The Blind Assassin

by Margaret Atwood
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The Blind Assassin Characters

The main characters in The Blind Assassin are Iris Chase, Laura Chase, Alex Thomas, Captain Norval Chase, Richard Griffen, Winifred Griffen, Aimee, and Sabrina.

  • Iris Chase is the protagonist, who writes her family's history in the hopes of reconnecting with her estranged granddaughter.
  • Laura Chase is Iris's younger sister, who commits suicide after suffering years of abuse by Richard.
  • Alex Thomas is a socialist union organizer, Iris's lover, and Aimee's father.
  • Captain Norval Chase is Iris and Laura's father.
  • Richard Griffen is Iris's husband. He fails to save the Chases' factory and abuses Laura.
  • Winifred Griffen is Richard's manipulative sister.
  • Aimee is Iris's daughter.
  • Sabrina is Iris's granddaughter.

Characters

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Last Updated on January 23, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1232

Iris Chase

Iris is the protagonist of The Blind Assassin and the author of the two books within the novel, The Blind Assassin (attributed to Laura Chase) and the family history that surrounds it. Iris is born the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Captain Chase, who owns a successful button factory in Port Ticonderoga, Canada. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Iris lives at the family estate of Avilion with her father, her sister Laura, and her servant Reenie (her mother died while giving birth to Laura). During the Great Depression, the family's fortunes are depleted. To save the factory, Iris agrees to an arranged marriage with Richard Griffen, a duplicitous older businessman who breaks his promise to Iris' father and allows the button factory to close. With no money of her own, Iris is forced to stay with Richard even though she doesn't love him. She has an affair with Alex Thomas, a socialist rabble rouser she met in her youth, and has a daughter, Aimee, by him, lying to Richard about the baby's paternity. Laura moves in with Iris and Richard, but her behavior becomes erratic. Only later does Iris learn that Richard raped Laura and had her institutionalized in order to cover up her abortion. After Laura kills herself, Iris writes and publishes the novel The Blind Assassin under Laura's name. This reopens the investigation into Laura's death, which uncovers Richard's duplicity. His political career ruined, Richard kills himself. His sister Winifred uses Iris' habit of taking lovers to take Aimee away from her. Iris grows old alone with only Myra Sturgess, Reenie's daughter, for company. In her old age, she writes a second book, her family's history, meant for her granddaughter Sabrina.

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Laura Chase

Iris' little sister Laura is three and a half years younger than her. Laura is a strangely literal child and once bites her tongue because Reenie told her to, using an expression that actually means "be quiet." When the girls are still young, they hide a union organizer named Alex Thomas accused of instigating the strike at their father's button factory. Later, Laura stays behind at Avilion while Iris and Richard go on their honeymoon. After her father's death, she sends a series of frantic telegrams to Iris, all of which are intercepted by Richard, who doesn't tell Iris about her father's death because he doesn't want to ruin the trip. Both Laura and Iris start to hate Richard, and yet Laura is obliged to move in with the newlyweds because she's still underage. Once in Richard's clutches, Laura is powerless to escape him. He rapes her and eventually impregnates her—a fact he covers up by institutionalizing her in a mental hospital that secretly performs abortions. After her release, Laura tells Iris what happened and is shocked to learn that Iris doesn't believe her, and that Alex Thomas is dead. Laura steals Iris' car and drives it off a bridge. Her death is labeled a suicide, but after the "posthumous" publication of her novel The Blind Assassin (actually written by Iris), the investigation is reopened and Richard's part in the abortion is uncovered. Ironically, Laura is considered the most famous and successful of the Chases.

Captain Norval Chase

Captain Chase is the patriarch of the Chase family and the owner of a prominent button factory. He survives World War I, returning with a limp and an eye patch to match his emotional scars. At great expense, he erects a bronze statue to memorialize his fallen comrades, including his two brothers. In a gesture as noble as it is financially irresponsible, he keeps his button factory open during the Great Depression, paying his workers good wages despite the economic crash. This decision ruins him. To keep the factory afloat, he arranges a marriage between Iris and Richard, a newly wealthy man who promises to save the factory. When Richard breaks his promise, Captain Chase locks himself in the tower of his estate and drinks himself to death. Richard intercepts Laura's telegrams about the death and prevents Iris from attending her father's funeral.

Richard Griffen

Richard owns Royal Classic Knitwear, the button factory's leading competitor. Richard marries Iris purely for business reasons: he wants control over Captain Chase's button factory, and as soon as he has it he shuts the factory down. Richard quickly becomes the villain of the novel. At one point, Iris even apologizes to readers for making Richard such a dark, flat character. His political ambition and business acumen hide his unsavory sexual proclivities, including his fondness for young girls. Laura is just one of many victims. He manipulates her over time, hanging the life of Alex Thomas, her one great love, over her head. Laura notes the times Richard raped her in her journal, using Xs and Os to mark when it did and didn't happen. Emotional trauma from the sexual abuse causes Laura to act out in increasingly erratic ways, giving Richard an excuse to institutionalize her. He uses one of Laura's stays in the mental hospital as cover to arrange an abortion. Later, after Iris published the novel The Blind Assassin under Laura's name, an investigation uncovers Richard's abuse of Laura. Revelations about the abuse destroy Richard's political career. Unwilling to face the consequences of his actions, Richard commits suicide.

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Latest answer posted January 25, 2020, 9:01 am (UTC)

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Winifred Griffen Price

Richard's sister Winifred is a manipulative busybody who fancies herself a socialite. She very much enjoys having control over her family, financial or otherwise, and takes Aimee away from Iris out of spite after Iris ruins Richard's political career.

Alex Thomas

Alex is a writer and Communist sympathizer accused of instigating the strike that resulted in the button factory burning down. Laura and Iris hide him from the authorities in their attic. Later, Alex becomes deeply involved in politics and joins the Communists in the Spanish Civil War. Alex and Iris have an affair that produces Aimee, their daughter. In spite of this, Alex remains devoted to his political cause and leaves his family to fight in World War II. He's killed in combat. News of his death causes Laura, who has always loved him, to kill herself.

Reenie Hincks

A servant for the Chases at Avilion. She more or less assumes the responsibility of raising the Chase sisters after their mother's death, becoming their teacher and role model as well as their servant. Her husband, Ron Hincks, lives with her and may or may not be the father of Reenie's daughter Myra.

Myra Sturgess

Myra is Reenie's daughter and may or may not be the product of an illicit affair between Reenie and Captain Chase. Myra owns The Gingerbread House, Gifts and Collectibles, a small store in the mall built where the button factory once stood. Myra cares for Iris in her old age.

Aimee

Iris' daughter with Alex Thomas. After Richard's death, Winifred assumes custody of Aimee, taking her from Iris. Aimee grows up to be a bitter, resentful drug addict who spurns her mother and dies at a young age. Aimee has one daughter, Sabrina.

Sabrina

Iris' estranged granddaughter, Aimee's daughter. Sabrina loses her mother to drug addiction early on and is raised by Winifred. Iris writes the family history in hopes of reconnecting with Sabrina in her old age. When Iris dies, Sabrina is away, traveling in India. Iris' obituary, written by Myra Sturgess, indicates that Sabrina will be settling Iris' affairs. Whether this is out of love or duty, it doesn't say.

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