Ever however things do not go as planned.

Ever since the beginning of time, mankind has always claimed itself to be superior than all else on Earth, especially the men. In doing so, it caused a chain of reactions that had women the ones fighting to be equal to men. With men claiming dominance over all, women had to prove countless times and against all odds their worth, just to be able to sit on the same table as men. Similarly, the novel, Alias Grace, follows the life of Grace Marks, a woman who is a new immigrant to Canada, living in a male dominated era. She comes in search of a better life however things do not go as planned. She becomes a servant and in the last house she works in, she and another worker present at the time were tried for murder of the heads of the household who were found dead. The novel recounts the story of Grace’s life and her constant struggles being a woman in the eighteen hundreds which leaves the reader at the end to decide whether she is guilty or not. This historical fiction novel is by Margaret Atwood, a famous author often called the “queen of Canadian literature” (“Margaret Atwood: Queen of CanLit.”). She has won many awards for her novels and by continuing to write about topics that are relevant to the current society, she is bound to win many more. Many of her novels deal with gender issues, and feminism is often discussed, whether she is describing the future or the past such as this book. The novel, Alias Grace written by Margaret Atwood, is a feminist text, as it illustrates the hardships and restrictions the life of a servant woman faces living in the western world during the eighteen hundreds. Atwood depicts this through the use of characters and conflicts in the novel, thus criticizing the treatment of women and in turn showing that women are still powerful and influential.     Firstly, the hardships and restrictions women face are depicted through the use of characters, clearly illustrating the treatment of women. However, at the same time still showing their full power and influence on society. The most obvious and prevalent character in the novel is Grace Marks, an immigrant who comes to Canada in search of a better life and she starts out by becoming a servant woman and as a result is, “set to work at first as a scullery maid, scouring out the pots and pans” (Atwood 187). Grace currently lives in a patriarchal time where males rule the household and society and this is clearly shown when she falls under the traditional gender role of staying at home and doing housework instead of becoming educated and contributing to society. She becomes a maid to support herself in aims of a better life and in doing so, she becomes trapped and confined by the expectations of society. Another example from Grace is when she admits the circumstances around her confession that it, “is not really her Confession, she says, it was only what the lawyer told her to say, and things made up by the men from the newspapers” (Atwood 120). Living in a male dominated society, does not allow for women to voice their opinions and this is exactly what occurred with Grace and her lawyer. Women were seen as weak and fragile beings and thus were never asked for their opinions as men had everything under control. Women’s thoughts were never considered to be held to the same degree as men’s and as a result restricted them from speaking their mind and contributing positively to society. Grace knows that she has vital information, however the lawyer is focused solely on getting a victory in court and therefore completely ignores her, illustrating one of the many challenges women such as Grace faced during this time. The hardships she faced become clearer to her as her character develops through the novel. She realizes that in the current society, “it is always the woman who’s blamed” (Atwood 441) as they are seen as subordinate to men and not as equals. Hence, the author pulls the reader’s attention to patriarchy’s role in taking over the feminine, throughout the novel and consequently, Muzaffar emphasizes, that once, “appropriated to man’s logic as early as she enters the scene, Grace therefore finds no exit but to perform her role as expected by this logic. It is only when she excels at this role that she is able to escape its restrictions” (Muzaffar 638). As Muzaffar suggests, women in the novel only escaped from the hands of their male counterparts by outwitting them at their own game and executing their role as one would expect. Atwood criticizes the treatment of women by the way men act towards women however, she still shows that women are just as capable as men as at the end, Grace proves her intelligence by escaping the confines of the patriarchal system and achieving freedom. Moreover, another character that depicts the challenges women faced is Dr. Simon Jordan. For example, as he is a single man, he could not help but look at his servant as an object specifically a sexual object as, “he has tried imagining her as a prostitute – he often plays this private mental game with various women he encounters” (Atwood 69). Even the doctor, a man that is supposed to help people, reduces everyone around him as lowly to him. He reduces women to being solely sexual objects, sexual objectification, and in doing so, it illustrates the extra hurdle that woman have to get over in order to be seen as anywhere equal to their