“Vanity Fair” is an English novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. The book was originally published as a serial entitled “Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Life”, and was available in illustrated pamphlets which had been hand drawn by Thackeray himself. In 1848 it was published as a novel and the subtitle, “A novel without a hero” was added to reflect the moral ambiguity of the central characters. The story is framed as a puppet play with an unreliable narrator in Thackeray. It has been immensely successful since it’s publication and is seen today as one of the first quintessential Victorian novels. The novel has received many film adaptations as well as other adaptations.
The story of the novel is that of two girls who meet in school, Rebecca Sharp, and Amelia Sedley. After leaving school, the girls remain, friends and Amelia, brings the orphan Rebecca into her home to meet her family. Rebecca, however, is an extremely manipulative, grasping woman who is only interested in marrying up. At first, she sets her designs on Amelia’s brother but then eventually has to leave to start a new career as a governess in the Crawley household. Rebecca charms everyone she meets, and she marries the young Mr. Crawley within months, hoping that he is heir to his elderly aunt’s fortune. Unfortunately, the aunt is upset by marriage and takes Rebecca’s husband, Rawdon out of her will.
Meanwhile, Rawdon, Amelia’s new husband, George and his best friend, Dobbin are sent to Germany to fight Napoleon’s army. During the battle of Waterloo, George dies, and Amelia is heartbroken but shortly afterward learns that she is pregnant with his child. Rebecca is also pregnant but not as enthusiastic about having a child. Many years pass with Amelia raising her son and Rebecca and Rawdon going from country to country, making their way up into high society and then eventually having to flee the country to avoid their creditors.
After a while, Rawdon catches Rebecca with another man and divorces her, taking their son away. Dobbin admits that he has been in love with Amelia for years and they eventually marry. Rawdon soon dies, and his son inherits his families estate. He and Amelia, Dobbin and their children live in London as happy neighbors while Rebecca disappears to live out her life alone.
At Miss Pinkerton’s academy for young ladies, two girls named Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley are departing the school to be sent to a position at the lexicographer’s. Miss Pinkerton sends them a letter praising Amelia’s character and kindness. The letter includes a short note about Becky, who is traveling with Amelia but will be moving on to a family who is expecting her in their household for employment.
As the two girls get into the carriage, a teacher gives them the schools traditional parting gift of a dictionary but Becky throws hers out of the window much to everyone’s surprise. Rebecca, unlike Amelia, does not have rich parents, but was the offspring of a French mother and a starving artist father who was physically abusive to both Rebecca and her mother. Because of her less fortunate situation, Rebecca developed a more saucy attitude and wit than the other girls at the school and as a result she found the school incredibly boring.
Miss Pinkerton went out of her way to try to humble Rebecca and in the end she finally gave up and got rid of her by setting her up with a position as a governess for the Crawley family. Rebecca and Amelia are friend as Amelia was the only other girl who would talk to Rebecca at the school. Amelia invited Rebecca to stay at her home for a few days before she leaves to begin her governess job.
When the girls arrive at Amelia’s house, Rebecca meets Amelia’s brother, Joseph who is very shy and awkward around her. Rebecca, who is not shy and awkward at all, decides at once that she wants to marry Joseph and loudly whispers to Amelia that she thinks that he is handsome. After dinner, Mr. Sedley tells Joseph that he thinks that Rebecca is interested in him and Joseph becomes uncomfortable and leaves the house, staying away for two days.
Despite her lack of breeding, Mr. Sedley thinks that Rebecca would be a good match for his son as she would bring him out of his shell, but Mrs. Sedley is less than pleased by their potential courtship. As Joseph and Rebecca begin to grow closer and spend some time alone, the narrative explores the life of George Osborne, Amelia’s suitor.
George and Amelia have been friends since they were children. George attended a notable school where he becomes close friends with William Dobbin, the leader of the school. Dobbin is now an officer in the Regiment of Foot and George invites him to Vauxhall to stay with them. When Dobbin arrives, he comes into the room just as Amelia is singing and falls instantly in love with her.
Everyone waits for Joseph to propose to Amelia but he does not, an after becoming so nervous that he gets drunk at dinner, Joseph leaves to go to Scotland from embarrassment. Rebecca is angry at George as she leaves the Sedleys. Rebecca travels the home of Sir Pitt Crawley. She is excited about meeting a baronet but when she meets Sir Pitt she is disappointed that he is a loud and crude man although he is richer than even the Sedleys.
