Is Dead the Real End?

What if  being dead, as in a door nail, wasn’t exactly the end? 

Heart by seyed mostafa zamani via Flickr.

Heart by seyed mostafa zamani via Flickr.

Suppose with me for a moment, that we do, in fact, carry on without our bodies in tow–all of our memories, ideas, wishes, dreams get to come with us after  we pass into the undiscovered country. As ghosts, we float about  and see time move and human ingenuity progress so that we don’t recognize the world around us. Now, it is important to understand that we can’t talk to anyone without using up our ghostly energy, nor can they really see us…maybe, we decide to frighten a few trick or treaters at Halloween, but that’s about it on the haunting side.

Would this kind of existence be enough to sustain one of the greatest novelists (in my opinion)? Or would she go crazy? 

In Jennifer Petkus’s novel, Jane Actually, she explores these very questions–what if the beloved Jane Austen’s ghost roams about and what if she still wants to write novels?

On this blog, we have discussed how Jane Austen may still exist somewhere. We have considered vampires, but the idea of Jane Austen as a ghost, in particular, fascinates me. There is, of course, the obvious questions–how would we know this Jane Austen? She died in the 19th century and has had numerous readers, writers of fan fiction, people who play dress up and romp about the English countryside pretending to be in one of her books. In fact, maybe, we know more about Jane Austen then Jane Austen herself.

How would Jane Austen prove that it is really her just in another form?

And thus, begins the lovely novel Jane Actually. So far, I have found the Jane character agreeable which my ideal Jane Austen would, of course, be polite and well-mannered even if she were dead. As a good Janeite, I would most certainly want her to finish those manuscripts that she never did whilst living. And even better if Jane Austen went on a book tour! I would totally have her sign every copy of every novel of hers I own because that would be the coolest thing ever. Then again, would it really be Jane Austen signing the book or an actor giving her a hand? (pun intended) Does the it still count? So many questions to be explored in Jane Actually!

But would we ever really know that we were talking to the real Jane Austen or just someone trying to pretend to be her? Discuss in the comment section below!

, , , ,

  • I want to read this book now. Your enthusiasm is infectious!

    • I really like the premise of Jane Austen as ghost. It works well in my opinion.

  • petkusj

    Thanks, Sarah, for the discussion. Sorry that I’ve been unable to offer any comments because of recent indisposition, but I’m able to weigh in today. I thought I could expand on the whole how do we know a person on the AfterNet (the social network for the disembodied) is who they say they are.

    A living person can record their unique field signature so that after death, they can prove they are who they were when alive, but obviously someone who died before the invention of the AfterNet, cannot do this. If you’re not someone famous, however, you can probably prove who you were by having knowledge only that person could know—”my ex-wife has a mole behind her ear shaped liked Zimbabwe, but she had it removed in 1965.” It’s obviously more difficult if you were famous, however, because more people claim to be Elvis or Jimmy Hoffa than claim to be Madge Duchene of 149 Oak Drive, Gary, IN, who died in 1984, and because the details of the lives of famous people are more generally known.

    It’s really difficult for a famous historical figure to prove their identity, however, especially someone like Shakespeare who authorship of his plays many already question, let alone whether some disembodied entity is the famouse playwright.

    In the case of Jane Austen, however, we don’t know much about her life because her sister burned all those letter, and obviously there’s no one living who can corroborate her claims. So a claimant to the mantle of Jane Austen would either have to convince an identity committee either by her arguments—rather like defending your dissertation—or again by knowing something not already discovered by generations of Austen scholars.