Questions and Answers: Section 4, Chapters 6-11
1. What do the letters between Simon and others reveal about nineteenth-century social prejudices concerning mental patients?
2. How does Grace’s gender impact others’ perception of her?
3. It’s said of Simon that “he has never known much about flowers.” What does this observation foreshadow about Simon’s ability to interpret Grace’s persistent hallucinations and dreams of red peonies?
4. What does Simon hope to achieve by showing Grace fruits and vegetables? What results from bringing these items to Grace?
5. Simon observes that Grace hasn’t been able to voice her story, which is something Grace is also aware of. Who has told her story instead in these chapters?
1. The letters reveal that in the Puritan era, men and women live under rigid social expectations. Simon, as a doctor, faces social obstacles about the type of medicine he is pursuing. His work challenges both traditional medicine and notions of spirituality currently in vogue. His mother is a voice of society, urging him to use other talents and not fool with lunatics.
2. Grace is the subject of undesired attention and sexual remarks from prison guards, and possibly the prison doctors and warden. Even Simon speculates on whether Reverend Verringer, the minister leading a committee petitioning her release, must be in love with Grace.
3. Grace’s most confusing remembrances involve apparitions of flowers. Simon, the doctor charged with finally understanding her, doesn’t understand flowers in general, the novel says. This is a foreshadowing of Simon’s inability to fathom flowers and what they symbolize in Grace’s hallucinations and dreams, thus indicating his ultimate inability to understand her and her story.
4. Simon hopes Grace will be reminded of the cellar at Mr. Kinnear’s, the scene of the crime drama where Grace’s memory has lapsed. Nancy Montgomery was found strangled to death in the cellar, but Grace hasn’t been able to recall her role in that, if any. Grace, however, thinks only of how to cook the vegetables when Simon presents them to her.
5. Grace’s story has been recorded in poems and the journalist Susanna Moodie in her book Life in the Clearings, which is quoted at the beginning of several sections of the novel. Grace’s experiences have been interpreted by lawyers, like Kenneth MacKenzie who made her appear stupid, and by doctors, such as Dr. Bannerling, and by people who run the mental asylum.