Journal article Open Access

"If you look long enough, eventually you will see me": The Power of the Elusive in Atwood's Alias Grace

Alaa Alghamdi

Throughout her long career, Canadian poet, novelist and critic Margaret Atwood has known for her incisive depictions of the patriarchal subjugation of women. Atwood's acclaimed novel Alias Grace, based on this historical Grace Marks, a young servant accused of murder in the mid 1800s, employs a particular technique also seen in her poetry and short stories, particularly “Death by Landscape” in the Wilderness Tips collection. In each, a female character is elusive, and knowledge of her is necessarily fragmentary. In “Death by Landscape”, a young girl disappears in the woods yet is deemed to be “fully alive” in landscapes paintings that call to mind the setting in which she vanished. In “Isis in Darkness”, a story in the same collection, a young man becomes reconciled to his role in the life of the woman he loved, acting as an 'archaeologist' and putting together fragments of her life. Knowing or even seeing the whole woman is impossible, but this offers power, protection and immortality to these subjects, who thus avoid the societal gaze. Alias Grace represents Atwood's fullest depiction of this elusive female.

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