Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen


Fay Weldon

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Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen Themes

Themes and Colors
The Purpose of Fiction Theme Icon
The Author and the Reader Theme Icon
The Influence of History Theme Icon
Feminism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Purpose of Fiction

The narrator, Aunt Fay, begins writing to Alice, her eighteen-year-old niece, because she has heard from her sister Enid (Alice’s mother) that Alice finds reading Jane Austen in her college literature courses to be “boring, petty, and irrelevant.” Though Fay concedes that reading serious literature can sometimes be arduous, she implores Alice to continue her studies anyway, arguing over the course of the epistolary novel for the value of fiction as a means…

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The Author and the Reader

In addition to convincing Alice of the value of reading, Fay also seeks to illustrate the challenges and responsibilities of the author’s life, using her own writing life and that of Jane Austen to support her argument. However, it quickly becomes clear that Fay views the burden of interpreting fiction as falling at least as much on the reader as on the author. Readers learn and grow in response to books, but their role is…

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The Influence of History

Just as the audience collaborates with the author to bring life to written works, so too does historical context shape literature and its meanings. Aunt Fay presents Alice with an in-depth analysis of the pressures of history on Jane Austen’s work, while also hinting at how external context has shaped Fay’s own novels. However, Fay also makes it clear that history is not a straightforward oppressive force on literature. Rather, it is a lens…

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The unique experience of being a woman in both the personal and professional spheres recurs throughout Aunt Fay’s letters in Letters to Alice. At times, female identity is depicted as a liability, while it is an asset in other instances. Through the examples of Fay, Alice, and Jane Austen, Weldon builds an argument for reading and writing as feminist pursuits, through which individual women can reconcile conflicting sets of societal expectations…

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