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The Austen-Curious Reader: “Jack and Alice”

By Eden Iazeolla

Hello My fellow Jane Austen Enthusiasts!

These past two weeks have flown by since our first online Jane Austen’s Juvenilia Book Club.

I hope you all found some time in your busy schedules to sit down and transport yourself into the world of Jane Austen’s “Jack and Alice.” Personally, I took a walk to my closest coffee shop, bought a cuppa tea, and got to reading. You should know, I am a strict coffee-only kind of girl, which means I was feeling a little inspired to set the scene for this week’s reading. You can imagine my surprise when my peaceful tea-drinking reading moment was not filled with a world of love, happiness, and fairytales, but rather, murder, hangings, hunting-trap accidents, and the overindulgence of alcohol

This week’s reading of “Jack and Alice” did make me wonder what Jane Austen was really like when she was younger. This story is infused with so much gross dark humor that I found it hard to believe a sheltered young woman, growing up under the guidance of her clergyman father, would have produced such a thing. However, I think the fact that this story came from a 12-year-old girl from the 18th century makes it so much funnier. I find that in a way, Austen’s narrative voice in this text reminds me of myself when I was a 12-year-old girl. I loved thinking about things I didn't quite understand yet, like drinking, parties, boys, etc. Austen, in “Jack and Alice,” I believe also embodies this idea through her comedic outlook and focus on drinking.

I don’t know if it was just me, but was anyone else confused by the character of Jack? In the text, Jane describes him to be a ‘hero.’ However, from the little information we are given about his character, he was no hero. I think a helpless drunk would have been a more accurate characterization. This makes me wonder if this could be attributed to Austen’s age and inexperience with writing or could it be Austen mocking our heroic expectations? Let me know in the comments below what you think.

Another aspect of Austen’s story that I found intriguing was her description of Charles. She describes him as representing Apollo, the sun god, at the masquerade. In this costume, “the Beams that darted from his eyes were like those of that glorious Luminary tho’ infinitely Superior” (Austen, Juvenilia). The likening of Charles to the sun god and the sun in this characterization makes it seem like the women who are looking at him can be blinded by the “beams” and luminescence coming off him. This can imply the upcoming events that unfold between Charles and Alice. Alice, being blinded by her feelings for Charles, is unable to see that he is not attracted to girls that society believes are the best fit for him. Instead, Charles finds himself attracted to Lady Williams, or speculated within the text, his cook. Also, I think this scene touches on Austen’s dislike for perfection. Similar to Austen’s stance on amiability, we could speculate that by creating Charles to be overly perfect, she is poking fun at the idea.

I hope you all got a good chuckle from this week’s reading; I know I did. I am always curious about what you all are thinking, so feel free to share in the comments below.

For the upcoming book club in two weeks, we will be reading Austen’s “Edgar and Emma” and “Harry and Eliza.”

We will be posting updates and reminders on the book club and all things JASP on our social media. You can find us on Instagram (@Janeaustensummer), twitter (@jaustensummer), and Facebook (@janeaustensummerprogram).




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