Friday, June 09, 2006

Vanity Fair discussion: Chapters 43 – 51

I’m changing the schedule one more time (see sidebar for update), adding another week. Things have been hectic for me with the new baby, plus this chapter makes a good place to end one discussion and start the next.

So in this stretch we see diverse locations (from India to the court of George IV) and diverse destinies playing out. The comment section is yours to praise or vilify anything about the book!


Dwight said...

I’ve commented before on Thackeray’s narration in previous posts, but there is a nice touch in Chapter 47 where he admits that he gets some of his information from another person. He has alluded to this before, but here he names his informant. And nothing like throwing doubt on much of your story with comments like “if Mr. Eaves’s information be correct.” It reminds me of the first part of “Don Quixote” where the narrator relies on a Moorish translator while we are told, “all Moors are liars.”

While Thackeray doesn’t refrain from satirizing anyone or anything, making fun of royalty and titled people has a bite. My favorite title given in Chapter 48 is “Lord of the Powder Closet.” And Chapter 51 gives us plenty of titles named after cheeses and other foods. Yet there does seem some respect from royalty when he says he feels unable to talk about Becky’s audience with the King.

Wine appears to have an important place in the book…or at least a much-discussed topic. The role of wine with and after dinner is mentioned quite often. Sherry, port, champagne, claret (Bordeaux) at different times in the evening or meal is detailed. Chapter 44 contains a reference to a white Hermitage—the wine that Thomas Jefferson called “the first wine in the world, without a single exception.” Wines from the Hermitage region (France’s northern Rhone area) commanded the highest prices of the day. I found it interesting that Bordeaux is rarely mentioned with the meal, probably a reflection of the spotty quality before the 1855 classification.

One reason I chose Chapter 51 as a stopping point for this week is that it ends with Becky at the zenith of her career and Rawdon apparently at his nadir. Also, I posted the links to the illustrations that Thackeray penned when the story was serialized. I’ll mention them again here since they add a lot to the tale.

One last thing—the presentation of charades in Chapter 51 is an interesting peek back in time at entertainment. Does anyone have any guesses on the words being portrayed?

Tiredbuthappy said...

Argh! This book is so frustrating. I hate everybody. Let's see.

Becky: I just plain dislike her. This type of woman who makes a career out of manipulating men and who doesn't appear to need any real friendships....well, let's just say Becky and I wouldn't get along too well.

Rawdon: A pitiful character. Likeable for his affection for his son, but otherwise despicable.

Pitt: Too easily manipulated, too full of himself, greedy.

Lady Jane: Too good to be really likeable.

Amelia: The most odious of all, in my oppinion, because she persists in thinking that George Osborne is worth something. He's just worthless.

Dobbin: A heartbreaking character. He and Amelia could be happy if Amelia wasn't so stupid. Why do the best men in books always fall for either the Becky types or the Amelia types? Either the manipulative hoes or the simpering innocents. Luckily most men in real like have a little more taste. At least some of them do. Some of the time. Ahem.

Okay. Sorry for venting. I am determined to finish this book if it kills me. Although I do enjoy the speculations about money and debt. That's interesting stuff.