Neo-Victorian Orientations towards the Fictional Writer

Jane Harris’s The Observations


  • Rosario Arias University of Málaga



care, Jane Harris, maid, The Observations, orientation, recognition, resilience,, storytelling, trauma, women's writing


Jane Harris’s The Observations (2006) narrates the story of Bessy Buckley, an Irish girl who searches for work and finds it in Castle Haivers, employed by Arabella Reid. The novel unfolds an unexpected course of actions, which will shift Bessy’s position from being a vulnerable subject to a resilient one through storytelling. Bessy becomes a writer with a voice of her own, but also finds strength. This essay focuses on the character of Bessy, a maid who pens her story, thus becoming a writer, but who also achieves improvement through friendship, bonding, and care. Also, the maid’s disorienting voice complicates any reading of the novel as it paradoxically engages with the reader’s desire for the truth, as well as with the constructed nature of her piece of life-writing. Ultimately, in The Observations, the act of writing (and reading) is then coupled with ethics of care in a Victorian context through a contemporary lens.