Quote 2

While he writes, I feel as if he is drawing me; or not drawing me, drawing on me—drawing on my skin—not with the pencil he is using, but with an old-fashioned goose pen, and not with the quill end but with the feather end. . . . But underneath that is another feeling, a feeling of being wide-eyed awake and watchful.

Grace offers these thoughts in Part IV, during one of her first sessions with Dr. Jordan. As she speaks, Dr. Jordan takes notes on everything she says. Initially, Dr. Jordan’s furious scribbling recalled for Grace the experience of her trial, when people wrote down her every word. Grace found this experience traumatizing because once the court scribe took down her words, she felt like they no longer belonged to her. And once her own words were in the possession of others, those people would twist them to mean something other than what she intended. Grace explains that she had a similar experience with Dr. Bannerling in the Lunatic Asylum, who recorded her answers to his questions but always seemed disappointed with them. These experiences have predisposed Grace toward feeling suspicious of the written word, the power of which has done her more harm than good.

In contrast to these earlier experiences, Grace feels more comfortable with Dr. Jordan. Whereas the lawyers twisted her words against her and Dr. Bannerling found her answers wanting, Dr. Jordan responds to her words with warmth and encouragement. Grace associates Dr. Jordan’s note taking with physical sensation. Instead of taking possession of her words for himself, she feels as if he is transforming them into a design that he traces on her body with the feather end of a quill pen. Grace clearly experiences this sensation as pleasurable, as suggested by the intimate, even erotic image of Dr. Jordan tracing her skin with a feather. Yet there exists a hint of torment in her description of the feather “drawing” as well, since a feather could also function as an instrument for tickling. Though mostly pleasurable at first, Grace’s feather fantasy transforms into the more upsetting sensation of needing to be awake and watchful for danger. Even though she feels more comfortable talking to Dr. Jordan than to other men, Grace continues to feel vulnerable in the presence of male power and authority.