Vanity Fair

( 234 )


No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia, however, longs only for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of Regency society, battles—military and domestic—are fought, fortunes made and lost. The one steadfast and honourable figure in this corrupt world is Dobbin with his devotion to Amelia,...

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No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia, however, longs only for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of Regency society, battles—military and domestic—are fought, fortunes made and lost. The one steadfast and honourable figure in this corrupt world is Dobbin with his devotion to Amelia, bringing pathos and depth to Thackeray's gloriously satirical epic of love and social adventure. 

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From the Publisher
"I do not say there is no character as well drawn in Shakespeare [as D'Artagnan]. I do say there is none that I love so wholly."
—Robert Louis Stevenson

"The lasting and universal popularity of The Three Musketeers shows that Dumas, by artlessly expressing his own nature in the persons of his heroes, was responding to that craving for action, strength and generosity which is a fact in all periods and all places."
—Andreé Maurois

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141439839
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/15/2003
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 912
  • Sales rank: 554,350
  • Product dimensions: 5.07 (w) x 7.77 (h) x 1.59 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY was born in India to a long line of Yorkshire gentry recently mixed with equally ancient gentry. In 1817, two years after the death of his father a prosperous official of the East India Company, the boy was sent back to England. There he underwent the proper education of a young gentleman, including rounds of laziness and dissipation at Cambridge, where he made the acquaintance of Tennyson and other notables, and later at the Middle Temple.

He next crossed to Paris, where he studied art and made a love match with Isabella Shawe, whom he married in 1836, overcoming strong maternal resistence. The couple returned to London, where Thackeray embarked on ten years as a journalistic hack-of-all-trades. Meanwhile, two daughters were born and lived, Anne (1837) and Minny (1840), but one, Jane (1838) died after eight months. The serial publication of VANITY FAIR in 1847-48 ended Thackeray's days as a minor journalist and he went on to become the author of miscellaneous satires and reviews, including essays, lectures, and seven novels. After a period of deteriorating health, Thackeray died during the early hours of December 24th, 1863.

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Chiswick Mall

While the present century was in its teens, and on one sunshiny morning in June, there drove up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Mall, a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour. A black servant, who reposed on the box beside the fat coachman, uncurled his bandy legs as soon as the equipage drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton's shining brass plate, and as he pulled the bell at least a score of young heads were seen peering out of the narrow windows of the stately old brick house. Nay, the acute observer might have recognized the little red nose of good-natured Miss Jemima Pinkerton herself, rising over some geranium pots in the window of that lady's own drawing-room.

"It is Mrs. Sedley's coach, sister," said Miss Jemima. "Sambo, the black servant, has just rung the bell; and the coachman has a new red waistcoat."

"Have you completed all the necessary preparations incident to Miss Sedley's departure, Miss Jemima?" asked Miss Pinkerton herself, that majestic lady; the Semiramis of Hammersmith, the friend of Doctor Johnson, the correspondent of Mrs. Chapone herself.

"The girls were up at four this morning, packing her trunks, sister," replied Miss Jemima; "we have made her a bow-pot."

"Say a bouquet, sister Jemima, 'tis more genteel."

"Well, a booky as big almost as a haystack; I have put up two bottles of the gillyflower water for Mrs. Sedley, and the receipt for making it, in Amelia's box."

"And I trust, Miss Jemima, you have made a copy of Miss Sedley's account. This is it, is it? Very good—ninety-three pounds, four shillings. Be kind enough to address it to John Sedley, Esquire, and to seal this billet which I have written to his lady."

In Miss Jemima's eyes an autograph letter of her sister, Miss Pinkerton, was an object of as deep veneration as would have been a letter from a sovereign. Only when her pupils quitted the establishment, or when they were about to be married, and once, when poor Miss Birch died of the scarlet fever, was Miss Pinkerton known to write personally to the parents of her pupils; and it was Jemima's opinion that if anything could console Mrs. Birch for her daughter's loss, it would be that pious and eloquent composition in which Miss Pinkerton announced the event.

