Essay on Atwood's Framing of the Story in "Alias Grace"
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One of the main themes of the postmodern movement includes the idea that history is only what one makes of it. In other words, to the postmodern philosopher history is only a story humans frame and create about their past (Bruzina). Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace is an excellent exploration of this postmodern idea. Through use of postmodern writing styles and techniques, Atwood explores how the framing of a story influences its meaning. By mixing different writing mediums such as prose, poetry, period style letters, and historical documents such as newspaper articles, Atwood achieves a complex novel that explores a moment of history in a unique way. The different genres allow for the reader to experience different perspectives of the same…show more content… It is also interesting to see the touches of modernism and postmodernism in her thoughts and dreams (LeClair 25 and 28). The reader also quickly learns that Grace is somewhat of an unreliable narrator, an element of writing uncharacteristic of Alias Grace’s style, Gothic literature, but technique common to postmodern literature. It is evident in the first two pages of the novel that Grace is an unreliable storyteller . In the opening chapter, Grace recounts a version of the murder in a very stream of conscious, modern style. Grace talks about seeing Nancy covered in blood before Nancy “scatters into a patches of color, a drift of red cloth petals across the stone,” but Grace ends her story by saying, “This is what I told Dr. Jordan, when we came to that part of the story” (Atwood 6). This last sentence reminds the reader of the dubious nature of Grace’s narration (Sidall). Atwood also subtly discredits Grace through inconsistencies in her narration, such as Grace’s switching back and forth between calling McDermott the formal Mr. McDermott or the very personal (and, perhaps, too personal) James. Later, Atwood causes the reader to further question Grace when she is hypnotized. Under the influence of a man Grace claims to be Jeremiah the peddler, she declares that she is a very sexually charged, devious woman by the name of Mary Whitney. The questionable elements of Grace’s narrative add to the overall falsity and dubious nature of the