The novel that Alice wants to write—and eventually does write—serves as a symbol of the complex reality of being a creative woman. At first, Fay discourages Alice from working on the novel, telling her that she is too young and has not read enough to write well. Fay also disparages the novel’s content, which she thinks is dull and trite because it is based on Alice’s own romantic affairs. However, as the book continues, Fay grows more encouraging of Alice’s efforts even though Alice is still reluctant to read the books Fay wants her to. Fay’s shifting perspective, which seems to change almost at random in some cases, illustrates the complication of writing as a woman about stereotypically feminine events. On the one hand, Fay is tempted to dismiss Alice’s novel because of its seeming inanity, much as readers sometimes dismiss Jane Austen’s work. On the other hand, Fay values the novel for its reflection of Alice’s reality and celebrates Alice’s ability to define her own life through creative work. Though ultimately very successful, the novel does not solve all of Alice’s problems, leaving Alice to continue sorting through the same questions of creative identity that Jane Austen faced in her own time.
Alice’s Novel Quotes in Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen
Alice, we will, as they say, be a long time dead. You must carve your living self as sharply into the Rock of Eternity as you can. Please send your novel off; don’t do as you threaten and forget it. Of course it’s more than likely to be rejected and come back, and of course you will then feel rejected and discovered in your presumption. But if you embark on these things, you can’t draw back.