Confessions of the Fox Summary & Study Guide

Jordy Rosenberg
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Confessions of the Fox Summary & Study Guide Description

Confessions of the Fox Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Rosenberg, Jordy. Confessions of the Fox. One World, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. New York, NY. 2018. First edition. The book develops two narrative lines. The first is associated with the story of real-life thief and escape artist Jack Sheppard; the second, developed through a series of footnotes and other interjections, is associated with the story of Dr. Voth, a trans man and scholar who discovered the manuscript telling Sheppard’s story; analyzed it; and who contemplates his own life and experiences within the context of what he finds in it.

The narrative begins with what is identified as an “Editor’s Foreward,” but which is in fact something of a prologue. In first-person narration, Dr. Voth describes events in present-day America - his discovery of the Sheppard manuscript, his discovery of the different layers of meaning it contains, and his impulsive decision to escape his life and work, taking the manuscript with him.

Following the foreward, there is something of another prologue, apparently the first chapter of the manuscript. It describes, in a style appropriate to the period in which it is set (late 1700’s England) the execution of renowned thief and escape artist Jack Sheppard. As Sheppard arrives and is prepared for hanging, the crowd shouts that he should be freed, and the politicians executed instead. Jack, meanwhile, prays that after death, he be allowed to return to the bedside of his beloved Bess, with whom he shared significant, and frequent, sexual ecstasy.

Following that second prologue, the narrative begins its consideration of Jack’s life – how he was apprenticed, while still outwardly identifying as female, to a ruthless carpenter; how, over a period of years, he discovered his skills as a manipulator of objects, the fluidity of his gender identity, and his desire for sex with women. Narration also describes how he finally found the courage to escape his servitude as a result of getting involved with a beautiful young prostitute named Bess, who was South Asian. As the main narrative continues, it describes the intensifying relationship between Jack and Bess; their involvement with the leader of a corrupt ring of thieves and politicians, Jonathan Wild; and how their efforts to make a new and freer life for themselves eventually resulted in an attempt to rob one of Wild’s ships.

Throughout the book, the book parallels the manuscript’s narrative of Jack and Bess with narrative of Dr. Voth, which appears in footnotes juxtaposed with the main text. These footnotes reveal what Voth discovered while reading and analyzing the manuscript, and in a narrative line that becomes something of a subplot, how his work on the manuscript was taken over and manipulated by the powers that be at the university where he worked. Voth’s footnotes also detail his relationship with a person to whom he refers only as his “ex,” a woman who tried to wake him up to different aspects of himself but whose hopes and demands eventually became too much, and the relationship came to an end. Voth’s footnotes also describe how he came to realize it was time for him to leave his job and, indeed, his life in order to tell the true story of Jack and Bess, as revealed in the manuscript.

That story is one of a desperate struggle for freedom from different forms of oppression – the oppression of being gender mis-identified; the oppression of living within a capitalist, market-driven system; and the oppression of racism. Eventually, the attempt of Jack and Bess to rob Wild’s ship ends in failure, and Jack is executed – but, with the help of Bess and other friends, is revived and makes his way to a new and freer life.

As for Voth, he also finds a new and freer life as part of an unidentified community that seems to consist of individuals who, like Voth and Jack, have made their way to a place of freedom to live according to the gender identity they feel most connected with – that feels truest to who they believe they were born to be.

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