Sketching the Essence of Insanity and Crime in Netflix’s Alias Grace (Episode Two)

NeveeenNeveen Badr is an Egyptian double B.A. holder in both Business Administration and English Language. She is currently seeking her pre-masters in English Literature from the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. Due to being unable to choose a double major, her fascination with Victorian times and Gothic literature has led to her obtaining another degree and, furthermore, striving for a master’s degree. When she is not reading or writing her focus is on shooting Archery and looking after her large number of pets. If you wish to support her, please visit her blog, Glacier Mellow.

Introducing Mary Whitney

Introducing Mary Whitney – Alias Grace, 2017: S01 E01 (Netflix, inc.)

… for it is the fate of a woman
Long to be patient and silent, to wait like a ghost that is speechless,
Till some questioning voice dissolves the spell of its silence.
“The Courtship of Miles Standish” By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Part Two introduces more of Grace hiding the fact of her continuous dreams of Nancy from Dr Jordan. Still, we travel through her memories, especially as the story gets to its brightest parts. Following Mary’s introduction in episode one, Grace explains the connection with her alias: “Mary Whitney was once a particular friend of mine. She was always very kind to me. Without her, it would have been a different story entirely.” Her pseudonym hints at hidden or ambiguous characteristics and her wish to carry them, thus her adoption of this certain alias discloses her personal attachment to Mary, with whom we will get better acquainted in the course of this tragedy.

Grace describes Mary: “She was a fun-loving girl, and very bold and mischievous in her speech.” She was a rebel democrat with strong political views, hence Grace’s aside “I put it down to her being a native-born Canadian, as she did not have very much respect for a degree.” Mary’s character brings adventure to Grace’s life. She tells Grace about her heritage: “my grandmother was a Red Indian which is why my hair is so dark. If I had half a chance I’d run away to the woods and go about with a bow and arrow”, uncovering her genuinely fearless and free spirit. She becomes an idol and mother figure to Grace in the course of events such as: gifting Grace a precious handkerchief; educating and saving her during menstruation by a petticoat; and warning her about potentially deadly icicles.

Mary’s game of ‘Apple Skin’ introduces the rise of Victorian spiritualism and superstition, an Irish folklore tradition in which a young woman cuts the complete peel of an apple in one piece and throws the peel over their shoulder. Then the peel will take the shape of the initial of the man that the girl will marry. Grace’s letter is ‘J’ offering the audience a chance to speculate on whom she will marry from the set of already introduced ‘J’ characters. Mary struggles to form a complete peel, disturbing her dreams of a having perfect life.

This part of the mini-series introduces us to yet another splendid man, Jeremiah, the energetic and sweet-tongued peddler who will give Grace a vigorous speech: “You will cross water three times. You will have much trouble. But all will be fine in the end. You are one of us”, which though it sounds obscure and insignificant at this moment of the story will, during further events of misfortune and death, prove the truth of his predictions. He might be a minor character compared to the length of the story but it is his superior vision which will weave the ending.

Dr Jordan's Fantasy

Doctor Jordan’s Fantasy – Alias Grace, 2017: S01 E02 (Netflix, inc.)

Dr Jordan’s improper fantasies of Grace trouble his attempts to remain sharp in order to pursue her memories. This precedes a stroke of kindness on his part in assisting his innkeeper, Mrs Humphrey, by sustaining her with an advance of another two months rent, following her husband’s taking off with all of their wealth. The young doctor’s actions seem to give him validation a delicate and thoughtful person; hinting that he will never take advantage of a female in distress or move forward with his intimate fantasies.

Another more shocking change comes to Grace with the abortion of Mary’s unborn child, which emphasises just how deceiving men can be. Although Mary was promised marriage by the father of her child, and given a ring, the man whom she trusted shatters her hopes; he denies his child. Even after Mary’s warnings to Grace to not leave the bed at night or to go to the lavatory alone in the dark, she dies as a consequence of letting her guard down. This sense of loss explains the quote the episode opens with because the whispers of “Let me in”, as Grace explains to the doctor, cause her to run to the open the window for Mary’s soul to leave, though she may have heard the opposite before her blackout.

Even with the accumulating accounts of abuse and assault, losing her mother and later on the death of Mary Whitney, Grace notes: “And so the happiest time of my life was over and gone.” Later on, in a condition between consciousness and sleeping, Grace recollects the peel which foretold the future of hardship for Mary. Her conflicting memories of the murder fabricate a set of mysteries which pull the young doctor towards her. After all, it is knowledge that he craves. The Forbidden knowledge. Knowledge with a lurid glare to it. Knowledge gained through a descent into the pit. He wishes to go to the beyond that she can never return to, her lost memories. To see what she can never see inside her: he craves the truth behind the murder. Yet, his wishes resemble the same alternative all of her doctors embrace, as he yearns to open-up her body and peer inside. He dreams of unlocking the enigma by holding her beating female heart in his hand.

Bibliography

Alias Grace (2017) s01e02 Episode Script | SS. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=alias-grace-2017&episode=s01e02

Images

Alisa Grace, episode 1 [Introducing Mary Whitney]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2018, from http://sarahgadon.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=521&pid=22631#top_display_media

Alisa Grace, episode 2 [Dr Jordan’s Fantasy]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2018, from http://sarahgadon.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=522&pid=22759#top_display_media

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