Titlu referat: Thackeray
Nivel referat: liceu
THACKERAY- Vanity Fair
Thackeray describes in “Vanity Fair” the
English society at the beginning of the 19C. His work is not a historical novel
but a social one, and his main purpose is to portray English
society’s morality and
habits as a whole and not as a particular moment in time. Time has changed
fashion design and external conditions, but the essence of the relations
between people in the bourgeois society remained until nowadays the same with
the ones that Thackeray described.
As a source of inspiration for the title
stands Bunyan’s allegory
“The Pilgrims Progress” where Christians and Evangelists must pass through
a “town called Vanity” on their way to the celestial city. This town holds
a “lusty fair” all year round called “Vanity Fair”. In this fair
everything can be sold and bought, from hoses, lands, gold to husbands,
children, wives, blood, souls and bodies and…”and what not”.
In his Thackeray reveals a world where money is the prime motive
for the actions and relationships, and describes the futility and emptiness of
The action of the novel is simple and it
spines around the lives of two friends: Amelia and Becky, and describes their
evolution, disappointments and disillusions. Besides them, Thackeray fills his
novel with people, places and travels. Almost all his characters are
individualized, no matter how briefly they appear. Taken together they make up
the society that Thackeray calls Vanity Fair. It is easy to see that these
characters satirize the institutions they serve or represent; Lord Stuyne and
his son show up Parliament, the rotten election system and also the
aristocracy. Religion, the Church of England is satirized with Reverend Bute
Crowley; the army leadership with General Tufto; the financial system, with
Osborne senior. Taking into account the characters’ vitality and their representing major
institutions it can be said that society is the real protagonist, the main
character of Vanity Fair.
The author points out that the folly social
climbing, hypocrisy, cruelty and selfishness, exhibited by individual
characters have their origin and counterpart in society as a whole.
To show the connection between the
individual’s values and
behavior and society’s, the
author often generalizes from a particular situation to the behavior and value
of society. Using this technique of generalizing from the individual, he
exposes the mercenary and impersonal bases of marriage money oriented, status
conscious society. Becky knows that an advantageous marriage is the surest way
to security and status and in the end she becomes an expert actress acting out
the female roles expected by men of her time. Through her Thackeray has the
opportunity to discuss society’s institutionalization of “husband hunting”, and he lists the
approved and conventional activities by which young ladies find husbands.
The dominant class in this novel is the middle
class, and this class is the mercantile, capitalist society whose most
important and valuable achievement is money. The consequences of this focus are
nothing less, spiritual and intellectual emptiness, a twisted morality and
competed emotions, and moreover the inability to love and an incapacity for
Becky makes her way to the highest level of
society using her determination, intelligence and talent. At the same time, her
behavior and morality are indefensible: she constantly manipulates others, she
lies, cheats, steals, and betrays Amelia and perhaps she even commits murder.
Material objects dominate over people’s feelings, minds and souls and if they fail in their quest to
enrich, they focus their greed over their children to fulfill their own social
ambitions. As example, George is advised by his father to marry a wealthy
Those who do not have fortune but want to live
a fashionable life, resort to credit. Credit is such an important feature of
society that Thackeray devotes 2 chapters on “How to Live Well on Nothing a
Spending other people’s money, which is really what credit
means in “Vanity Fair”, causes no remorse in the “hearts” of the snobs,
no matter how much misery they cause. People willingly attend Becky’s little parties, even if they gossip
about how she pays for them.
Society is built upon an economy of obtaining
other people’s money and
for one’s own enjoyment and
finally running oneself and others.
The moral corruption resulting from the
constant desire for wealth, ostentation and status have spread throughout
society from the aristocrats to the servants. Becky is not natural born
vicious, but she is the result of the society she lives in.
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