Iris is the protagonist of The Blind Assassin and the author of the two novels 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.
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...
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