Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen


Fay Weldon

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Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen: Letter 15 Summary & Analysis

Fay’s next letter comes from London in July. She congratulates Alice on her “wonderful, astonishing and gratifying news” and gives her advice about how to negotiate the terms of her novel with her new publisher. She expresses how excited to she is to hear about Alice’s book deal and wonders what Enid and Edward have to say about the news.
The happy news of Alice’s publication deal and its immediate effects on Alice’s life reinforce Fay’s argument that fiction gives women a means to define their own realities. However, Fay also acknowledges that Alice’s parents, who represent a form of societal oppression in this case, still remain significant, showing how context constantly affects any writer, regardless of her success.
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Fay asks Alice whether she will settle down to “be a writer” or go to UCLA as she had planned. Although paying for UCLA will be expensive, Fay nonetheless urges Alice to go so that she can continue analyzing literature while writing her own. She also tells Alice that she is wise to have abandoned both her professor and her boyfriend and to have befriended the professor’s wife instead. Finally, Fay notes that Alice never did read Persuasion, but quotes the first paragraph and tells Alice: “The rest is up to you.”
Fay returns here to the theme of the roles of the reader and writer, recommending that Alice continue both roles in order to better understand the collaborative relationship between them. She illustrates this connection by placing full responsibility on Alice for the first time, stepping back from her role as instructor now that Alice has the capacity to act as both reader and writer in her own life.
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