counterparts. Another example involving Dr. Jordan is when Grace notices something about the doctor like, “an instructive mood, and she can see he is going to teach her something, which gentlemen are fond of doing” (Atwood 174). Women quickly realize when they are going to be taught something as they live in a patriarchal society where men control every aspect of society, thus causing women to constantly be on the other end of male instruction. With women always being on the other end, it limits their ability to voice their opinions, illustrating the hardships women at the time faced. Wisker goes on to suggest that the author, “Atwood, engaging with sex and psychology, constructions and representations of women, has Simon Jordan seeing Grace as a maiden, incarcerated in a prison/tower, needing rescue” (Wisker 71). Wisker illustrates society’s mindset at the moment and how they confine and treat women to being mere objects and nothing more. Atwood exploits this to highlight the treatment of women at the time and in turn showing how women using their clever abilities are able to escape the confines of society. Similarly, Grace illustrates a damsel in distress, she pretends this role just to outplay the male characters, particularly Dr. Jordan, and therefore achieve her freedom. As a result, through the use of Grace and Dr. Jordan, the challenges and confinements women faced at the time are clearly shown, thus criticizing the treatment of women while still illustrating their full potential on society. Secondly, in addition to characters, Atwood uses conflicts to illustrate the hardships and restrictions women faced and consequently, she criticizes the treatment of women and still shows that they are powerful and influential. One conflict in the novel that greatly demonstrates this is between Grace and herself. This internal struggle makes up mostly the entirety of the novel as even by the end of the novel the readers do not have a grasp on Grace’s true identity. For instance, when Dr. Jordan asks Grace a question and she thinks, Well there is no doubt about that, I know the answer. … But what I say to him is different. I say, I don’t know, Sir. Perhaps it would be a Job’s Tears, or a Tree of Paradise, or a Snake Fence; or else an Old Maid’s Puzzle, because I am an old maid, wouldn’t you say, Sir, and I have certainly been very puzzled. I said this last thing to be mischievous. (Atwood 117) The way that Grace responds to the doctor is one that shows an internal struggle occurring between telling the truth and lying to the doctor. She obviously is cautious of the things she wants to reveal to him especially because he is a stranger to her but at the same time the doctor has arrived only to help her get out of prison. However, Grace does not realize this immediately because her entire life has been dominated by male figureheads and now that she understands the hardships and restrictions that women face living in such an oppressive society, she feels the need to be cautious and work her way to get an advantage. Further on in the novel, Grace seems to become more comfortable around Dr. Jordan yet at the same time the internal struggle in her rages on as she still toys with the doctor, “because he was so thoughtful as to bring me this radish, I set to work willingly to tell my story, and to make it as interesting as I can, and rich in incident, as a sort of return gift to him; for I have always believed that one good turn deserves another” (Atwood 295). By thinking this and revealing it to the reader, it suggests that Grace has no interest in being freed or is really good at manipulation that she knows what she is doing and will get what she desires in the end. Regardless, this still illustrates that a conflict resides in her. She struggles between her desires and beliefs and as a result, it reveals that her identity is not made clear as at times she displays qualities that continue to contradict each other. Morris suggests that even the doctor could not establish an identity for Grace after countless meetings and goes on to state that, “the story becomes an act of seduction, as Grace draws Jordan into her narrated world and experience, into her version of the ‘true story'” (Morris). Grace understands that Dr. Jordan is willing to listen to anything as long as she speaks about her story and she uses to this to possibly bend the truth or to just simply manipulate the doctor in hopes of getting released. In doing so, she quickly establishes herself as being the who has the power and influence, for whatever she says to the doctor he accepts blindly. Even though the conflict criticizes the treatment of women by infantilization, as the doctor treats her like a child by bringing her a radish in return for her story, Grace is still able to outsmart the doctor at his own game and show that she can be a person of importance and influence in a patriarchal society. In addition, another conflict that is mentioned throughout the novel is women versus society.  