In the present instance Miss Pinkerton's "billet" was to the following effect:

-The Mall, Chiswick, June 15, 18-


After her six years' residence at the Mall, I have the honour and happiness of presenting Miss Amelia Sedley to her parents, as a young lady not unworthy to occupy a fitting position in their polished and refined circle. Those virtues which characterize the young English gentlewoman, those accomplishments which become her birth and station, will not be found wanting in the amiable Miss Sedley, whose industry and obedience have endeared her to her instructors, and whose delightful sweetness of temper has charmed her aged and her youthful companions.

In music, in dancing, in orthography, in every variety of embroidery and needlework, she will be found to have realized her friends' fondest wishes. In geography there is still much to be desired; and a careful and undeviating use of the backboard, for four hours daily during the next three years, is recommended as necessary to the acquirement of that dignified deportment and carriage, so requisite for every young lady of fashion.

In the principles of religion and morality, Miss Sedley will be found worthy of an establishment which has been honoured by the presence of The Great Lexicographer, and the patronage of the admirable Mrs. Chapone. In leaving the Mall, Miss Amelia carries with her the hearts of her companions, and the affectionate regards of her mistress, who has the honour to subscribe herself, Madam,

Your most obliged humble servant,
Barbara Pinkerton

P.S.—Miss Sharp accompanies Miss Sedley. It is particularly requested that Miss Sharp's stay in Russell Square may not exceed ten days. The family of distinction with whom she is engaged, desire to avail themselves of her services as soon as possible.

This letter completed, Miss Pinkerton proceeded to write her own name, and Miss Sedley's, in the fly-leaf of a Johnson's Dictionary—the interesting work which she invariably presented to her scholars, on their departure from the Mall. On the cover was inserted a copy of "Lines addressed to a young lady on quitting Miss Pinkerton's school, at the Mall; by the late revered Doctor Samuel Johnson." In fact, the Lexicographer's name was always on the lips of this majestic woman, and a visit he had paid to her was the cause of her reputation and her fortune.

Being commanded by her elder sister to get "the Dictionary" from the cupboard, Miss Jemima had extracted two copies of the book from the receptacle in question. When Miss Pinkerton had finished the inscription in the first, Jemima, with rather a dubious and timid air, handed her the second.

"For whom is this, Miss Jemima?" said Miss Pinkerton, with awful coldness.

"For Becky Sharp," answered Jemima, trembling very much, and blushing over her withered face and neck, as she turned her back on her sister. "For Becky Sharp: she's going too."

"MISS JEMIMA!" exclaimed Miss Pinkerton, in the largest capitals. "Are you in your senses? Replace the Dixonary in the closet, and never venture to take such a liberty in future."

"Well, sister, it's only two-and-ninepence, and poor Becky will be miserable if she don't get one."

"Send Miss Sedley instantly to me," said Miss Pinkerton. And so venturing not to say another word, poor Jemima trotted off, exceedingly flurried and nervous.

Miss Sedley's papa was a merchant in London, and a man of some wealth; whereas Miss Sharp was an articled pupil, for whom Miss Pinkerton had done, as she thought, quite enough, without conferring upon her at parting the high honour of the Dixonary.
Although schoolmistresses' letters are to be trusted no more nor less than churchyard epitaphs; yet, as it sometimes happens that a person departs this life who is really deserving of all the praises the stone-cutter carves over his bones; who is a good Christian, a good parent, child, wife, or husband; who actually does leave a disconsolate family to mourn his loss; so in academies of the male and female sex it occurs every now and then that the pupil is fully worthy of the praises bestowed by the disinterested instructor. Now, Miss Amelia Sedley was a young lady of this singular species; and deserved not only all that Miss Pinkerton said in her praise, but had many charming qualities which that pompous old Minerva of a woman could not see, from the differences of rank and age between her pupil and herself.