The narrative then tells us about the Crawley’s. Sir Pitt was once married to a noblewoman but he hated that she had a higher station than him and he vowed to never marry another woman richer than he. His second wife was once a beautiful girl but he was physically abusive to her and often drunk. He now lives in debt which was incurred by him and his father and is unable to work since it is considered impolite for a man of his station.
Lady Crawly, or Rose is Sir Pitt’s second wife who married the man for his money, leaving behind the man she actually loved. She is hated by her old friends because of her new station and hated by those in her new station because they do not think she deserves it. She has lost her beauty over the years due to tragedy and grief. Sir Pitt’s eldest son from his first marriage, Mr. Crawley is a very polite gentleman. He is Lady Crawley’s only friend. He was a lawyer for a while and involved in freeing the slaves. He is also a religious speaker and his father owes him a great deal of money from his mother’s death
Rebecca sets out to endear herself to everyone in the household. Rebecca tutors the Crawley’s two young daughters, Violet and Camilla. She begins reading Lady Crawley’s favorite books so that she can discuss them with her, reading law papers for Sir Pitt and pretending that she needs help translating French passages with the son.
Sir Pitt has another son, Rawdon who hates Mr. Crawley and is never at the house. Their aunt who loves everything French, prefers Rawdon and paid for his schooling but she considers Mr. Crawley a “milksop”. Rebecca becomes friends with Lady Crawley and writes to Amelia about the house. She says that Rawdon seems to be paying a lot of attention to her. The butler mentions to Sir Pitt that Rebecca would be a good match for Rawdon and implies that she might be a good match for Sir Pitt as well.
Meanwhile, Amelia worries that George is ignoring her. George is thought of as a playboy in the military and Dobbin becomes so angry at his friends behavior that he blurts out that George is engaged to a nice young lady (Amelia). George gets angry at Dobbin for interfering and Dobbin accuses George of being ashamed or bored with Amelia. George rejects this. Dobbin begs George to do something nice for Amelia and gives him money to do so. However, George spends the money on himself and goes to visit Amelia empty handed.
George invites her to dine with his sisters while he goes out on the town and gambles. Old Osborne, George’s father is a nasty and cynical old man. He does not like Amelia and is disappointed to find her in his house. Although George and Amelia have been betrothed since childhood because of a deal between their fathers, Old Osborne feels that he has already repaid Sedley enough and begs George not to marry Amelia unless she can bring 10,000 pounds with her.
The Crawley’s aunt, Matilda falls ill, and Rebecca is sent to take care of her. Matilda invites Amelia and George to come for dinner one night after meeting them with Rebecca. Rebecca is cold to George as she still blames him for her situation with Joseph.
While Rebecca is away, Lady Crawley passes away from an illness. Soon after she dies, Sir Pitt visits Rebecca at Matilda’s house and proposes to her. However, Rebecca informs him through tears over the missed opportunity, that she is already married. Sir Pitt assumes that she is just lying to refuse his proposal, but Matilda believes her and decides to suss out who her husband may be.
Becky is upset by the loss of the fortune she would have had in marrying Sir Pitt and worried that Matilda will be angry with her. She writes a letter to “Eliza Styles” saying that Sir Pitt proposed to her but that their inheritance is secure because of their relationship with Miss Crawley. The narrator reveals that the “Eliza” that the letter is addressed to is actually Rawdon.
Rawdon and Rebecca discovered they were in love some months earlier and harangued Amelia into appearing with them in front of a judge so that they could be legally married. Rawdon has already bought a house for them to live in together. Rebecca’s secret is outed soon, and upon learning the truth, Aunt Matilda faints while Sir Pitt becomes enraged.
Meanwhile, the Sedley’s fall into hard times and must auction off their things. Amelia’s beloved piano is being sold, but Dobbin secretly buys it and gives it back to her. She believes that it was George who did so.
A month after the secret wedding, Rebecca gets pushed aside as Aunt Matilda’s caretaker. She and Rawdon worry that they have ruined their chances of getting any part of the sought after fortune. George’s father uses the Sedley’s financial hardships to finally break the engagement between George and Amelia, and Amelia accepts this news with grace. Dobbin continues to defend Amelia to everyone who will listen and insist that she has no control over her situation and should be respected.
