Analysis of chapter LXVII from William Makepeace Thackeray's novel "Vanity Fair"

Presentation (Elaboration), 2006

12 Pages, Grade: 1,3



I. Introduction: From a thousand thoughts to Vanity Fair

II. Analysis: Parasitism or Woman on the hunt for life
1. Brief outline of what happened to Amelia and Rebecca over the years
2. Amelia
3. Rebecca
4. Differences of Amelia and Rebecca in their style of speaking and its consequences
5. The irony of the commenting narrator

III. Conclusion: All things come to an end

IV. Bibliography

I. Introduction: From a thousand thoughts to Vanity Fair

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.”

(William Makepeace THACKERAY)1

And a thousand thoughts - or perhaps even some more - were probably the reason why Thackeray’s Vanity Fair became such a large piece of work. Undoubtedly, the novel belongs to the most ambitious literary works of Victorian Age. However, this status is due not only to its remarkably large extent stored on almost a thousand pages2 but also to its tartly depicted content, in short: love, money and power.

William Makepeace Thackeray at first published his work as a series in the London satire magazine Punch from 1847 till 1848. In regard to the piece’s exceptional length this method of releasing was probably the easiest for the readers as thus they had the possibility to successively become acquainted with the protagonists of the story. And as a matter of fact a literary work of such a length comes up with more than only a few figures as well as it features a plot which is not free of slight inconsistencies and blemishes.

But not these light formal stains characterize Vanity Fair but the faults and failures that are made by the protagonists and which uncover the true nature of mankind. And as there are not only a few ‘human stains’ to be found but rather lots of, the reader is gliding through a story of bedazzling and betraying, cheating and corrupting, until in the very end all lies and secrets will be disclosed.

Probably, Rebecca “Becky” Sharp is the most controversial person in Vanity Fair. Throughout the book she seems to have only one goal: achieving a high rank within society and enjoying wealthy and luxury. But in spite of her wickedness and bewitching attacks on rich men she must early experience that life cannot be planned and that setbacks are unpleasant but possible.

The other female protagonist, Amelia “Emmy” Sedley, is the complete opposite of Rebecca. Not a high social status she longs to conquer but a man with whom she can outlive her romantic feelings. At first it appears as if she has found this specific fellow but the perils of destiny - and also infidelity - ruin her marriage.

These two women stand as examples for two completely different beliefs: Becky only trusts in monetary values, whereas Emmy’s true salvation lies in love and loyalty - but also in religion and faith.

In how far the marriage between Amelia and George Osborne could be considered a true love relationship is not the main subject of this analysis. I will rather examine why Amelia has such problems to couple with another man and prove that she actually has strong feelings for someone.

Moreover, on the example of her capturing Joseph Sedley I will take a closer look at Rebecca’s hunt for prestige.

Furthermore, I will compare the two women and eventually analyze which role the story’s narrator has.

Since the novel on the whole is too large to overlook, my analysis will concentrate on the very last chapter “Which Contains Births, Marriages, And Deaths”.

II. Analysis: Parasitism or Women on the hunt for life

1. Brief outline of what happened to Amelia and Rebecca over the years

Vanity Fair takes places during the Napoleonic Wars. Altogether the story line is stretched over circa twenty years. In this time many things happen:

Amelia gets married to George Osborne. For her it is a true love relationship, she even worships her husband as a national hero who seems to be free of faults. In fact, he does make mistakes, especially in regard to his marriage. Amongst other things, he betrays Amelia with Rebecca and wants to run away with her. Thus it cannot be assumed that he loved Amelia as much as he loved him. It was rather George’s friend William Dobbin who made him marry her to keep his promise. But the marriage turns out to be ill-fated: While Amelia is pregnant with his child, George dies at war. For her and ‘little George’ hard times begin in which she is not only suffering from financial problems but also from her mourning for George and her loneliness.

Dobbin, who once was responsible for the coupling of Amelia and George, becomes her supporter at these difficult times. That he himself is in love with her for a long time cannot distract Amelia, not even many years after George’s death when she is suffering from seemingly endless grief.