For she could not only sing like a lark, or a Mrs. Billington, and dance like Hillisberg or Parisot; and embroider beautifully; and spell as well as a Dixonary itself; but she had such a kindly, smiling, tender, gentle, generous heart of her own, as won the love of everybody who came near her, from Minerva herself down to the poor girl in the scullery, and the one-eyed tart-woman's daughter, who was permitted to vend her wares once a week to the young ladies in the Mall. She had twelve intimate and bosom friends out of the twenty-four young ladies. Even envious Miss Briggs never spoke ill of her; high and mighty Miss Saltire (Lord Dexter's granddaughter) allowed that her figure was genteel; and as for Miss Swartz, the rich woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt's, on the day Amelia went away, she was in such a passion of tears that they were obliged to send for Dr. Floss, and half tipsify her with salvolatile. Miss Pinkerton's attachment was, as may be supposed from the high position and eminent virtues of that lady, calm and dignified; but Miss Jemima had already whimpered several times at the idea of Amelia's departure; and, but for fear of her sister, would have gone off in downright hysterics, like the heiress (who paid double) of St. Kitt's. Such luxury of grief, however, is only allowed to parlour-boarders. Honest Jemima had all the bills, and the washing, and the mending, and the puddings, and the plate and crockery, and the servants to superintend. But why speak about her? It is probable that we shall not hear of her again from this moment to the end of time, and that when the great filigree iron gates are once closed on her, she and her awful sister will never issue therefrom into this little world of history.

But as we are to see a great deal of Amelia, there is no harm in saying, at the outset of our acquaintance, that she was a dear little creature; and a great mercy it is, both in life and in novels, which (and the latter especially) abound in villains of the most sombre sort, that we are to have for a constant companion so guileless and good-natured a person. As she is not a heroine, there is no need to describe her person; indeed I am afraid that her nose was rather short than otherwise, and her cheeks a great deal too round and red for a heroine; but her face blushed with rosy health, and her lips with the freshest of smiles, and she had a pair of eyes which sparkled with the brightest and honestest good-humour, except indeed when they filled with tears, and that was a great deal too often; for the silly thing would cry over a dead canary-bird; or over a mouse, that the cat haply had seized upon; or over the end of a novel, were it ever so stupid; and as for saying an unkind word to her, were any persons hard-hearted enough to do so—why, so much the worse for them. Even Miss Pinkerton, that austere and godlike woman, ceased scolding her after the first time, and though she no more comprehended sensibility than she did Algebra, gave all masters and teachers particular orders to treat Miss Sedley with the utmost gentleness, as harsh treatment was injurious to her.So that when the day of departure came, between her two customs of laughing and crying, Miss Sedley was greatly puzzled how to act. She was glad to go home, and yet most woefully sad at leaving school. For three days before, little Laura Martin, the orphan, followed her about like a little dog. She had to make and receive at least fourteen presents—to make fourteen solemn promises of writing every week: "Send my letters under cover to my grandpapa, the Earl of Dexter," said Miss Saltire (who, by the way, was rather shabby). "Never mind the postage, but write every day, you dear darling," said the impetuous and woolly-headed, but generous and affectionate Miss Swartz; and the orphan little Laura Martin (who was just in round-hand), took her friend's hand and said, looking up in her face wistfully, "Amelia, when I write to you I shall call you Mamma." All which details, I have no doubt, Jones, who reads this book at his Club, will pronounce to be excessively foolish, trivial, twaddling, and ultra-sentimental. Yes; I can see Jones at this minute (rather flushed with his joint of mutton and half pint of wine), taking out his pencil and scoring under the words "foolish, twaddling," &c., and adding to them his own remark of "quite true." Well, he is a lofty man of genius, and admires the great and heroic in life and novels; and so had better take warning and go elsewhere.

