
After that, Mary went with him out of the room, her face as white as a sheet; and then I heard screams, and crying, and after time doctor pushed her in through the scullery door. Her dress was all damp, and clinging to her like a wet bandage, and she could scarcely walk, and I put my arms around her and assisted her away from that place as best I could (Atwood 175).
Finally, Mrs. Alderson Parkinson looked thoughtful, and paced to and from the length of the room; and then she said, Agnes and Grace, we will not discuss this further, as it will only lead to unhappiness and added misery, and there is no sense in crying over spilled milk; and out of respect to the dead we will not say what Mary died of (Atwood 177-178).
Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace. New York: A Division of Random House, Inc. November 1997.