Vanity Fair by William Makepeace ThackerayHere I am, 54 years old, and for the very first time reading William Makepeace Thackerays Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero. I disagree with Thackeray. The Hero of Vanity Fair is the steadfast and stalwart William Dobbin; of that there is no doubt. This novel is not the coming of age, or bildungsroman, of Becky Sharp. No, Miss Rebecca Sharp sprang from the womb enlivened with her desire to claw her way to the top. She cant help it, and nor should she; is she really any different than any of us? No, shes not. It is her methods that vary from what you and I might use; or do they?
To me, the narrators voice in the novel was most amazing. It seemed that at every opportune moment, the narrator took a step back and informed us, the reader, of some nugget, some little moral, that placed the actions of the participants in the Fair in context. Vanity Fair is with us, all around us; and many times we never fully understand the roles that the players play. This voice of reason grounds us; makes us understand the joy, the pain, the happiness, and the sorrow that accompanies each of us in our journey through life. If we care to, we can learn to become better parents, better husbands, better wives, and better friends.
I also learned through the course of the novel that I cant outright condemn Becky Sharp. Becky is perhaps not a woman easily liked, but she is an admirable woman, a tough woman, and a woman I can respect. Strong-minded and willed, a terrible mother, but a battle-axe to those who take her head-on. Miss Becky Sharp -- Mrs. Rawdon Crawley -- is committed to living life at its fullest, and not one jot less. She is a woman of purpose, and that is a rare quality in many people.
The novel drips with satire from page to page; it is full of wit and sardonic humor. It is through the use of satire that we realize that the characters at the Fair are us -- have been us, and always will be us -- generation after generation, and nothing will change; only the time will change. There will always be Lord Steynes, Jos Sedleys, Old Osbornes, Mother Sedleys, Sir Pitt Crawleys, Miss Crawleys, the George Osbornes, William Dobbins, and Amelias. Our task, according to Thackeray, is to figure out how best to treat them, how best to interact and understand them, how to live with them. The real challenge, however, is how best to love, appreciate, and care for the Miss Becky Sharps in our lives. We do deserve to know her, to care for her, to appreciate her for whom she is, and she deserves to be brought in from the rambunctiousness and vagaries of the Fair.
In the end, it is Miss Sharp that gains at least some measure of redemption. It is she, and she alone, that removes the mote from Amelias eyes regarding her feelings for William Dobbin. For Becky Sharp does understand honor, virtue, and integrity (or, does she?). Thackeray finishes appropriately -- For truly it can be said, Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? -- Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.
A magnificent novel from start to finish.
Vanity Fair Summary
Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? A bewitching beauty who bends men to her will using charm, sex, and guile. A mother who cannot get over the loss of her husband and devotes her life to her child. Yet its characters—from dissolute playboys and self-important heirs to judgmental aunts and finicky gourmands—are instantly recognizable. Lacking money and family, she uses the only tools at her disposal, sex and cunning, to seek advancement in the world.
Vanity Fair , novel of early 19th-century English society by William Makepeace Thackeray , published serially in monthly installments from to and in book form in The book is a densely populated multilayered panorama of manners and human frailties; subtitled A Novel Without a Hero , Vanity Fair metaphorically represents the human condition. The novel deals mainly with the interwoven fortunes of two women, the wellborn, passive Amelia Sedley and the ambitious, essentially amoral Becky Sharp , the latter perhaps the most memorable character Thackeray created. Amelia marries George Osborne , but George, just before he is killed at the Battle of Waterloo , is ready to desert his young wife for Becky, who has fought her way up through society to marriage with Rawdon Crawley, a young officer from an aristocratic family. Crawley, disillusioned, finally leaves Becky, and in the end virtue apparently triumphs when Amelia marries her lifelong admirer, Captain William Dobbin, and Becky settles down to genteel living and charitable works.
The novel opens at Miss Pinkerton's Academy for young women, where readers are introduced to Amelia and Becky, the novel's female protagonists. Amelia and Becky are friends, but they are nothing alike. Amelia is kind and innocent and comes from a family with money. Becky Sharp, on the other hand, is sharp and scheming and emerges from an impoverished situation. Miss Pinkerton, utterly disgusted with Becky's behavior, sets her up in a governess position at the Crawley estate.
The William Makepeace Thackeray classic was first released in as a volume monthly serial. Becky attempts to claw her way out of poverty and scale the heights of English Society, taking her all the way to the court of King George IV, via the Battle of Waterloo, breaking hearts and losing fortunes as she goes. Head of drama, Polly Hill, said of the series: "Vanity Fair feels like the perfect classic to adapt for ITV, and Gwyneth Hughes' stunning scripts bring the novel to life in a way that will really connect with a modern audience. His most famous work is Vanity Fair, published in and , and The History of Henry Esmond, which was released in In his time, he was considered as a rival to Dickens, and his work was well received by the middle classes.
It was first published as a volume monthly serial from to , carrying the subtitle Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society , reflecting both its satirisation of early 19th-century British society and the many illustrations drawn by Thackeray to accompany the text. It was published as a single volume in with the subtitle A Novel without a Hero , reflecting Thackeray's interest in deconstructing his era's conventions regarding literary heroism. The story is framed as a puppet play , and the narrator, despite being an authorial voice , is somewhat unreliable. The serial was a popular and critical success; the novel is now considered a classic and has inspired several audio, film, and television adaptations. In , Vanity Fair was listed at No. The book's title comes from John Bunyan 's Pilgrim's Progress , [a] a Dissenter allegory first published in In that work, "Vanity Fair" refers to a stop along the pilgrim's route: a never-ending fair held in a town called Vanity, which is meant to represent man's sinful attachment to worldly things.