Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen


Fay Weldon

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Bread Rolls Symbol Icon

Throughout Fay’s letters, the bread rolls that her sister Enid bakes for her husband, Edward, symbolize the difficulty in separating art from reality. The crux of the conflict between Fay and her sister Enid lies with these rolls; Enid habitually sets the dough to rise before going to bed so that he can have fresh bread in the morning, a process that Fay depicts in one of her novels. Enid perceives Fay’s writing as critical toward her, and Edward and is angry at being portrayed unfavorably, even though Fay insists that the character in the book is not meant to represent Enid. The bread rolls come up frequently as a shorthand for a tense relationship that can exist between a writer and those close to her. Fay argues that although novelists borrow details from reality, their true task is invention rather than description, and she is annoyed that Enid refuses to believe she invented the character in the book. Additionally, the bread rolls add nuance to the book’s theme of feminism, as they show a wife completing an act that could either be subservient or simply loving, depending on the viewer’s interpretation.

Bread Rolls Quotes in Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

The Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bread Rolls. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Carroll & Graf edition of Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen published in 1984.
Letter 6 Quotes

You are not the model for Chloe in Female Friends. Too many of my friends claim that role, in any case, for you to be able to do so sensibly. Any woman who waits upon her husband as a servant upon a master—and they are legion—all too easily sees herself in Chloe. But I made her up. I promise.

Related Characters: Aunt Fay (speaker), Enid, Edward
Related Symbols: Bread Rolls
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
Letter 8 Quotes

As if it were decreed that your mother Enid should put bread rolls to rise every night for your father Edward’s breakfast, in order that a certain paragraph in a certain novel should be written. As if the City of Invention, little by little, using a chapter here, a paragraph there, is waking from its slumber and will eventually be more real than life itself, and we its servants, its outrunners.

Related Characters: Aunt Fay (speaker), Alice, Enid, Edward
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Letter 11 Quotes

Journalists, in particular, who work so cleverly from the real world, understand description, but not invention. It is not surprising. They lose their jobs if they do invent—novelists get sued if they don’t invent. So I, Grace, D’Albier, must go round the world, stared at as a victim of paternal and maternal incest: and though my parents still speak to me, they do so in a rather stiff way. They can comprehend that I made it up, but their friends can’t.

Related Characters: Grace D’Albier (speaker), Aunt Fay, Enid
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bread Rolls Symbol Timeline in Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bread Rolls appears in Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter 6
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
The Influence of History Theme Icon
...a character in one of her own novels, even though the character’s habit of making bread rolls for her husband mirrors what Enid does for Edward. Fay draws a distinction between the... (full context)
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
Feminism Theme Icon
...to send love to Edward, whom Fay hopes will forgive her for using the couple’s bread rolls in her fiction. She also notes that when she sent Alice 500 pounds, she only... (full context)
Letter 8
The Author and the Reader Theme Icon
The Influence of History Theme Icon
...will be turned in to fiction. Fay concludes by bemoaning Enid’s continued belief that the bread rolls in one of Fay’s novels indicate that the story is based on Enid and Edward. (full context)