Well, then. The flowers, and the presents, and the trunks, and bonnet-boxes of Miss Sedley having been arranged by Mr. Sambo in the carriage, together with a very small and weather-beaten old cow's-skin trunk with Miss Sharp's card neatly nailed upon it, which was delivered by Sambo with a grin, and packed by the coachman with a corresponding sneer—the hour for parting came; and the grief of that moment was considerably lessened by the admirable discourse which Miss Pinkerton addressed to her pupil. Not that the parting speech caused Amelia to philosophise, or that it armed her in any way with a calmness, the result of argument; but it was intolerably dull, pompous, and tedious; and having the fear of her schoolmistress greatly before her eyes, Miss Sedley did not venture, in her presence, to give way to any ebullitions of private grief. A seed-cake and a bottle of wine were produced in the drawing-room, as on the solemn occasions of the visits of parents, and these refreshments being partaken of, Miss Sedley was at liberty to depart.

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Table of Contents

Before the Curtain ix
I Chiswick Mall 11
II In Which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley Prepare to Open the Campaign 18
III Rebecca Is in Presence of the Enemy 29
IV The Green Silk Purse 38
V Dobbin of Ours 52
VI Vauxhall 64
VII Crawley of Queen's Crawley 78
VIII Private and Confidential 87
IX Family Portraits 97
X Miss Sharp Begins to Make Friends 105
XI Arcadian Simplicity 112
XII Quite a Sentimental Chapter 128
XIII Sentimental and Otherwise 137
XIV Miss Crawley at Home 150
XV In Which Rebecca's Husband Appears for a Short Time 171
XVI The Letter on the Pincushion 181
XVII How Captain Dobbin Bought a Piano 190
XVIII Who Played on the Piano Captain Dobbin Bought 200
XIX Miss Crawley at Nurse 213
XX In Which Captain Dobbin Acts as the Messenger of Hymen 225
XXI A Quarrel About an Heiress 236
XXII A Marriage and Part of a Honeymoon 246
XXIII Captain Dobbin Proceeds on His Canvass 256
XXIV In Which Mr. Osborne Takes Down the Family Bible 263
XXV In Which All the Principal Personages Think Fit to Leave Brighton 278
XXVI Between London and Chatham 300
XXVII In Which Amelia Joins Her Regiment 309
XXVIII In Which Amelia Invades the Low Countries 316
XXIX Brussels 326
XXX "The Girl I Left Behind Me" 341
XXXI In Which Jos Sedley Takes Care of His Sister 351
XXXII In Which Jos Takes Flight, and the War is Brought To a Close 364
XXXIII In Which Miss Crawley's Relations Are very Anxious About Her 383
XXXIV James Crawley's Pipe is Put Out 395
XXXV Widow and Mother 414
XXXVI How to Live Well on Nothing a Year 426
XXXVII The Subject Continued 436
XXXVIII A Family in a Very Small Way 452
XXXIX A Cynical Chapter 468
XL In Which Becky is Recognized by the Family 479
XLI In Which Becky Revisits the Halls of Her Ancestors 489
XLII Which Treats of the Osborne Family 502
XLIII In Which the Reader has to Double the Cape 510
XLIV A Roundabout Chapter between London and Hampshire 521
XLV Between Hampshire and London 532
XLVI Struggles and Trials 542
XLVII Gaunt House 551
XLVIII In Which the Reader is Introduced to the Very Best of Company 561
XLIX In Which We Enjoy Three Courses and a Dessert 574
L Contains a Vulgar Incident 582
LI In Which a Charade is Acted Which May or May Not Puzzle the Reader 593
LII In Which Lord Steyne Shows Himself in a Most Amiable Light 613
LIII A Rescue and a Catastrophe 625
LIV Sunday After the Battle 635
LV In Which the Same Subject is Pursued 645
LVI Georgy is Made a Gentleman 663
LVII Eothen 677
LVIII Our Friend the Major 686
LIX The Old Piano 699
LX Returns to the Genteel World 711
LXI In Which Two Lights are Put Out 718
LXII Am Rhein 733
LXIII In Which We Meet an Old Acquaintance 745
LXIV A Vagabond Chapter 759
LXV Full of Business and Pleasure 777
LXVI Amantium Irae 786
LXVII Which Contains Births, Marriages, and Deaths 803
Afterword 823
Selected Bibligraphy 831
A Note on the Text 832
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Reading Group Guide


"Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?" —Vanity Fair

A bewitching beauty who bends men to her will using charm, sex, and guile. An awkward man who remains loyal to his friends, even when those friends don't deserve his affection. A mother who cannot get over the loss of her husband and devotes her life to her child. Though written in 1847-48, William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair is peopled by types who remain familiar today. The novel's early nineteenth-century setting immerses us in a strange world of social stratification, moral strictures, and self-conscious sentiment. Yet its characters—from dissolute playboys and self-important heirs to judgmental aunts and finicky gourmands—are instantly recognizable.

