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It was first published as a volume monthly serial from to , carrying the subtitle Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society , reflecting both its satirisation of early 19th-century British society and the many illustrations drawn by Thackeray to accompany the text. It was published as a single volume in with the subtitle A Novel without a Hero , reflecting Thackeray's interest in deconstructing his era's conventions regarding literary heroism. The story is framed as a puppet play , and the narrator, despite being an authorial voice , is somewhat unreliable.

The serial was a popular and critical success; the novel is now considered a classic and has inspired several audio, film, and television adaptations. In , Vanity Fair was listed at No.


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The book's title comes from John Bunyan 's Pilgrim's Progress , [a] a Dissenter allegory first published in In that work, "Vanity Fair" refers to a stop along the pilgrim's route: a never-ending fair held in a town called Vanity, which is meant to represent man's sinful attachment to worldly things.

From its appearance in Bunyan, "Vanity Fair" or a "vanity-fair" was also in general use for "the world" in a range of connotations from the blandly descriptive to the wearily dismissive to the condemning. By the 18th century, it was generally taken as a playground and, in the first half of the 19th century, more specifically the playground of the idle and undeserving rich. All of these senses appear in Thackeray's work.


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  • The name Vanity Fair magazines has also been used for at least 5 periodicals. The story is framed by its preface [14] and coda [15] as a puppet show taking place at a fair; the cover illustration of the serial instalments was not of the characters but of a troupe of comic actors [8] at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. London, Rebecca Sharp "Becky" , daughter of an art teacher and a French dancer, is a strong-willed, cunning, moneyless, young woman determined to make her way in society. After leaving school, Becky stays with Amelia Sedley "Emmy" , who is a good-natured, simple-minded, young girl, of a wealthy London family.

    Hoping to marry Sedley, the richest young man she has met, Becky entices him, but she fails. George Osborne's friend Captain William Dobbin loves Amelia, but only wishes her happiness, which is centred on George.

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    Becky Sharp says farewell to the Sedley family and enters the service of the crude and profligate baronet Sir Pitt Crawley, who has engaged her as a governess to his daughters. Her behaviour at Sir Pitt's house gains his favour, and after the premature death of his second wife, he proposes marriage to her. However, he finds that she has secretly married his second son, Captain Rawdon Crawley, but Becky very much regrets having done this as she had no idea that his father's wife would die so soon after.

    Sir Pitt's elder half sister, the spinster Miss Crawley, is very rich, having inherited her mother's fortune, and the whole Crawley family compete for her favour so she will bequeath them her wealth. Initially her favourite is Rawdon Crawley, but his marriage with Becky enrages her. First she favours the family of Sir Pitt's brother, but when she dies, she has left her money to Sir Pitt's oldest son, also called Pitt.

    News arrives that Napoleon has escaped from Elba, and as a result the stockmarket becomes jittery, causing Amelia's stockbroker father, John Sedley, to become bankrupt. George's rich father forbids George to marry Amelia, who is now poor. Dobbin persuades George to marry Amelia, and George is consequently disinherited. George is embarrassed by the vulgarity of Mrs.

    Introduction & Overview of Vanity Fair

    Major O'Dowd, the wife of the head of the regiment. Already, the newly wedded Osborne is growing tired of Amelia, and he becomes increasingly attracted to Becky, which makes Amelia jealous and unhappy. He is also losing money to Rawdon at cards and billiards. At a ball in Brussels, George gives Becky a note inviting her to run away with him. But then the army have marching orders to the Battle of Waterloo , and George spends a tender night with Amelia and leaves.

    The noise of battle horrifies Amelia, and she is comforted by the brisk but kind Mrs. Becky is indifferent and makes plans for whatever the outcome if Napoleon wins, she would aim to become the mistress of one of his Marshals She also makes a profit selling her carriage and horses at inflated prices to Jos, who is seeking to flee Brussels.

    Vanity Fair

    Amelia bears him a posthumous son, who carries on the name George. She returns to live in genteel poverty with her parents, spending her life in memory of her husband and care of her son. Dobbin pays for a small annuity for Amelia and expresses his love for her by small kindnesses toward her and her son. She is too much in love with her husband's memory to return Dobbin's love. Saddened, he goes with his regiment to India for many years. Becky also has a son, named Rawdon after his father. Becky is a cold, distant mother, although Rawdon loves his son.

    Becky continues her ascent first in post-war Paris and then in London where she is patronised by the rich and powerful Marquis of Steyne. She is eventually presented at court to the Prince Regent and charms him further at a game of " acting charades " where she plays the roles of Clytemnestra and Philomela. Becky is on good terms with Pitt and Jane originally, but Jane is disgusted by Becky's attitude to her son and jealous of Becky's relationship with Pitt. At the summit of their social success, Rawdon is arrested for debt, possibly at Becky's connivance.

    Vanity Fair (novel) - Wikipedia

    The Marquis of Steyne had given Becky money, jewels, and other gifts but Becky does not use them for expenses or to free her husband. He returns home to find Becky singing to Steyne and strikes him down on the assumption—despite her protestations of innocence—that they are having an affair. Rawdon finds Becky's hidden bank records and leaves her, expecting Steyne to challenge him to a duel. Becky, having lost both husband and credibility, leaves England and wanders the continent, leaving her son in the care of Pitt and Lady Jane.

    As Amelia's adored son George grows up, his grandfather Mr Osborne relents towards him though not towards Amelia and takes him from his impoverished mother, who knows the rich old man will give him a better start in life than she could manage. After twelve years abroad, both Joseph Sedley and Dobbin return. Dobbin professes his unchanged love to Amelia.

