Friday, June 02, 2006

Vanity Fair discussion: Chapters 39 – 42

I must have goofed in only having 4 chapters listed for this week. But I’ll go with the schedule as listed—not like anyone will care. Post-Waterloo, we follow the fortunes (or lack thereof) of the many families. Add your comments on what you like or dislike about the book so far.


Dwight said...

Several major threads developing or continuing in these four chapters:

The decline and demise of Sir Pitt, with the new Sir Pitt asserting himself as the new lord of a failed house. It was a pleasure to see the new Sir Pitt take down Lady Southdown a few notches.

I think Thackeray is a master at presenting people that can be compared. One of the better ones in this section is the comparison between Mr. Osborne and Mr. Sedley. Osborne has lost his estranged son, the grief and denial of which haunt him to no end. Sedley, on the other hand, lost his fortune and the society to which he had been a part of. While sad to see him carry on with his weak schemes to remake his fortune, he is much more admirable than Osborne.

One constant theme underlying the story is the difference in viewing the merchant class versus the people that inherited their money. The latter have the higher status, even though much of their wealth (or at least of those shown in the book) is illusory. It is interesting to me to see the varying viewpoints on this emerging class. As well as the wheeling and dealing that goes on with arranging marriages in order to earn your way in or sustain your status in high society.

Chapter 42 has my favorite allusion so far—the perfect summation of all Thackeray has described in one simple parenthetical expression. In talking about Jane Osborne and her father’s tyrannical ruling of her life: “and working at a huge piece of worsted by the fire, on the sofa, hard by the great Iphigenia clock, which ticked and tolled with mournful loudness in the dreary room.” Perfect.

Phoebe said...

Do you like to read Greek tragedies?

Dwight said...

I read all of Aeschylus' plays and was starting to read the three Electra plays before I was diverted by Vanity Fair and having the baby. I intend on finishing all of the tragedies this year. I have enjoyed most of them, and hope to post something about them this summer when things get a little settled down here (if they ever do).