This article explores the complex physical and psychological space of the prison in Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed historical novel Alias Grace (1996). Rather than understanding the imprisonment of the convicted nineteenth-century “murderess” as an aberration, this article argues that it is part of a spectrum of confining and repressive institutions that have defined Grace Marks’s existence. Yet despite obvious restrictions, Grace uses the prison setting and her interviews with the young psychiatrist Dr. Simon Jordan for her own ends, engaging in a form of self-therapy that disturbs these seemingly top-down power relationships. This article suggests that by using storytelling as a means of escape and empowerment, Grace positions her narrative within recognizable tropes in prison literature, but her challenges to the cathartic power of narrative can be read as exploring the epistemological limits of prison narration.
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