Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vanity Fair(1847) - by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair was a book published as a serial rather than in a single book form (this was done in 1847-1848, and was typical of that time, since Charles Dickens also published his classics in serialized form). Vanity Fear was written by William Makepeace Thackeray, and was based on the story of 2 different people in society - one who will do anything to get ahead in life, without morals; and the other, the exact opposite, one who believes in the goodness of life and is unwilling to believe that others could be dishonest. The title of the book, Vanity Fear, is taken from an earlier work, John Bunyan's allegorical story The Pilgrim's Progress, published long before in 1678, and supposed to represent a place called Vanity, where there is a ongoing fair that is meant to represent man's attachment to worldly things, and supposed to represent the sin of man. The book was seen as a bitter satire of society, as showcased in the quest of one of the anti-hero (or anti-heroine, to be more accurate), who is cunning, and uses all her qualities to work her way up in life.

The story takes the life of 2 opposite people, who are close friends early in life. These 2 women are:
Becky Sharp - She is apparently (on the face of it) what an ideal woman would be. She is smart, intelligent, sings well, plays the piano well; unfortunately, this is accompanied with a sense of morals that are absent, and no conscience. She wants to achieve higher things in life, and will do whatever it takes for this to happen, including playing with people.
In direct contrast to her is the other main character of the story, Amelia Sedley, who is not so outwardly smart, trusting of people even when it has been pointed out to her that others are not always to be trusted, and in some cases, unable to really appreciate those who care for her. This is a property that prevents her from taking the best that life gives to her, including the love of a person who is devoted to her, but whom she could-shoulders throughout the book.
The story is about the complete lives of these 2, with Becky trying to marry up (but failing to win her way around those women who see through her, and who played a part in dis-entitling her husband when he married her. In this case, it is the rich and elderly aunt of her husband (Pitt Crawley), Miss Crawley, who used to favor her nephew till the time that he married Becky Sharp. Becky is unable to use her charms and guile to get her husband back into favor, and lives with her husband a life devoid of riches, where they manage to live by manipulating money all around her.
On the other hand, George Osborne was always engaged to Amelia, but faced huge pressure to back down when her family lost their money. He finally married her, but in the face of opposition from her family, and consequently lost his money. And there was Dobbins, a friend of George who always admired Amelia, and who made it clear after George died, but who Amelia always ignored. It is a fascinating book, about the rise and rise, and then fall, or more accurately, about the just rewards.

Vanity Fair (1947-1948), a bitter satire about society written by William Makepeace Thackeray

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