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She is presented as a cynical social climber who uses her charms to fascinate and seduce upper-class men. This is in contrast with the clinging, dependent Amelia Sedley, her friend from school. Becky then uses Amelia as a stepping stone to gain social position. Sharp functions as a picara —a picaresque heroine—by being a social outsider who is able to expose the manners of the upper gentry to ridicule.
With Vanity Fair —48the first work published under his own name, Thackeray adopted the system of publishing a novel serially in monthly parts that had been so successfully used by Dickens.
Set in the second decade of the 19th century, the period of the Regency, the novel deals mainly with the interwoven fortunes of two contrasting women, Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp. The latter, an unprincipled adventuress, is the leading personage and is perhaps the most memorable character Thackeray created.
The wealthy, wellborn, passive Amelia Sedley and the ambitious, energetic, scheming, provocative, and essentially amoral Becky Sharp, daughter of a poor drawing master, are contrasted in their fortunes and reactions to life, but the contrast of their characters is not the simple one between moral good and evil—both are presented with dispassionate sympathy. Becky is the character around whom all the men play their parts in an upper middle-class and aristocratic background.
Amelia marries George Osbornebut George, just before he is killed at the Battle of Waterloois ready to desert his young wife for Becky, who has fought her way up through society to marriage with Rawdon Crawley, a young officer of good family. Crawley, disillusioned, finally leaves Becky, and in the end virtue apparently triumphs, Amelia marries her lifelong admirer, Colonel Dobbin, and Becky settles down to genteel living and charitable works.
But Vanity Fair is more than a portrayal and imaginative analysis of a particular society. Vanitas Vanitatum!
Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire, or having it, is satisfied? Successful and famous, Thackeray went on to exploit two lines of development opened up in Vanity Fair: a gift for evoking the London scene and for writing historical novels that demonstrate the connections between past and present. He began with the first, writing The History of Pendennis —50which is partly fictionalized autobiography.
Some critics had thought that Pendennis was a formless, rambling book. In response, Thackeray constructed Henry Esmond with great care, giving it a much more formal plot structure. The story, narrated by Esmond, begins when he is 12, inand ends in Its complexity of incident is given unity by Beatrix and Esmond, who stand out against a background of London society and the political life of the time.
Beatrix dominates the book. Seen first as a charming child, she develops beauty combined with a power that is fatal to the men she loves. Esmond, a sensitive, brave, aristocratic soldier, falls in love with her but is finally disillusioned.
Written in a pastiche of 18th-century prose, the novel is one of the best evocations in English of the atmosphere of a past age. Thackeray returned to the contemporary scene in his novel The Newcomes — This work is essentially a detailed study of prosperous middle-class society and is centred upon the family of the title.
Thomas Newcome returns to London from India to be with his son Clive. The unheroic but attractive Clive falls in love with his cousin Ethel, but the love Clive and Ethel have for each other is fated to be unhappily thwarted for years because of worldly considerations. This deathbed scene, described with deep feeling that avoids sentimentality, is one of the most famous in Victorian fiction. In a short epilogue Thackeray tells us that Clive and Ethel eventually marry—but this, he says, is a fable. Thackeray wrote two other serial novels, Lovel the Widower and The Adventures of Philip — He died after having begun writing the novel Denis Duval.
William Makepeace Thackeray.
Fast Facts. Videos Images. Additional Info. Load. Mature writings of William Makepeace Thackeray With Vanity Fair —48the first work published under his own name, Thackeray adopted the system of publishing a novel serially in monthly parts that had been so successfully used by Dickens. Load Next .