Quote 5

Not to know—to snatch at hints and portents, at intimations, at tantalizing whispers—it is as bad as being haunted. Sometimes at night her face floats before me in the darkness, like some lovely and enigmatic mirage.

In Part XIV, Dr. Jordan writes these words in a letter to his Swiss colleague, Dr. Binswanger. Dr. Jordan’s letter explains the circumstances that led him to abandon his work with Grace. He describes how he set out on this work with high hopes, but his initial exhilaration slowly dissipated as he came to realize that Grace might be leading him on a wild chase. Dr. Jordan’s suspicion that Grace intentionally deluded him drove him near the breaking point. And as he confesses to Dr. Binswanger, he became so confused that he could no longer determine whether his doubts were well-founded, or if Grace was innocent and they were all in his head. It is this profound sense of uncertainty that Dr. Jordan refers to in the quote above. As a scientist whose main goal in life has been the pursuit of knowledge, the condition of not knowing has proven his greatest undoing.

As Dr. Jordan writes to his colleague, the uncertainty he experienced as a result of his work proved so affecting that he feels haunted by Grace. Dr. Jordan’s description of seeing Grace’s face suspended in darkness recalls a similar image reported by Susanna Moodie in her account of Grace’s life and crimes. Moodie reported second-hand information from Grace’s lawyer, Mr. MacKenzie, that Grace had felt haunted by Nancy Montgomery. More specifically, Moodie reported that Grace thought she saw Nancy’s bloodshot eyes following her around. Dr. Jordan discussed this detail from Moodie’s account with Mr. MacKenzie in Part XII, and he concluded that either Moodie or Mr. MacKenzie himself had made up the story of Nancy’s ghostly eyes. Despite having been locked up in an asylum, Grace probably never went mad or experienced such hallucinations. By contrast, Dr. Jordan has experienced hallucinations and suffered bouts of near madness, yet he remains a well-respected scientist still celebrated for his objective perspective. This divergent treatment of madness exposes a double standard. Whereas men may more easily lay claim to rationality, women are susceptible to charges of hysteria, no matter who is truly “mad.”