None of the novel's characters is more memorable than Becky Sharp, one of Victorian literature's most remarkable creations. While Thackeray's narrator takes pains to expose Becky's subterfuges and to insinuate sexual immorality and even murder, we cannot help but admire her intelligence and élan. Alone among the novel's major characters, she is not content to live out the life she was born into—that of a governess. Lacking money and family, she uses the only tools at her disposal, sex and cunning, to seek advancement in the world. Her success in gaining entrée to society's most exclusive circles, despite the hostility of her husband's family and a chronic lack of cash, is a testament to Becky's audacity and brilliance, her ultimate downfall notwithstanding.

Thackeray juxtaposes Becky's story with that of Amelia Osborne, the naïve, sentimental daughter of a wealthy merchant who goes bankrupt partway through the book. Her artless modesty and devotion to her first love, the good-for-nothing George Osborne, contrast sharply with Becky's amoral machinations and social climbing. Yet as a paragon of womanhood, Amelia also falls short. Her passivity, her maudlin illusions, and her selfish exploitation of William Dobbin, a man who devotes his life to her, make her less than completely sympathetic; near the end of the book, Dobbin himself declares that he has wasted his life in pursuit of someone who is not worthy.

Dobbin alone comes through the book with dignity. He is, as Thackeray declares, a true gentleman. But in the end, having achieved what he long sought—marriage to Amelia—Dobbin too is disillusioned, fonder of his daughter and his History of the Punjab than he is of his wife, though he would never admit as much.

Thackeray interweaves the stories of these three main characters into an exuberant narrative that's chockablock with indelible secondary characters and cynical aperçus that illuminate all manner of human folly. His withering gaze lands on both lords and ladies, exposing the mean-spirited pretensions and craving for distinction that permeate the whole social world. By placing the social skirmishes and family clashes of his characters against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars,Vanity Fair invites us to contemplate the pervasiveness of human strife—and the damage that our egotism and self-delusion do every day.


William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta in 1811, but sent to England at the age of six. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1833 he settled in Paris, after a major financial loss, and tried his career as a painter. It was here that he met nineteen-year-old Isabella Shaw, upon whom he based many of his virtuous but weak heroines, and whom he married in 1836. A year later they settled in London, where Thackeray turned seriously to journalism. His writing for periodicals includedYellowplush Correspondenceich appeared inFraser's Magazine and then in 1841 in book form. Around this time personal and domestic pressures caused the already helpless Isabella to subside into a state of complete and permanent mental collapse, and the subsequent breakdown of the marriage formed a central part of Thackeray's consciousness. His early work centered around rogues and villains, most famously in The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844; revised as The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. in 1856), and in his masterpiece, Vanity Fair, which appeared in monthly parts in 1847-48 and which most clearly reveals his socially satirical edge. The Book of Snobs, which originally appeared as a series in Punch, also attacks Victorian society with vicious wit. Thackeray's later novels include The History of Pendennis (1848-50), The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852), The Newcomes (1852-53), The Virginians (1857-59), which is the sequel to Henry Esmond, and The Adventures of Philip (1861-62). He also wrote a series of lectures, The English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century (1852-53), and numerous reviews, articles, and sketches, usually in the comic vein. From 1860 to 1862, he also edited Cornhill Magazine. Thackeray died suddenly on Christmas Eve, 1863.


What challenges did you and the screenwriter, Julian Fellowes, face in adapting this novel?

