Posted in Classic

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

I am sure that this book sounds very familiar as there was a movie made recently in which Reese Witherspoon played the part of Rebecca Sharp. I did enjoy the movie, especially the belly dancing scene however I did not like the way they changed the characters from the book.

Vanity Fair is a social satire on England during the Napoleonic wars. Becky Sharp is a scheming clever girl who is the daughter of a French chorus girl and an English drawing master. Her aim and desire through out the story is to never be poor. And will use any means necessary to get what she wants. Her foil, Amelia Sedley, is a sweet submissive girl who plays by society’s rules.

The girls meet at a boarding school. Amelia is a proper student while Becky is a charity pupil. When Amelia leaves, Becky accompanies her home for a visit before taking up a post as a governess at a country estate. Amelia has one love to whom she is completely true- George Osborne. Becky on the other hand sets her cap at any man that can provide amply for her. First is Jos Sedley. However that does not end to her satisfaction and she must go to the Crawley estate and earn her keep.

There through scheming she ends up as a companion to Ms. Crawley and ends up with Sir Pitt Crawley’s younger son, Rawdon who is to inherit Ms. Crawley’s wealth. Both are summarily cut off from the family. Becky’s scheming begins in earnest.

Meanwhile, Amelia who had everything to look forward to in life experiences a dreadful fall in fortune. Her father loses his investments in the Napoleonic upheaval and becomes bankrupt. Amelia suffers through the indignity of having all her possessions sold and must live in rented rooms with her parents. She also is in danger of losing George Osborne who was engaged to her merely for the connection. George Osborne does indeed marry Amelia in order to spare himself a marriage to one Rhoda Swartz a mulatto heiress from the West Indies. He is promptly disinherited.

Then War comes. Both couples end up at the same battle camp. The contrast between the women could not be greater. Becky charms all the men she meets in order to get ahead while Amelia remains quiet and retiring. George ends up being killed in battle and Amelia returns to her parents with her child. Her family grows poorer with the passage of time. As a result she is forced, to allow her father in law to raise her son. In the end Mr. Osborne does provide for his daughter in law, Amelia. She ends up marrying Dobbin who was her most faithful lover and lives happily ever after as most virtuous women do in books.

Becky and Rawdon, and their son return to England after the war and perfect that life of living on a good name with no money. As they grew further in debt, Becky found a new patron- the Marquis of Steyne. Her relationship with the Marquis progressed to the point that Rawdon demanded satisfaction of him. In order to smooth things over, Rawdon was given a governor’s post at Coventry Island. Becky ends up back with Jos Sedley who worships her. She convinces him to take out a large insurance in which she benefits. All it can never be proved, it is suspected that she poisons him to death. In addition to the insurance, Becky’s son did provide a money for her when he came into his inheritance though he would not have anything to do with her. She spent the rest of her days devoting herself to works of piety. This was very enjoyable book though a trifle long.


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