Mournfulness is nothing Rebecca knows. Different from Amelia she is searching for money, might and mastery. From her first appearance in the novel until the very end she discloses much self-esteem and the constant, unbreakable will to achieve a higher social standing than she actually has. So she tries to couple with men of high status. At first she wants to attract Joseph Sedley, Amelia’s elder brother, and almost succeeds. Joseph is in fact interested in her but a potential marriage is denied by the intervention of Amelia’s later husband George Osborne. In the following Rebecca marries Rawdon Crawley but cannot profit from the commitment as he gets disinherited after the match. Becky begins some affairs and tries to make money with them but is discovered by Rawdon who thereafter separates from her. But she does not suffer much from the divorce as well as she is not hurt when not seeing her child, ‘young Rawdon’, any more.

2. Amelia

Taking a closer look at Amelia her sadness turns out to be more than mere mourning for a dead one: Although it first appears that never again emotions for another man could establish in Amelia, especially the last chapter of Vanity Fair discovers how deeply her yearning for William Dobbin is. For example, in conversations with her son she shows her opinion of the man: “She told him that she thought Major William was the best man in all the world; the gentlest and the kindest, the bravest and the humblest.” (p. 659) In fact, she even uses her child as a ‘transmitter’ to stay in contact with him:

“She made George write to him constantly, and persisted in sending Mamma’s kind love in a postscript. And as she looked at her husband’s portrait of nights, it no longer reproached herperhaps she reproached it, now William was gone.” (p. 659)

Why she is fighting these feelings can be explained by considering her attitude towards religion. As a pious Christian she feels obliged to love and adore her apparently decent and honourable husband, even posthumously, and although ultimately George’s death happened over fifteen years ago. This inner conflict can be seen here:

“Emmy defended her conduct, and showed that it was dictated only by the purest religious principles; that a woman once, &c., and to such an angel as him whom she had had the good fortune to marry, was married for ever; but she had no objection to hear the Major praised as much as ever Becky chose to praise him; and indeed brought the conversation round to the Dobbin subject a score of times every day.” (p. 658)

This text passage can be subdivided into two different parts: The first is about Amelia’s bonding to George, even after his death, the second treats her feelings for Dobbin which are factually there but only outlived passively, by enjoying talks about him.

Amelia’s religiousness is shown once more when she finds books and gloves from Dobbin and stores them neatly but secretly:

“Emmy cleared these [volumes] away, and put them on the drawers, where she placed her workbox, her desk, her Bible, and Prayer-book, under the pictures of the two Georges. And the Major, on going away, having left his gloves behind him, it is a fact that Georgy, rummaging his mother’s desk some time afterwards, found the gloves neatly folded up, and put away in what they call the secret drawers of the desk.” (p. 659)

Again the excerpt shows an ambivalent tendency: Amelia lives according to religious principles - the Bible and Prayer-book are symbols of her belief whereas the work-box could be seen as a tool to distract her thinking and feeling from Dobbin. At that time Christians lived on rules which should restrict the individual’s own thinking and desiring. The two pictures underline these moral restrictions - they shall remind her of being loyal towards George and absent from William. That Dobbin is nevertheless permanently on her mind, if only unconsciously, is symbolized by his books and gloves - these are part of the desk, even though they are hidden.

It seems that Amelia does not want to change this situation. She seems unable to realize that at the same time William - in addition to their current spatial separation - desires to abandon his affection for her:

“He loved her no more, he thought, as he had loved her. He never could again. That sort of regard, which he had proffered to her for so many faithful years, can’t be flung down and shattered, and mended so as to show no scars. […]; had she been worthy of the love I gave her, she would have returned it long ago. It was a fond mistake.” (p. 662)

Similar to Amelia also Dobbin shows ambivalent tendencies: On the one hand he thinks that his love has changed, on the other hand already the mere fact that he thinks about Amelia shows that he still feels a lot for her. But there is something else in this passage that is remarkable: The arrangement of the statement. Dobbin’s first sentence is in such a way arranged that the reader at first thinks that he “loved her no more”, that his appreciation vanished.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Analysis of chapter LXVII from William Makepeace Thackeray's novel "Vanity Fair"
University of Siegen  (Medienwissenschaft)
Love and Money
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ISBN (Book)
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Vanity Fair, Thackeray, William Makepeace Thackeray, William M. Thackeray, Love, Money, Power, Victorian Age, Amelia, Rebecca, Emmy, Becky
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Nadine Schneider (Author), 2006, Analysis of chapter LXVII from William Makepeace Thackeray's novel "Vanity Fair", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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