Vanity Fair has been one of my favorite novels since I was sixteen years old. I know it very well, as does Julian Fellowes, who adapted the screenplay. Besides maintaining Becky Sharp as the narrative spine of the film, I was keen to preserve the democratic swirl of the book and to that effect wanted to keep all the important subplots alive. I wanted to preserve Dobbin as the moral center of the story, give Rawdon weight so that his love story with Becky could become credible and affecting, show Amelia's mettle so she doesn't sink into becoming the whimpering companion to Becky's fire. Sometimes we amalgamated a few characters into one person (Lady Southdown, for instance) to preserve the hypocrisy, ambition, and greed that is of course the foundation of what Thackeray referred to as Vanity Fair.

In depicting England, I followed Thackeray completely. In writing Vanity Fair, he essentially wrote the cinema verité of his day, peppering his novel with enormous amounts of authentic detail, creating life in all directions. That is my joy as a director as well: to amplify the frame with a heightened reality that crackles with life. I didn't forcibly infuse "my culture" into the movie—Thackeray has laced the entire novel with India, the dream of India, the luster of the colonies, making clear that at this time the middle classes in England were, for the first time, enjoying the wealth that came from the colonies. Oriental details pepper his book: he wrote in detail of how pashmina shawls were coveted, chinoiserie furniture, Indian embroideries, inlaid marble—you name it. I simply took these details and ran with them.

What are your thoughts on Becky Sharp? How would a woman like her fare in today's world?

Becky is a complicated character. I wanted to preserve her complexity, her ambition, her folly, yet work with an actor like Reese who is just plain irresistible to watch. Reese was my first and only choice for playing Becky Sharp; she has wit, guile, and that enticing quality called Appeal that makes an actor a movie star. It was delicious working with her—she is an old pro in her young tiny bones: always impeccably prepared, a great listener, and calm and generous with her fellow actors. She never tires.

Aside from Becky, who are your favorite characters in the novel?

Dobbin was one of my favorites. His character was familiar to me from scores of Hindi movies I watched growing up: the hero's best friend afflicted by unrequited love—usually played by the "silent-yet-deadly" actors like Raaj Kumar. Dobbin was the moral center of the story and needed to be played by an actor who was not afraid to be transparent about his emotion, yet not be boring in suffering. Rhys Ifans, thank you, thank you!

What do you think Vanity Fair has to offer to readers and viewers of the twenty-first century?

The philosophy inherent in the novel and what I call the yogic question Thackeray posed—"Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?"—is a timeless one, as much of a mystery today as it was in 1848.


  • Becky Sharp is without doubt the novel's most intelligent and interesting character. Yet in frequent asides, the novel's narrator goes out of his way to expose her stratagems and condemn her motives. What do you think of the narrator's constant moralizing—about Becky as well as the novel's other characters?
  • Becky's disgrace occurs after her husband walks in on her intimate dinner with Lord Steyne. Do you think Rawdon's assumption—that Becky and Lord Steyne were lovers—is justified? Or was Becky, as she argues, merely using her charms to advance her husband's career? And why doesn't the usually omniscient narrator let us know conclusively what really happened?
  • Vanity Fair is subtitled A Novel without a Hero. Yet William Dobbin certainly seems to be a hero, at least when judged against the novel's other principal characters. In what ways does he differ from a conventional romantic hero? Does he, too, display any of the vanity, hypocrisy, and self-deception common to the other characters in the novel?
  • Amelia is lauded by the narrator as a paragon of womanhood, though he admits that some people, especially other women, don't see her charms. Yet Amelia's excessive grief over her scapegrace husband's death, her hapless passivity in the face of poverty, her spoiled son's eager embrace of wealth and position, and her unthinking exploitation of Dobbin's devotion certainly make us wonder about how much good her goodness does in the real world. Are Amelia's sentimental illusions and steadfast virtue in the end preferable to Becky's hard-headed realism and unscrupulous scheming?
  • Near the end of the book, Becky presses Amelia to marry Dobbin by revealing the unsavory truth about Amelia's late husband. How do you explain this uncharacteristic altruism on Becky's part, given the animosity between her and Dobbin?
  • Thackeray peoples his novel with many colorful secondary characters. Were any especially well drawn or true to life? Which did you find most amusing, pathetic, or loathsome?
  • How does the world depicted in Vanity Fair, with its self-conscious morality and well-defined social strata, compare to our world today? What is different, and what remains the same?
  • Thackeray's narrator sprinkles the novel with frequent stinging asides, such as "Did we know what our intimates and dear relations thought of us, we should live in a world that we should be glad to quit," and "What bitter satire is there in those flaunting childish family portraits, with their farce of sentiment and smiling lies." What did you think of the sentiments expressed in these remarks and others throughout the novel? Did you find any that were especially on target or out of bounds? What do they add to the novel?
  • What other novels could you compare with Vanity Fair, either for the scope of their social observation, or for their pairing of unattractive "good" and charismatic "bad" female characters?
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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    Novel is GREAT, descriptions of downloads are inadequate.

