The Blind Assassin Part 5, Chapters 10-12 Summary

Margaret Atwood

Part 5, Chapters 10-12 Summary

It was 1935, and Iris was nineteen. Her father’s business was in shambles. The factory was burnt, and the insurance company was reluctant to pay for repairs. Iris’s father stayed home more often and drank. When he was not at home, he was traveling to Toronto on business, he told her. She suspected he was meeting with Richard Griffen. On some occasions, her father took Iris with him.

The family no longer could afford a chauffeur, and Reenie had volunteered to cut her hours of employment at the home. She stated health reasons, but Iris suspected that Reenie knew they could no longer afford her. Iris and her father took the train to Toronto and stayed in a hotel for which Iris decided Richard must have been paying. On one particular trip, her father told her that Richard was going to ask her to marry him. Her father explained that he had already given his consent, but the decision was up to her. Then he told her that if she married Richard, she would be assuring a better future for herself and Laura. She also would be saving the factory. It would be a shame if the button factory never opened again after all the hard work her grandfather had put into it.

Iris barely knew Richard or what she wanted in a marriage. She had never thought about it. She merely went along with her father’s wishes, accepted Richard’s proposal, and prepared herself for her meeting with Richard’s sister.

Winifred Griffen Prior was a very well-dressed woman, but she did not have the social graces Iris thought she should have. For instance, on the day Iris went to a restaurant to meet her, she found Winifred looking into the small mirror of her compact at the table in front of all the other clients. Iris had been trained to believe one should never do this; it was considered “cheap.”

Upon meeting the woman, Iris extended her hand. When she did, Winifred admired the ring Richard had given Iris. Then Winifred told Iris that it was she who had helped her brother choose it. She added that she was the one who arranged everything for Richard. As the luncheon date progressed, Winifred went on to inspect Iris. She talked about her clothes, her manner, and her need to develop charm.

Winifred made all the decisions about the wedding. She wanted the ceremony to be festive and grand, and she assumed Iris’s father could not afford it. Therefore, Iris and Richard were married in Toronto. Iris’s wedding night was no more and no less than Reenie had warned her. On looking back at that night, Iris concluded that Richard did not believe in giving a woman sexual pleasure for fear that once aroused she would then want to seek out more pleasure, with or without her husband.