Matilda’s new caretaker, the scheming former neighbor of the Crawley’s, Mrs. Bute, takes it upon herself to look into Rebecca’s past. She visits Mrs. Pinkerton and discovers that Rebecca’s mother was an opera dancer and that Rebecca used to dance as well. She also learns about Rebecca’s father’s drinking and money problems.
Mrs. Bute takes Aunt Matilda to Brighton to keep her away from Rebecca. Meanwhile, George and his father have another fight over a woman that Old Osborne intends to marry his son to. George storms out and tells Dobbin that he intends to marry Amelia the next day in rebellion. George and Amelia do marry the next day and Dobbin is the only witness to the event. They honeymoon in Brighton and happen to bump into Rawdon and Rebecca who are there as well. Rebecca and George reconcile their friendship.
Rebecca and Rawdon have been avoiding their creditors by moving frequently and hoping to inherit Aunt Matilda’s fortune. While they are vacationing, Dobbin shows up one day to reveal that the military has been called to Belgium. Dobbin has managed to get some of George’s mother’s inheritance from Old Osborne, but George is dismayed to see that it is only 2000 pounds. Dobbin suggests that he learns to live modestly, but George only scoffs at that.
Both Amelia and Rebecca decide to accompany their husbands to Belgium which worries Dobbin as he still loves Amelia and does not want her to be in danger. Mrs. Bute has to leave Aunt Matilda’s service, and Rebecca sees this as a time to ingratiate herself to the old woman again. She sends Aunt Matilda a letter, and Matilda agrees to meet with Rawdon and her lawyer. Rawdon is frustrated to learn that she has only left him 20,000 pounds in her will.
Amelia begins to worry about the developing friendship between Rebecca and George but Rebecca is only pretending to be kind to George in order to get him to pay off the gambling debt that he owes Rawdon. George meets with his regiment and Amelia meets Major O’Dowd, the commander and his wife, Mrs. O’Dowd. Mrs. O’Dowd takes a liking to Amelia and tells her that she is interested in getting Joseph Sedley to marry her sister, Glorvina. The group, including Joseph, travel to Brussels to meet up with the rest of their regiment. The wealthiest army men meet up for what the author describes as a “military festival” when they reach Brussels. They are all confident that Napoleon will lose the war.
Rebecca charms her way through Brussels high society quickly which worries Dobbin as he finds her dishonest and dangerous. All of the group attend the Duke’s ball where Rebecca is the star of the party. George ignores Amelia for Rebecca’s company for most of the party, and Amelia asks Dobbin to escort her back to her room. While the ball is still going on, the regiment receives their orders, and the men begin to truly worry about their wives.
Rawdon worries that if he dies, he will not be leaving Rebecca with any money to support herself and regrets not having provided her with more since she makes him so happy. He decides to leave behind his newer uniform and tells her that if he is killed she can sell off everything of his to compensate. Rebecca, only concerned about her financial security, remains stoic through this speech.
However, Amelia, frightened that she will lose her beloved husband, is less composed. Dobbin makes Joseph promise to look after her, as Joseph is a civilian and Joseph is confused as to why George is not the one instructing him to do this. But George bids his wife farewell and goes to war enthusiastically. Amelia becomes ill after his departure and takes to bed. When Rebecca looks in on her, Amelia lashes out at her for flirting with George before he left. Rebecca is surprised by this and calls Mrs. O’Dowd to calm Amelia down.
Joseph hears news that the Duke of Wellington’s army has been defeated, meaning that Napoleon won the battle. He is shocked by this and becomes so scared of being captured that he readies himself to leave Brussels in civilian clothing on his own. He tries to bring Amelia with him but she vows to stay in town until she can see George again. The news of the defeat spreads through town and the English citizens become desperate to get away from the town. Rebecca is determined to earn as much money as she can selling her things before she leaves.
Soon, news spreads that the first outcome of the battle was incorrect and that the Duke’s army is still fighting and has now pushed the French back. Dobbin sends an ensign back to town to tell Amelia that he and George are safe. Soon after Joseph leaves town, however, George dies in battle.
