Along with setting, characterization is an important piece of historical fiction. Many historical fiction books, including Boston Jane, use the names of real people who inhabited the setting at the time.

In relation to the faithfulness to the historic record, it is important for readers to recognize that the characters were real people, or the characters need to be believable in the historical setting. Do you think that the characters were represented in a realistic way? Did the characters in the book share any traits with the real-life men and women?

Remember the questions you were asked to think about in the first task as you continue your research. Questions that are more specific to this task are listed in the boxes below.

Task 2: It's all about Jane!


Image courtesy of Godey's Lady's Book

A fashion plate, illustrating women's formalwear in 1854. Had Jane stayed in Philadelphia with her father, she may have been wearing something like this!

Jane Peck, the heroine of our story, is a transitional character, representing both the proper young lady and the frontier woman. In the beginning of the book, we see Jane as a young lady, attending Miss Hepplewhite's Academy to learn proper etiquette for life.

However, when Jane finds herself in Shoalwater Bay, her character traits begin to shift as she learns to survive as a frontier woman.

In this task, you will once again don your researcher's hat in order to find out more about the roles of women in the 19th century (which is, in fact, the 1800s). You will look at the roles of women from two different walks of life: the proper lady and the frontier woman.

As you research, think about how Jane is representative of either a young lady or a frontier woman - which character traits does she have that fit one or the other? Both? Also think more broadly: What was expected of women in the 19th century? If Jane were categorized, where would you place her?

Before or after completing your research, you may wish to create a list of character traits that Jane has to compare to the character traits of real women living in the 1800s.

Where do I look?
Although you may wish to search out your own resources, here are some links that will get you started

The American woman of the 19th century

Women and the duty of housework

The Young Lady's Mentor
A web-based copy of the book, written by An English Lady

For a challenge, look to these other primary sources:

Godey's Lady's Book
A real 19th century women's magazine

Pioneer Life for Women
As observed by Alexis deTocqueville, a Frenchman

Westward by Sea: Letters of Mary Rathburn Stark


Questions to consider:
(These are only examples - you may think of more!)

Information Gathering:

*What was a typical woman's life like?
* How were pioneer women different?
*What duties were expected of women?
*What attitudes did men and women have towards their lives?

Making Connections:

*How does Jane fit the description of a true 19th century lady? Where does she not?
*What duties of pioneer women did Jane accomplish?
*Do you believe Jane's character - is she realistic as a girl in the 19th century?

 

Did you remember to keep all of your notes together? Have you shared information with your group members?

Although Jane is our main character, she isn't based on a real figure in Shoalwater Bay. In your next task, you will discover some characters who actually lived during the 1800s and were documented residents of Shoalwater Bay. When you're ready, click the image below.

Boston Jane book cover
Image courtesy of AuthorsDen

Although Jane is our main character, she isn't the only person the book tells us about!

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Questions? Contact r-tjaden@cornellcollege.edu.