Early in the novel Atwood presents us with the division between ladies and women. The example given is Grace compared to the governor’s wife and the ladies who frequently visit her. It seems that grace wishes that she was a lady when she comments “I have no gloves” this shows that Grace is conscious of her appearance even if she is in prison. Grace cannot sit on the governor’s wife’s settee without thinking of the ladies that have sat there before her who have bums “like wobbly soft boiled eggs”.
These ladies are compared to jellyfish that grace has seen in her childhood, Grace shows admiration for these ladies ass he says “they were bell shaped and ruffled” Atwood also makes the point through grace that ladies of this time were restricted. This is achieved by the mentioning of wire crinolines that were “Like birdcages” the ladies were not allowed to touch or brush up against other men’s legs. Grace is now talking about legs in sexual way (also another sign of the times) “the governor’s wife never says legs” this comment shows that showing or talking legs is a taboo subject.
Grace goes on to comment that the people of lower classes, she uses the news paper as an example were not so sensitive when talking about Nancy’s “dead legs sticking out from under the wash tub” The reader finds out that grace quite enjoys being a murderess this is highlighted by graces comment “Sometimes at night I whisper it over to my self: Murderess, murderess. It rustles, like taffeta skirt across the floor. ” It was not uncommon at the time for women to be murderesses, as the reader finds out when the governess’s scrap book is brought to our attention. Scrapbooks are hobbies for ladies of the time.
Miss Lydia and Miss Marianne “put all kinds of things into their albums, little scraps of cloth from their dress. ” The governess’s is very different it has “all the famous criminals in it” The governess’s scrap book is also an example of Victorian hypocrisy, whereby things are covered up by glossing over them in this case it is covered in fancy decoration. It is also made clear that the governess only holds this position because of her husband “she would prefer the governor to be the governor of something other than a prison” in this matter she has no choice as her husband is only where he is because of his friends.
In pages 83-92 we see the opinion of women through Dr Jordan’s eyes he firstly describes them as “weak-spined and jelly like by nature” which could be seen as an overall view taken by men. Dr Jordan then scientifically proves this idea wrong when making reference to his dissection and finding that “their spines were on the average no feebler”. The next example of a woman being a victim of a male dominated society is Mrs Humphrey. Although she is married she is a failing middle class and in a difficult predicament “she’d been forced to let lodgings” Letting lodgings would be her only source of income.
Mrs Humphrey is a very proud woman and is embarrassed that she’s had to rent rooms to survive. We see how proud she is when Dr Jordan comments “she was not in the habit of discussing the state of men’s personal belongings” there is also a hint of desperation in Mrs Humphrey especially when receiving the money from Dr Jordan “she’d had to restrain herself from snatching at it” This makes the reader feel sorry for her. Graces mother and aunt are very much victims of a male dominated society, more so graces mother who “had married beneath her” Grace’s aunt had used the situation to her advantage and married so she was well off.
Grace’s mother only married because she had to “my mother was very fortunate in that my father did agree to marry her” she had be grateful, because in society she would be frowned upon for being pregnant and not married Perhaps the only character in the novel who is not a victim of a male dominated society is Dr Jordan’s mother who “sees herself living in reduced circumstances” but in reality she is not in such a desperate situation as Mrs Humphrey.
But is in fact reduced compared to how she used to live. She had also used the social situation to hear advantage she married for money “she traded her family name and connections for a heap of coins fresh from the mint” Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Margaret Atwood section.