Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

by

Fay Weldon

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Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen: Letter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fay’s final letter comes from London in August. She tells Alice that she is planning to start a new novel herself. She reveals that writing to Alice has been itself a diversion from writing a futuristic novel called Amygdala, referring to “the part of the brain where rage is centered.”
Admitting to Alice that her letters have themselves been a step in her own process toward writing a new novel, Fay illustrates again how crucial literary connection to other women can be in fostering female authors’ creativity.
Themes
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
Feminism Theme Icon
Fay tells Alice that she plans to send her a reading list, even though Alice’s novel The Wife’s Revenge has proved to be a bestseller. Fay says that she is glad to have been wrong about Alice’s writing, but that she still hopes Alice will read more broadly as she continues to write.
Even now that Alice has proven her writing ability, Fay continues to insist that reading must be a part of her role as an author. Acknowledging how wrong her predictions about Alice’s novel were, Fay also provides a final, especially powerful piece of evidence for her claim that no one—no matter how well-read—has access to absolute truth.
Themes
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
The Author and the Reader Theme Icon
Reflecting on all that is left for both her and Alice to read and write, Fay wonders if “the exhilaration of all this” might even make them immortal. She celebrates the longevity of works like Jane Austen’s Emma and states her belief that the City of Invention will exist even if the rest of the world is destroyed.
Fay’s delight at the infinite intermingling of conflicting realities in the City of Imagination serves as her final argument for the power of fiction. While Fay still expresses a belief in the power of fiction to shape history, here she reveals that its ability to transcend history is even more important.
Themes
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
The Influence of History Theme Icon
Related Quotes
In conclusion, Fay tells Alice to think nonetheless of “here and now” more than the future. She notes that Alice has stopped dying her hair, and that Enid has invited Fay to tea again. Fay tells Alice that, in order to placate Edward, she will avoid talking about subjects like writing and feminism at tea, and so will “be very happy.”
While telling Alice to focus on “here and now,” Fay herself nonetheless looks forward to the future, wondering how Alice’s new literary success has—or hasn’t—altered the two women’s family context. The ultimate effects of the correspondence between Alice and Fay remain uncertain, and even Fay’s claim of happiness with Enid and Edward feels as if it may not be sincere. Thus, even the novel’s conclusion provides an illustration of the blurred boundaries between fact, fiction, and the many realities that fiction creates.
Themes
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
The Influence of History Theme Icon
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