Alias Grace Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Alias Grace” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “Alias Grace” or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : How a Reader Can Sympathize with a Convicted Murderer in “Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood

Despite what she’s done, Grace is an incredibly likeable character and the reader, even though he or she may know what she’s done and question her sanity and status as a reliable narrator to Simon Jordan and the reader, it is easy to feel sorry for her. Her father is good for nothing, she has endured a long journey that left her without a mother, she is forced into work and furthermore, seems oddly out of place in a prison, especially being a women. Another one of the reasons why it is also easier to sympathize with Grace is that her direct hand in the murder of her employer is not entirely clear. While “Alias Grace" hinges on this murder as the central driver of the plot of “Alias Grace" Margaret Atwood never allows the reader to know in any detail what exactly transpired. If you wish to use this essay to speculate in the last paragraph about how reader perceptions might be different in terms of finding Grace as a sympathetic character if bloody and brutal details were revealed about what transpired, it might be worth the discussion. The focus of this essay topic or thesis statement for “Alias Grace" is more of a character analysis of Grace in “Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood that probes why she elicits a sympathetic response from readers and what this says about the nature of crime and punishment, for that matter.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 : The Intersection of History and Fiction in “Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood

It is important to understand that this is a historical novel with roots in an actual murder case that caused a great sensation throughout Canada. The historical murder case behind “Alias Grace" had already all the elements of great fiction; an illicit affair between a housekeeper and her rich employer, a protagonist with a sad backstory but whom people felt sympathy for, and of course, a violent murder. By fictionalizing this historical account of a real murder case and making Grace Marks a character the reader does not immediately dismiss or consider actively insane, but rather underprivileged and prone to acting on emotion rather than reason, through “Alias Grace" and the actual circumstances of the murder Atwood is able to critically bring to light several issues at play in this society. One of the biggest aspects of the social meaning of “Alias Grace" in terms of theme is that of social class. In fact, social class in “Alias Grace" can be seen as one of the prime instigators of much of the negative action in the story. It influences Grace Marks to find work at a young age, forces a friend of hers to not able to carry a pregnancy to term and thus dying as a result of an abortion meant to protect the class status quo, and is the reason for many of the power relationships in the novel. Women and class are dramatically enhanced themes as many of the women characters in “Alias Grace" have the dual disadvantage of being poor and low on the social class scale as well as women who can too easily fall prey to the lecherous desires of men of a higher social class. In this essay topic for “Alias Grace" consider how Atwood uses real history to highlight social concerns of the time (and still) like the plight of lower classes, especially if they are women. For a more complex essay, compares these themes to those expressed in “The Handmaid’s Tale" (click to view PaperStarter on Handmaid's Tale) which is also by Atwood and has the same string of themes and meanings.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : Character Analysis of Simon Jordan and a Plot of His Development

Even a cursory character analysis of Simon Jordan in “Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood will reveal that he is the character that experiences the most change, thus he had the most in terms of character development. Simon Jordan is a round and highly complex character and performing a character analysis charts his developments as they occur in dramatic ways in both his professional and personal life. When he first comes to Kingston in Canada, it is with only a very detached and cold professional interest and he is at first distant from the events in Grace’s life. He is also very concerned with his problems with nearly all of the women in his life. Women in “Alias Grace" to this character serve only to complicate life and this is especially true about his difficult mother, Miss Lydia, Rachel Humphrey, and, of course, Grace herself. For this character analysis in “Alias Grace" make sure you plot where Simon stands, especially in terms of his relationships and conflicts between being professional and with women in the novel and demonstrate how he develops to balance these female desires and find out what truly motivates him. Close this essay with ideas that revolve around how Simon Jordan is the most developed character in the book in terms of his growth and how he grows more personally than Grace, who simply winds up in a better situation without so much personal reflection and self-induced change.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 : The Questionable Nature of the Conclusion of “Alias Grace"

Some readers have remarked upon the “fairy tale ending" that comes to Grace, almost out of nowhere and based on a mysterious (again, fairy-tale-like) prediction about her marrying a man with a name that starts with the letter J. Although the reader is probably likely surprised to find out that it is not Mr. Jordan, but actually a character who has little development or place in the novel outside of a few random appearances, Jamie Walsh, after this initial bit of surprise, this has struck many readers as a contrived ending. Not only is she married to this stranger, who somehow after so many years pined for her still and waited on her without knowing anything much about her outside of what had been publicly revealed, she also becomes pregnant at the age of forty. Some have seen this as her “reward" for being a good person and having lived a hard life and doing prison time while others have viewed this ending of “Alias Grace" as being a bit silly and not realistic or acceptable. For this more open-ended essay on “Alias Grace" in terms of the conclusion, speculate on the plot device of the fairy tale “happy ending" complete with pregnancy and marriage for this convicted murderer. What, if anything, do you think Margaret Atwood is suggesting about what makes someone worthy of a happy ending. Finally, did you feel good about this ending or did it bother you and seem over too quick and bear the marks of something contrived? Furthermore, is this a feminist novel and if so, how could feminism possibly be aligned with fairy tale endings like this one with a pregnant, married protagonist?

If you are writing a comparison essay on novels by Margaret Atwood, check out “The Handmaid's Tale” Paperstater for topics.


This list of important quotations from “Alias Grace” will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “Alias Grace” above, these quotes alone with page numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way.

“The reason they want to see me is that I am a celebrated murderess. Or that is what has been written down. When I first saw it I was surprised, because they Celebrated Singer and Celebrated Poetess and Celebrated Spiritualist and Celebrated Actress, but what is there to celebrate about murder All the same, murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word—musky and oppressive…" (22).

(Of women in the asylum) “One poor Irishwoman had all her family dead, half of them of starving in the great famine and the other half of the cholera on the boat coming over; and she would wander about calling their names… Another woman had killed her child, and it followed her around everywhere, tugging at her skirt, and sometimes she would pick it up and hug and kiss it.. I was afraid of this one" (31).

{Simon to Grace) “If you will try to talk…I will try to listen. My interest is purely scientific. It is not only the murders that should concern us. He’s using a kind of voice, kind on the surface but with other desires hidden beneath it" (41).

(Of Simon) “For the widely held view that women are weak-spined and jelly-like by nature, and would slump to the floor like melted cheese if not roped in, he has nothing but contempt. While a medical student, he dissected a good many women—from the laboring classes, naturally—and their spines and musculature were on the average no feebler than those of men, although many suffered from rickets" (73).

(Of Simon) “It was knowledge [women] craved; yet they could not admit to craving it, because it was forbidden knowledge—knowledge with a lurid glare to it; knowledge gained through a descent into the pit. He had been where they could never go, seen what they never see; he has opened up women’s bodies and peered inside. In his hand, which has just raised their own hands towards his lips, he may once have held a beating female heart" (82). Collaboration

“I had forgotten to cut off a lock of her hair to keep, as I should have done…. As soon as the sheet was over face I had the notion that it was really my mother under there, it was some other woman; or that my mother had changed, and if I was to take away the sheet now she would be someone else entirely. It must have been the shock of it that put such things into my head…And then with the icebergs floating around us and the fog rolling in, my poor mother was tipped into the sea" (121).

“As you may imagine, Sir, a good deal of explanation was then required, for the last time I’d seen Jamie Walsh was at my own trial for murder, when it was his testimony that turned the minds of the judge and jury so much against me for the wearing of the dead woman’s clothes" (451).

SOURCE: Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace. New York: Anchor, 1997.
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