Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace is a novel based on Grace Marks; a servant convicted yet pardoned of murdering her employer. Atwood critiques the society that produces patriarchy, captivating the social issue of women being subordinate to men. Consequently, Atwood blames the oppressive Victorian Era that contains women within stagnant social positions. Within the novel, the upper class maintain the hierarchy of gender and class, preserving these Victorian traditions. Throughout the novel, Atwood represents the prominent theme of gender disparity, that dehumanizes and objectifies women to be submissive.
The theme of gender disparity is portrayed through the construct of the Victorian Era’s social hierarchy and finally, the use of labels. Atwood demonstrates the constructs of the 19th century portraying immigrant women like Grace at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Gender is the main factor that dictates an individual’s access to rank within the social hierarchy. The Victorian Era consisted of women that are financially reliant on men. “Sir, it was a matter of pride for a man to support his own family, whatever he might think of that family itself.
” (Atwood, 130). Consequently, Grace and her family are directly at the mercy of their father financially. However, Grace’s father took advantage of his wages to fund his alcohol addiction. Atwood represents throughout the novel that women are continuously being viewed “as idle…and useless.” (Barret, 39). This novel highlights the living conditions of women at a significant disadvantage in relation to men, thus demonstrating that women are expected to hold very elementary roles within society; to marry, bear children, maintain the home continuing “Victorian traditions.” (Barret, 39). Furthermore, Atwood demonstrates that these elementary roles were not only limited to their house but to the jobs they could take outside of their homes, when permitted. Therefore, Grace had to find ways to support the family in order to compensate the fathers reckless spending. “Our father began to tell me that I was almost a grown woman now and I was eating him out of house and home, it was time I went out into the world to earn my own bread,” (153). Atwood portrays that although women are discriminated and criticized for joining the workforce, many of them are expected to work to support themselves and their families. Allegorically Atwood alludes to the use of women like objects to fund such addictions like alcoholism present within Grace’s father. Atwood’s representation of gender disparity explores society’s exploitation of women, along with female relationships with men. Alias Grace represents patriarchy’s ability to confine women to their female expectations, which have been implicated by society allowing for no kinds of advancement. Overall, Atwood depicts the Victorian Era being unable to accept women as equal to men.Throughout the novel, Atwood portrays the use of labels within society that categorize and objectify women. The public had a very divided outlook on Grace’s involvement in the murders. Many Individuals believe that James charmed Grace to commit the murders. However, others believe Grace played a primary role in the murders and dehumanize her. “I am an innocent victim…in danger of my own life…that I am a good girl with a pliable nature and no harm is done of me, that I am cunning and devious.” (28). Grace’s description within the public eye highlights the struggle between commonly acquired traits of a criminal and the typical traits of a woman. Yet again, Atwood portrays that within the Victoria Era women were described as nurturing, pure, and protective. Moreover, Atwood depicts gender inequality through the title murderess; this title itself highlights a women’s sexuality within society. “Murderess is a strong word… it has a smell to it, that word – musky and oppressive.” (27). The word murderess, although delicate alludes once again to the Victorian Era that has confined women to be soft. Instead of Grace being sentenced to death like McDermott, she is named a murderess and is poorly treated because she is viewed as insane. There certainly is nothing soft or delicate about the concept of murder. However, the preconceived notions of women allow for women who murder to take advantage of the Justice system, inadvertently giving them a sense of hope in regards to abolishing patriarchy. Moreover, a murderess cannot exist according to Victorian Era gender stereotypes. Atwood portrays that women are expected to be submissive to men, that they are incapable of murder, consequently making the title murderess ironic. Society is unable to digest the concept that women could murder, that the two could go hand in hand. Overall, Atwood informs one that Victorian women are faced with too many obstacles both from society as a whole and during their daily lives. (Barret, 47). Atwood takes into consideration the ideals of the Victorian Era’s unrealistic expectations that parallel labels to constrict women.The theme of gender disparity is evident within the foundation of the Victorian Era and finally, through the use of labels. Atwood represents the prominent theme of gender disparity, that dehumanizes and materializes women to be subservient to their male counterparts. Atwood critiques society that produces patriarchy, supporting the idea of women being subject to men. Atwood displays the Victorian Era that forces women into solely concerning themselves to keep a clean household and focus on their male partners. In Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, the novel based on Grace Marks, a true story that truly captivates the issue of gender inequality, thus leading to unfair patriarchy.