1. This novel is rooted in physical reality, on one hand, and
floats free of it, on the other, as Atwood describes physical
things in either organic, raw terms (the "tongue-coloured settee")
or with otherworldly, more ephemeral images (the laundry like
"angels rejoicing, although without any heads"). How do such
descriptions deepen and reinforce the themes in the novel?
2. The daily and seasonal rhythm of household work is described
in detail. What role does this play in the novel in regard to its
3. Atwood employs two main points of view and voices in the
novel. Do you trust one more than the other? As the story
progresses, does Grace's voice (in dialogue) in Simon's part of the
story change? If so, how and why?
4. Grace's and Simon's stories are linked, and they have a
kinship on surface and deeper levels. For instance, they both
eavesdrop or spy as children, and later, each stays in a house that
would have been better left sooner or not entered at all. Discuss
other similarities or differences in the twinning of their stories
and their psyches.
5. Atwood offers a vision of the dual nature of people, houses,
appearances, and more. How does she make use of darkness and light,
and to what purpose?
6. In a letter to his friend Dr. Edward Murchie, Simon Jordan
writes, "Not to know--to snatch at hints and portents, at
intimations, at tantalizing whispers--it is as bad as being
haunted." How are the characters in this story affected by the
things they don't know?
7. How and why does Atwood conceal Grace's innocence or guilt
throughout the novel? At what points does one become clearer than
the other and at what points does it become unclear?
Discussion questions provided courtesy of Anchor Books, a division
of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.