The narrative leaves Brussels and moves back to the Crawley family. Aunt Matilda learns that Rawdon has received honors in battle, but she can only think that he still married below him. Sir Pitt has spiraled even farther into alcoholism since Rebecca refused him. His son has been left to manage all of the household affairs. Meanwhile, Becky and Rawdon move to Paris where they live a high life and Rebecca charms, once again, everyone she meets. The couple has a son and name him after his father.
This new heir worries Matilda who encourages Sir Pitt’s second son to marry and promises him a yearly allowance and most of her inheritance. Old Osborne hears that his son has died in battle and takes it as judgment for his son’s behavior. Dobbin delivers a letter that George wrote to his father begging him to give Amelia some money if he dies. George is buried in Brussels and Osborne travels to see his sons grave. While there he sees Amelia and Dobbin but avoids speaking with them.
Amelia is still grieving heavily when she discovers that she is pregnant with George’s child. The child is a boy which she names Georgy, and his presence reinvigorates her as he reminds her of George. However, she becomes overly protective of the child and won’t allow anyone near him but Dobbin. Dobbin tries to get Old Osborne to give the child an allowance, but Osborne refuses. Dobbin brings Amelia and the baby back to England to live with her family and visits her frequently. Soon, though he realizes that he cannot stay with her anymore as he is too in love with her. He leaves to rejoin his regiment.
Rebecca spends her time at the height of Paris high society while Rawdon gambles away money that he does not have. Rebecca sends her son away to a nursemaid because she doesn’t care to be around him but Rawdon visits the boy everyday and dotes on him. In order to leave France and return home, Rebecca makes up ridiculous lies about Aunt Matilda so that she will manage to wriggle her way out of some of her debts. Rawdon and Rebecca move into a mansion owned by the Crawley’s former butler and extort him so much that they eventually drive him out of the house altogether.
Rebecca works her way up the ranks of society again and becomes popular with many of the noblemen including one named Lord Styne. Aunt Matilda passes away and leaves only 100 pounds to Rawdon and the rest to his brother. Rebecca encourages Rawdon to reconcile with his brother so that they can have some of the money.
Rawdon’s brother, Pitt has since married a woman named Jane who is a Lady. Rebecca is convinced that Lady Jane will give her a leg up in London society. Lady Jane does encourage her husband to give his brother half of Aunt Matilda’s inheritance, but Pitt refuses. While in London, by chance Rawdon bumps into Amelia and her son, Georgy. Georgy and little Rawdon become fast friends.
The narrative then returns to the Sedley’s side of the story. After fleeing from Waterloo, Joseph was too ashamed to return to England and instead traveled to India. He sends money to his family every year which is their only support. Amelia’s father John is no longer working but is trying to get his job back. Dobbin tries to help in anyway he can. Amelia dotes on her son constantly and is unaware of men all over town falling in love with her. She receives proposals but turns them all down as she is still mourning George. Dobbin continues to pay for her living arrangements and fabricated an inheritance from George after his death.
George’s sisters visit Amelia one day to say that they have heard that Dobbin is marrying Glorvina O’Dowd and she claims to be happy about the news but is surprised to find that she is tearing up.
Meanwhile, Sir Pitt’s estate has fallen into ruin, and he has let his mistress, Ms. Horrocks take over the management of it. He lets her run everything but forbids her from taking his dead wife’s jewelry. One day Mrs. Bute visits the estate to find Ms. Horrocks stealing the jewelry. Mrs. Bute threatens to have her arrested. But Sir Pitt is, at this point, ill from a lifetime of drinking. He dies with his younger son and Mrs. Bute by his side, leaving Young Pitt in control of the estate.
Rebecca and Rawdon attend the funeral. Young Pitt notices that Rawdon has become a better person since his marriage and offered to pay for Little Rawdon’s schooling. This makes Rebecca feel guilty, and for the first time she regrets her lifestyle and wishes that she had the money to pay back all of the debts that she has accrued.
Dobbin goes to India with his regiment, and although he is aware that Glorvina has designs on him, he is still in love with Amelia. She writes him a letter saying that she is happy that he is getting married and he is upset by this. He then receives a letter from his sister saying that Amelia is marrying a reverend and Georgy’s custody is being transferred to Mr. Osborne. Dobbin leaves India to return to London at once.
