Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




This thesis analyzes reader-writer relationships in two novels by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin and Alias Grace. The plots of both these novels revolve around scenes of storytelling, in which tensions arise between the narrator and her audience. In The Blind Assassin, the elderly protagonist tells her granddaughter the truth about their family's past in an effort to achieve redemption. In Alias Grace, a convicted murderess tells her story to a psychiatrist who hopes to prove either her guilt or innocence. In my thesis, I examine how each of these narrative relationships reflects the relative powers of narrator and audience to define truth, shape identities, and assign meaning. Both parties have specific motivations for entering the relationship, and so each one vies for control of the story, sometimes to disastrous effect. Drawing on contemporary literary theory, this research explores the respective powers of reader, writer, and the text itself, and discusses how each one shapes the meaning of narrative. The thesis finally concludes that successfully navigating the narrative relationship can lead to personal empowerment and social connection, while failing to do so can be destructive. Ultimately, this project hopes to provide insight for real-world readers and writers as they enter into narrative relationships of their own.



Faculty Mentor

Brian McCuskey

Departmental Honors Advisor

John McLaughlin