The Maid, the Master, her Ghost and his Monster: Alias Grace and Mary Reilly

  • Esther Saxey


The heroines of Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood, 1996) and Mary Reilly (Valerie Martin, 1990) have much in common. Both are nineteenth-century maidservants; both experience emotionally or sexually charged relationships with their master; both masters die an untimely death. In addition, both maids tell their own story, and this retelling is sometimes prompted in each case by a doctor who has a degree of authority over the heroine. The heroines experience childhood poverty and each has a drunk and abusive father (Atwood, 1996, p. 149; Martin, 1990, pp. 22–3). Both novels also offer extensive descriptions of the long hours of physical labour maids had to perform. However, each novel also contains an element that may sit oddly alongside the rigorously researched historical details; both Grace Marks and Mary Reilly encounter a supernatural force: Grace Marks is haunted and possessed by a dead friend, and Mary Reilly is plagued by Edward Hyde, a monstrous double of her employer. So what is the purpose of this supernatural element?


Sexual Desire Life Story Class Woman Sexual Liberation Supernatural Agent 
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© Esther Saxey 2009

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  • Esther Saxey

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