    Surprisingly, after over 150 years, Vanity Fair is still a page-turner. This novel is supposed to be a groundbreaking work of "English realism" for its time (middle 1800's), but is surprisingly pertinent to today's consumer-oriented culture. Anyone who wants a slightly cynical look at the human condition will really enjoy this rendition of the foibles of human society and the sharply drawn characters of Becky Sharp, Emmy Sedly and her brother, Jos., and Thackeray's alter-ego, Dobbin (who is a bit too virtuous, of course). Not only is it a classic but it is very entertaining. It helps, however, to know just a bit of French an German, since there are a few foreign phrases salted in here and there. Even if you are in the dark about these exotic expressions, however, there are plenty of quips and escapades to keep you amused and anxious to move from chapter to chapter.

    I would have given Vanity Fair five stars, except for the difficulty of downloading the entire novel. My first attempt produced a (1853) download of the beginning third of the book (despite being told I was downloading "Vanity Fair"). My next attempt got farther, however this version ended in mid-sentence. I then downloaded another "Vanity Fair, Vol. II", which picked up later than the point at which I was dumped by my second attempt,and this third (and final) download also included another short novel not noted on the cover page. Furthermore, the OCR image of the "Vol II" final download had a fair number of uncorrected errors, although it was usually possible to understand what was in the original. I managed to fill in the missing chapters between my second and third downloads from a paperback I had purchased (I had only downloaded to the Nook because it is more convenient to read than a fat paperback). These problems with the descriptions of the various copies available for download limit the overall enjoyment of the reading experience. B&N needs to clear up these problems before they can expect perfect scores!
    The novel is well worth the effort, however.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2011


    Jumps around
    Paragraphs repeat
    Chapters missing
    A waste of money

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    a very good classic novel

    I just finished reading vanity fair and was very pleased with the book. There were some parts that were alittle boring but the rest of the book makes up for it. The ending, in particular, could not have been better. This is a very big book and does take alot of time to read, however, it is well worth it. I read Anna korenina right before Vanity Fair, and I have to say that this one is much better. Vanity Fair is definately going into my book collection.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2011

    Great Writer, Awful Character!!!

    Excellently written, yet I have never, ever so disliked a heroine. I couldn't feel concern for such an awful character and was awaiting her demise with glee!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2007

    Personal favorite...

    This is my favorite book of all time, so clearly I am a biased reviewer. That said, there are many reasons for why that is so. The character of Becky Sharp is engaging and well-developed--beautiful, witty and ambitious, she is capable of manipulating her way through society at any cost, even that of 'implied' murder. Thackeray's range in the novel is tremendous: he takes us from the drawing-rooms of the great Lord Steyne, to the country parsonage of Bute Crawley, to the battlefields of Waterloo and back again. His delineations of social class are equally widespread, and delightfully perceptive. Additionally, the Barnes and Noble edition happens to have an extremely good introduction and notes--which cannot be said for every title in their classics series. I think I need not say that it is superior to the movie in every way imaginable 'although, granted, the film was not bad'. Highly, highly recommended.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2007

    Ahhh... Classic!