Rebecca decides to renovate her home and she and the young Sir Pitt bond somewhat over the talk of the renovations. She manages to hint to him that she and Rawdon need money. Rebecca entertains many noblemen in her home, and the servants become suspicious of this. One day while she is singing for a marquis, Little Rawdon walks into the room, and she hits him for the interruption.
Young Sir Pitt begins to think that Rebecca understands him more than his wife does. This makes Lady Jane jealous, and she begins to dislike Rebecca.
Amelia’s family falls into extreme poverty as Joseph stops sending checks. Amelia tries to stay positive and sends Georgy off to school where he does very well. Old Osborne tries to offer Amelia a deal. He wants to raise Georgy into the heir that George should have been. This would give Amelia a chance to remarry and give Georgy a proper childhood and education. However, it would mean that Amelia would rarely get to see her son. Amelia is upset by the decision and refuses to answer his letter for a while.
Sir Pitt is made the High Sheriff of the Country and decides that he wants to present Rebecca at court. Rebecca is ecstatic, as meeting the king is the height of London society. She wears an extravagant dress which contains jewels that were given to her by Lord Steyne and Sir Pitt and when Lady Jane asks about the jewels, Rebecca lies and says that she rented them. Rebecca’s meeting with the king makes the papers and she begins receiving highly sought after dinner invitations from the wealthiest women in London as a result. Rebecca manages to finagle a loan from Lord Steyne in order to appear that she has a lot of money during these dinner.
However, shortly before the first dinner party Lord Steyne discovers that Rebecca isn’t invited after all. Enraged, he yells at the woman hosting the party and forces her to invite Rebecca. She does, but all of the ladies at the party conspire to keep Rebecca on the outside of all conversations and niceties. Rebecca, of course, charms the male guests at the party and Lady Steyne by singing.
At the Sedley’s, Amelia is still desperately trying to earn money so she does not have to send her son away. Her father confesses that he has been paying off his creditors with the money that Joseph is sending to them. Hopeless, Amelia turns Georgy over to his grandfather. Georgy begins acting snobbish and critical like his grandfather right away. Amelia spends her time lingering outside of the house and catching glimpses of the pair when they go to church. Rebecca continues to increase her social standing in both English and French society and achieving so many of her goals begins to make her grow bored. Rebecca also spends much time with other men which worries Rawdon and makes him feel that he and his wife are growing apart. One day, while walking home from a party alone, he is arrested for not paying his debts.
A few months earlier, Lord Steyne agreed to finance Little Rawdon’s education, and the boy was sent away to a boarding school. Rebecca is glad to see her son go but Rawdon misses the boy and visits him frequently. Lord Steyne and Rebecca have a falling out over the money that he has loaned her, but she lies and says that Rawdon was the one who asked for the money.
Rawdon asks Rebecca to send him money to get out of prison. She writes back saying that she is ill and will have to wait till the next day to get him out. Rawdon writes to his brother instead and Lady Jane comes to bail him out. When Rawdon returns home, he finds Rebecca and Lord Steyne holding hands in the dining room while she is wearing diamonds that Steyne gave her. Rawdon yells at her and strikes Lord Steyne. He then pulls off Rebecca’s jewelry and throws it at Steyne. Rawdon demands the key to Rebecca’s locked box and inside finds love letter, jewelry and thousands of pounds. He is horrified that she was hoarding money away while he lives in debt. Rawdon walks out that night and asks his brother the next day to look after his son for him as he intends to fight Steyne in a duel.
Rebecca rushes to Sir Pitt and begs him to help her reconcile with his brother. However, Lady Jane walks in on them together and gets the wrong idea, assuming that they are lovers. She demands that her husband chooses between them and storms out. Pitt promises to help Rebecca. Rawdon finds that he has been awarded a governorship by Lord Steyne. Rawdon’s friends encourage him to forgive Lord Steyne and call of the duel. They tell him that Rebecca was only pretending to be interested in Steyne to get Rawdon the governorship. Rawdon finally agrees and moves to Coventry Island. Rebecca disappears.
