Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vanity Fair discussion: Chapters 11 – 20

The travails of Becky Sharpe and Amelia Sedley continue, with the threat of Napoleon on the horizon. Use the comments to add your thoughts on Vanity Fair through Chapter 20 (no spoilers from beyond that chapter, please).

Thanks for the comments and interest shown so far!


Dwight said...

Random thoughts, but more or less in the order of reading Chapters 11 through 20, and with some redundancy from the ‘discussion topic’ post: (Spoilers follow)

The treatment of women by other women continues to fascinate me. “Mean Girls” has nothing on this. But I’m interested to hear what others think of Thackeray’s statement that “The best of women are hypocrites.” (Chapter 17) The author uses his role as a character in the book to slip that in and claims it is his grandmother’s view, but he doesn’t seem to disagree with it. He presents a wife’s “petty treachery” as necessary for a happy marriage, but doesn’t explore what happens when such actions are used for something other than building up a husband or smoothing things in the marriage.

The martial terminology continues when describing love-making, and begins to be used in other areas as well. There seems to be several “wars” going on: in Europe, men vs. women, among women, between men, between generations, among the different social classes, etc. While some are more obvious than others, the conflicts abound in the novel.

I found the section on Becky’s timing and choice of a husband (in Chapter 15) amusing. Choosing someone who MAY come into money over someone who already had money, plus being accepted into the family (I’m guessing) instead of knowingly being shunned was a very calculated choice. One of the biggest factors was the uncertainty of or if Lady Crawley’s death, so apparently Becky went for the ‘sure thing’ regarding match-ups and was willing to take her chances with familial reconciliation (and, of course, the associate money). This is a woman who has full confidence in her wiles and charm.

However the falling out, shock and surprise at Rawdon’s marriage to Becky seems a little strained to me, I think because there wasn’t more of a fuss when Becky was trying to woo Jos Sedley and the apparent willingness of people to accept Becky marrying Sir Pitt. I may be reading more into the latter and there may have been more of an uproar if she had accepted Sir Pitt’s proposal, but that groundwork had already been laid with Sir Pitt’s second marriage.

In a previous comment, I muse on what Thackeray would have found acceptable for Becky. My guess is that if her actions had been for love he would be more sympathetic toward her. Upon the death of Lady Crawley, the narrator relates “Her heart was dead long before her body. She had sold it to become Sir Pitt Crawley’s wife. Mothers and daughters are making the same bargain every day in Vanity Fair.” I use this as one key, and I’ll be able to see if that is right as we follow George Osborne and Amelia’s history. The other key is when John Sedley reveals to his wife that they are ruined. She takes it in stride and is the anchor for him during this period, in large part because of her love for him. While enjoying the finer things in life because of his (now gone) money, her sole purpose for marrying him wasn’t to buy a ticket to Vanity Fair.

Speaking of Vanity Fair, in Chapter 19 the author/narrator explores the differences between the public and private faces of participating in it. And he sums it up well with, “This dear friends and companions, is my amiable object—to walk with you through the Fair, to examine the shops and the shows there; and that we should all come home after the flare, and the noise, and the gaiety, and be perfectly miserable in private.”

I’ll stop rambling now and look forward to reading others’ thoughts on the book so far!

Tiredbuthappy said...

Argh! I got through this part of the book a week and a half ago but haven't had time to post comments. Also, I admit, I let myself get distracted and read a couple of other novels with characters I don't dislike as much.

Will try to get back on the bandwagon this weekend.