Thursday, May 11, 2006

Vanity Fair discussion: Chapters 21 - 29

In which we follow our (non-)heroes through family changes and the prelude to Waterloo. Post your thoughts in the comments!


Dwight said...

There is a lot going on with the story here, but with one exception I think I’ll focus on some general themes. The exception is Mr. Osborne’s statement that he had never asked George for anything, had generously covered George’s spending, and now he expected George fulfill one request—marry Miss Swartz. Did Mr. Osborne have a right to ask that of George? Did he really think George would obey? I’m curious as to what others thought on that part.

I find the portrayal of wealth and lack of it interesting. Those that inherited their wealth were the top rung of society. Those that earned their wealth, like Mr. Osborne, appear to occupy a slightly lower tier. But the one think in common is the pressure that both classes seem to feel in spending “according to their rank.” Which means money spent by the carriage-load on lavish balls, dinners, and purchases of whatever the heart desired. Thackeray’s comment about England being a “nation of shopkeepers” seems to be a source of pride, yet it has a defensive feel about it. And as Mr. Sedley demonstrated, the wealth could be easily lost—with a detailed depiction of what happens to those that fall from the upper tiers.

I have noticed statements recurring in different characters, or at least echoes of statements popping up over and over again. One example is Mr. Sedley’s concern about the loss of his money and the impact it will have on Amelia. Later on George makes an almost identical statement about not being able to provide for Amelia as she should be taken care of (while doing absolutely nothing to help her). These ‘echoes’ are interesting in their similarities and their contrasts, and what they reflect on those uttering them.

One last thing I’ll comment on is the portrayal of the war so far (the real one, not the constant battles for money, love, or between and among the sexes). For civilians, it seems almost like entertainment—it reminds me of examples like the First Battle of Bull Run where spectators came out from Washington D.C. to view “the show.” Knowing the outcome of Waterloo as I read the book, it is hard to imagine what those “hundred days” were like at the time. The portrayal of the military people in Brussels is actually rather funny—carrying on their same habits, just no longer in London any more and despite one of the pivotal moments in history quickly approaching.

There are a lot of other interesting actions and topics to choose from, so chime in with your thoughts!

Tiredbuthappy said...

I'm not quite done with this section, so I'm posting wihtout reading Chrees' comment.

I am just struck by the idea of a self-funded military. Can you imagine if all the people fighting in Iraq right now were paying their own transportation and had bought their military rank with family money?