    The difference between right and wrong- who doesn't know it? This book is all around amazing. You know, before reading Vanity Fair, I had no idea how bad the magazine disgraces this great book. I loved it! It's not like it goes into detail about who is cheating and such like a country song, but shows what is wrong and write. It also simply shows the dark side of this seemingly innocent era.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2005

    Incredible Classic from Thackeray

    William Thackeray's Vanity Fair is, by far, one of the most amazing works of fiction I have ever read. Unlike most authors of his age (especially those who wrote similar serials), Thackeray remains the consummate third-person satirist, creating characatures of some of the greatest minds in England of the time. Reading Vanity Fair was like eating the richest possible chocolate. Do not be turned off by the size, Vanity Fair is well worth the time.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    Astute and laugh-out-loud funny.

    This is an epic social satire with spot-on observation and biting commentary. The characters are wholly believable and recognizable, even in today's society. I must add that it is very, very long, and to be fully appreciated probably needs to be read at a leisurely pace. Set aside a week's worth of spare time. You'll be amply rewarded.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    Surprisingly Awesome

    I always thought that this would be a drag to read because it looked like a snobby, long Victorian novel. However, once I started reading it, I was addicted.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Vanity Vair

    I loved reading Vanity Fair. Rebecca Sharp is one of the most evil but intelligent characters I have ever read! Thackeray reminds me alot of Charles Dickens by the way he describes the characters and the enviornment they live in.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2006

    Colorful, lively, and enchanting

    Vanity Fair is not a short novel. It is long, and has many difficult words (so get a dictionary). However, by assiduously following the plot, one is quickly enchanted by the characters, and the intricately woven plot. It's a novel that needs some work to be appreciated, but the footnotes (with translations of the occasional French dialogue and cultural notes)are helpful in achieving this task. I finished the novel after reading it in installments for half a year, and it made me more aware of Victorian culture than any history book ever could. It's historical, romantic, and comedic. I'd give it six stars if I could.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2006

    Great Novel

    While it may be long, it is far from boring. Thackery makes hilarious commentaries on British society.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2005

    Beautiful Classic

    Drama and comedy mix beautifully in this period character study. The story line does not necessarily go where the reader anticipates; but it is never disappointing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2004


    W.M.Thackeray did a wonderful job in grasping the convictions and the rationalisms of the 19 Century in England. The book is filled with over a dozen truly genuine characters who have much to teach us about the true characters of men and women in circumstances of much opulence and poverty. In the story one of the pivotal characters , Becky overcomes many of the social barriers imposed by her low station in society by using her charms, magnetism and charisma to raise her self in society. The Barnes & Nobles Classics Editions was much helpful for it provided; critical background information and important language translations which made the text a lot more agreeable. Due to the fact that the book was published in installment its lengthy and requires a significantly long time to finish reading it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2005

    Life is not long enough

    The story was a very intriguing one. I would recommend an shortened, abridged version of this book. The book is about 800-900 pages long. I feel that the story could have been successfully told, without loosing any credibility and intensity, in about 400-500 pages. In my opinion there were far too many details. 300 pages into the book and the story finally started to unravel. Often times it became harder to stay with characters and the story when you are being bombarded with meaningles, and frivoulous details. Do yourself a favor and watch the movie, unless you have a few hours to kill.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2002

    Cannot Recommend Highly Enough

    The story of blind ambition and blinder honesty manages to be several things at once: it is laugh-out-loud funny and at some points tragic; it is a what-will-happen next potboiler and a philosophical exploration; it offers bleak cynicism and surprising tenderness. Perhaps what helps it to work is the fact that it was published in chapter-long installments, and Thackeray needed to keep the public coming back. But it's much more than just a soap opera. The emotional range is hugely impressive, on occasion it moves from farce to tragedy within a single sentence. The book has a surprisingly modern feel to it, considering its age. With most classics you have to steel yourself a little bit to get through them. This was quite the opposite for me: I looked forward to every opportunity to read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2015


    M'kay. Sorry for the confusioj..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2015

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2014


    Well isn't that lovely. Hope to see you soon, Four V.V

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