    Amelia is affectionate, but she cannot forget the memory of her dead husband. Dobbin mediates a reconciliation between Amelia and her father-in-law, who dies soon after. He had amended his will, bequeathing young George half his large fortune and Amelia a generous annuity. Becky has fallen in life. She lives among card sharps and con artists, drinking heavily and gambling. Becky enchants Jos Sedley all over again, and Amelia is persuaded to let Becky join them. Dobbin forbids this, and reminds Amelia of her jealousy of Becky with her husband. Amelia feels that this dishonours the memory of her dead and revered husband, and this leads to a complete breach between her and Dobbin.

    Dobbin leaves the group and rejoins his regiment, while Becky remains with the group. However, Becky has decided that Amelia should marry Dobbin, even though she knows Dobbin is her enemy. Becky shows Amelia George's note, kept all this time from the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, and Amelia finally realises that George was not the perfect man she always thought, and that she has rejected a better man, Dobbin. Amelia and Dobbin are reconciled and return to England. Becky and Jos stay in Europe. Jos dies, possibly suspiciously, after signing a portion of his money to Becky as life insurance, setting her up with an income.

    She returns to England, and manages a respectable life, although all her previous friends refuse to acknowledge her.

    Vanity Fair - Opening

    Not very beautiful, she is frequently ignored by men and women but is well-liked by most men who get to know her because of her personality. This popularity is then resented by other women. She begins the work as its heroine "selected for the very reason that she was the best-natured of all" [26] and marries the dashing George Osborne against his father's wishes, but the narrator is soon forced to admit "she wasn't a heroine" after all [27] as she remains soppily devoted to him despite his neglect of her and his flirtation with Becky.

    After George dies in the Battle of Waterloo , she brings up little George alone while living with her parents. She is completely dominated by her increasingly peevish mother and her spendthrift father, who, to finance one of his failing investment schemes, sells the annuity Jos had provided. Amelia becomes obsessed with her son and the memory of her husband. She ignores William Dobbin, who courts her for years and treats him shabbily until he leaves. Only when Becky shows her George's letter to her is Amelia able to move on, though she informs Becky that she has already written to Dobbin to ask him to come back.

    She eventually marries Dobbin. In a letter to his close friend Jane Octavia Brookfield while the book was being written, Thackeray confided that "You know you are only a piece of Amelia, my mother is another half, my poor little wife y est pour beaucoup ". Rebecca Sharp , called Becky, is Amelia's opposite, an intelligent young woman with a gift for satire. She is described as a short sandy haired girl who has green eyes and a great deal of wit. Becky is born to a French opera dancer mother and an art teacher and artist father Francis.

    Printed in large type of tinted paper, elegantly bound in green cloth and with a fac-simile of the author's autograph on the cover, every copy has the appearance of being a presentation copy. No English edition of Vanity Fair is equal to this American one in respect either to convenience of form or beauty of mechanical execution. The illustrations are numerous, well engraved, and embody the writer's own conceptions of his scenes and characters, and are often deliciously humorous. Vanity Fair , though it does not include the whole extent of Thackeray's genius, is the most vigorous exhibition of its leading characteristics.

    In freshness of feeling, elasticity of movement, and unity of aim, it is favorably distinguished from its successors, which too often give the impression of being composed of successive accumulations of incidents and persons, that drift into the story on no principle of artistic selection and combination. The style, while it has the raciness of individual peculiarity and the careless case of familiar gossip, is as clear, pure, and flexible as if its sentences had been subjected to repeated revision, and every pebble which obstructed its lucid and limpid flow had been laboriously removed.

    The characterization is almost perfect of its kind. Becky Sharp, the Marquis of Steyne, Sir Pitt Crawley and the whole Crawley family, Amelia, the Osbornes, Major Dobbin, not to mention others, are as well known to most cultivated people as their most intimate acquaintances in the Vanity Fair of the actual world.

    Hard financial times drove the family back to London, where Thackeray began to establish himself as a journalist and commentator. He wrote for popular publications under amusing pen names such as Mr. Thackeray was a keen observer of London's social scene and an eager participant in its cultural life. In his early writings he became a social chronicler of his time and place. He rubbed shoulders with politicians, and even once ran for Parliament, unsuccessfully.


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    • He traveled to the United States to lecture, and maintained a long-running argument on literary style with rival novelist and journalist, Charles Dickens, whose style he found exaggerated and unrealistic. Thackeray wrote prolifically and on a variety of subjects. Reviews and critiques of theater productions and art shows, commentaries on London characters and trends, witty travelogues, and other brief pieces flowed from his pen.

      These efforts were snapped up by popular magazines of the period. Thackeray's first forays into fiction—in the style of faux memoirs such as The Luck of Barry Lyndon —and crime stories were often published under a pen name or even unsigned. Not only was Thackeray developing his craft, but he was also working hard to support his two surviving daughters, and cover expenses for his wife, who was devolving into insanity. Her mental illness required expensive medical care and left him, in essence, a widower.

      Vanity Fair was the first work Thackeray published under his own name. It was such a commercial success that, after its serial run and subsequent publication as a novel, Thackeray could set aside his piecework to focus on other long fictional works. The History of Pendennis introduced a fictional character based in part on Thackeray himself. This character returns to narrate a later novel, The Newcomes , considered by some critics his greatest work.

      A historical lecture tour through England, Scotland, and the United States produced research Thackeray used to write two related novels, Henry Esmond and The Virginians