Friday, 15 July 2011

Thackeray's Vanity Fair: Becky Sharp shallow citizen or conscious Victorian damsel?

Vanity FairVanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair. A Novel Without a Hero. London: Barnes and Noble Classics, 1999.
Thackeray´s Vanity Fair is a novel that portrays the life of a social climbing governess Becky Sharp, and ultimately her descent into “vanity fair.” “ Vanity Fair” is a term that Thackeray coins to describe the misaligned values of those obsessed with social status, peerage and the vulgar acquisition of money by any means. This novel is also an historical account of the status consciousness that was rife in Victorian England. Thackeray shows the vileness of human nature through his main protagonist, the exploitative, calculating and callous Becky Sharp, who ends up a shallow citizen of Vanity Fair. Becky manages to ruin tow men, both Rawdon Crawley and Jo Sedley,[ yet comes away with a fortune]. Thackeray juxtaposes Becky with her childhood friend Amelia Sedley from the Pinkerton´s school, and shows that an angelic Amelia may not be as witty and sharp as Becky yet, in the end, she is far more noble.
Thackeray is a superior raconteur in subtly exposing the self-delusion, ego, vanity and shallowness of human nature. He accomplishes this by many twists and truns of plots and sub-plots through which the story unravels. The plot, multiple themes and climax of the tale include the lives of the lovers of Vanity Fair. Rawdon and Becky Sharp, William Dobbin who is enamored of Amelia Sedley who is enamored of George Osborne who, like every man in the novel, is also enamored with Becky Sharp. Thackeray tells the tale of Vanity Fair through the prism of Victorian status conscious England. He writes his book through the dramatic lens of a country at war. The historical backdrop of the novel is one of war, as the main characters depart their lovers to fight in the famous battle of Waterloo. He describes each characters vain interactions with one another and shows the reader, in very specific details, how each, with his or her own vanity, have earned their membership in Vanity Fair. Thackeray´s novel Vanity Fair is rich with the study of human character, sin, vice, evolution, descent and then reflection.

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