The time period the novel is set in, was mostly a male dominated society and this meant that women were oppressed, which helps to illustrate the hardships and restrictions that were placed on them. For instance, when Grace is walking with the prison guards, they offer their thoughts on women and the things they enjoy in a woman, a little high spirits in a woman, a little fire, they say it comes with the redness of the hair. But is it red where it most counts, says the other, a fire in a treetop is no use at all, it must be in a fireplace to cast enough heat, in a little cookstove, 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 hate a screeching slut, women should be born without mouths on them, the only thing of use in them is below the waist. (Atwood 287) The challenges that women faced during this time period are illustrated in a plethora of ways just from this quote alone. For one, there is a misogynistic attitude towards women, specifically an attitude that is demeaning and negative directed to women as a group, when they mention their thoughts on their way of behaving with women. In addition, there is an obvious type of injustice towards women, oppression, as they are not treated as equals in any part of society, which is the reason the guards are permitted to talk in this manner. They are always considered to be the inferior sex and that only makes their lives harder. Also, it is interesting to note how the guards refer to a cookstove when talking about women. During this time period, domesticity was very popular as a woman’s main place was at home where all their work was done. When the guards mentioned this reference, it represents society’s view of women at that time and when this is the only thing that relates to women, it shows the challenges women faced to be recognized as something more than that and equal to their male counterpart. Furthermore, another example of women versus society mentioned in the novel is when Grace thinks of how Dr. Jordan does not know what servants do: Men such as him do not have to clean up the messes they make, but we have to clean up our own messes, and theirs into the bargain. In that way they are like children, they do not have to think ahead, or worry about the consequences of what they do. But it is not their fault, it is only how they are brought up. (Atwood 257) Grace’s thoughts outline how entitled the male gender is in this society, a male privilege where they get unearned advantages due to them being a male, residing in a male dominated society. As a result of receiving these unearned privileges, women are left to fend for themselves and face whatever challenges society throws their way alone therefore criticizing the way women treated. However, even though these restrictions are placed upon women, it only makes them stronger and impose an influence on others. As Hart states, “many women, like Grace, learn that silence brings them more acceptance and favor” (Hart). Hart’s statement holds true as Grace does become more accepted and favoured by the people in society after living in silence in prison for 28 years, in fact she does so very much that she uses this acceptance to turn it in to her favour and obtain power from it. Once she obtains the power, ability to tell own story, she is able to influence others with the things she mentions. Ultimately, in the end she uses this power and influence to gain freedom. Therefore, conflicts between women and society and Grace’s internal struggle both illustrate the challenges that women face, thus criticizing the treatment of women at the time, while still displaying the full power and influence women have. In conclusion, the feminist text, Alias Grace, through the use of characters and conflicts demonstrates the challenges and confinements women face living in the western world that is dominated by men. As a result, the novel criticizes the treatment of woman while still illustrating that women are powerful and influential. The characters of Grace Marks and Dr. Jordan both illustrate the hardships that women experienced from their interactions with other characters in the novel. Grace Marks, who is a servant woman living in a male dominated period struggles to fulfill her aspirations and Dr. Jordan, a male that helps to represent society’s thoughts from a male perspective. In addition, the conflicts of Grace versus herself and women versus society provide several points that support the difficulties of being a woman in this time. Grace struggles to create a concrete identity for herself and women have many hardships to overcome society’s view of them from being oppressive to misogynistic. However, as the text does criticize the treatment of women, women are still are able to show they are powerful and influential. For instance Grace, who is able to obtain the power and use it to her advantage to become influential and eventually reach her goal of achieving freedom. Even though women faced many setbacks in the past, today they are quickly proving their worth of the things they can fully offer to not only everyone but to help society move forward. Women nowadays have come a long way from being restricted from leaving home to being able to go educate themselves to pursue any career. There are still lots of ways that women need to reach as not the entire world is currently living as equals as different parts of the globe are still stuck in the past. Yet, one has to reflect back and think that even if women are not completely as equal to men thus far, they have shown lots of courage and bravery. Just to stand up against the male dominance, let alone occupy a spot in that society is surely enough to claim that they truly are the superior, or equal gender as opposed to men.    

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