Friday, May 26, 2006

Vanity Fair discussion: Chapters 30 – 38

Where we follow the non-heroes and the rest of England to the Continent to face Napoleon and see the aftereffects of Waterloo. Post your thoughts, favorite parts, characters you hate, etc. in the comments!

1 comment:

Chrees said...

A few topics from these chapters that interested me:

Napoleon’s one hundred days (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterloo_Campaign for a good overview) was a whirlwind of activity and the impact had far-reaching consequences for much of the world. I thought Thackeray’s presentation of the events through the personal experiences was wonderful. I also enjoyed the focus being slightly away from the action, which allowed a panoramic view of the events.

The chase for Miss Crawley’s fortune is finally settled in one of the more amusing parts of the novel so far. The methods that different family members used to ingratiate themselves (or at least attempt to) into the good graces of such a woman was fun to watch.

I asked earlier about how others see Becky Sharp. I’m usually impressed with her ability to scheme and usually conquer her targets. I get very close to actually liking her despite everything, then she crosses another acceptable line of behavior and she distances herself yet again from me. The usual comparison for her is Amelia. What struck me the most in this section was how men react to both women, which was highlighted in Chapter 38 with the affection men reserve for Amelia. It’s interesting that both women provoke similar reactions in women, in particular married women.

So much of the book revolves around money, but I’ll limit myself to two quick comments highlighted in these chapters. Several chapters were devoted to how Becky and Rawdon were able to live on other people’s money and the devastation it caused many of their victims. Related is the ripple effect that bankruptcies caused. A great description in Chapter 37 spotlighted the “trickle down” effect that loss of consumers caused. Which begs the question for much of the book—how much of a country’s economy then was reliant upon both the megawealthy (think Vanderbilt, Carnegie, etc.) and maybe just as important was the number of people people living beyond their means.

Again, there is a lot covered in these chapters and I’ve only highlighted a few things. Feel free to add some things you enjoyed.