Georgy is a very intelligent and commanding boy and despite the custody agreement, does get to visit Amelia often. One day Georgy sees Dobbin and confesses to him that Amelia talks about him all the time. Dobbin and Amelia reunite and Dobbin is overjoyed to see that Amelia did not marry the Reverend as he had heard. Mrs. Sedley dies and Joseph returns to his family to care for them. The Sedley’s move into a larger house. Amelia realizes that Dobbin is the one who saved her beloved piano all those years before and Dobbin admits his love to her. However, Amelia admits that she is not over George and that she never intends to marry again. She promises that she loves Dobbin like a brother and wants to be his dear friend.
The Sedleys have a run of good fortune, and Georgy becomes friends with his uncle and Dobbin. Amelia reenters high society, and she reconnects with her old friends.
Mr. Sedley dies, and Mr. Osborne admits to Georgy that Sedley was a much better man than he. Mr. Osborne soon dies as well. It is revealed that he left half of his inheritance to Georgy and his given Amelia her custody of her son back. He also left Dobbin enough money to make him a colonel. Amelia, Dobbin, Georgy and Joseph take a vacation to Europe and Amelia begins to grow even closer with Dobbin and wonder if she might love him after all.
One night, Georgy slips away from his family and joins a gambling table at a festival in town. He sits next to a mysterious masked woman, and the two begin talking. Dobbin finds him at the table and scolds him. Joseph joins the two and recognizes the woman in the mask as Rebecca who has taken on the name Madame de Raudon.
The narrator informs us that Rawdon divorced Rebecca and left her with only a small alimony. She tries to go to Sir Pitt, but Lord Steyne sends a messenger to tell him what she has done. With her reputation in tatters and her creditors hounding her, Rebecca leaves the continent to return to France.
In Paris, she finds her grandmother, but the woman wants nothing to do with her and is disgusted by her poverty. She discovers that Lord Steyne has died in Naples. Rebecca tells Joseph how her life has been and immodestly lies about her hard times and blames her friends for everything.
Joseph tells the others that he has found Rebecca and they initially refuse to see her until he tells them that she has said that Rawdon took her son from her. This moves Amelia, as she is devastated at the idea of a mother losing a child. Amelia sees Rebecca again and the two are emotional over the reunion. Rebecca weaves a false tale about her entire marriage being a sham and Rawdon insisting she become Steyne’s lover so that he could be promoted to Governor. She claims that she asked him for a divorce.
As they are talking, Dobbin speaks with two men in the hotel about Rebecca and learns that she is once again in trouble. Amelia swayed by Rebecca’s story and tells Dobbin that she wants the woman to move in with them. Dobbin refuses and accidentally implies that Rebecca was in an inappropriate relationship with George before he died. Amelia is furious that Dobbin would say such a thing and storms out of the room. Dobbin leaves to find out more about Rebecca and while he is gone Amelia sets up Rebecca in the guest room. When Dobbin returns he tries to tell her what he has found out but she refuses to listen.
Dobbin speaks to Amelia and tells her that he is pained that she wouldn’t believe him and that she is so willing to believe Rebecca. He leaves, and Amelia does not stop him and won’t allow Georgy to say goodbye. Rebecca listens at the door and begins to feel bad that she has caused this. She gives Georgy a letter to give to Dobbin and helps him sneak out to say goodbye.
Rebecca and her friends move into to Amelia’s house, and Amelia immediately regrets her decision. She writes to Dobbin to come back. Rebecca gives Amelia a letter that George gave to her before the battle of Waterloo. In it, George begs Rebecca to run away with him. Amelia finally realizes that Dobbin was right all along and that George was unfaithful. Dobbin returns to her, and they marry. They soon have another child named Janey.
Meanwhile, Rebecca manages to manipulate Joseph into giving her all of his money. He then dies unexpectedly, and it is implied that Rebecca had something to do with it. Rawdon and Sir Pitt soon die as well, and Little Rawdon becomes the master of the Crawley fortune. Amelia and Dobbin live next to Little Rawdon, and they become friends. No one bothers to associate with Rebecca any longer although her son does send her an allowance.
Rebecca Sharp – the main character of the novel. Rebecca is a headstrong woman who is obsessed with obtaining money and status. As a child, she is given up by her parents and sent to a school for young girls. She befriends Amelia while in school as everyone else in the school-including the teachers – dislikes her. Rebecca slips so easily into manipulation tactics once she leaves school that it is obvious that she has been doing them already for some time. After meeting Joseph Sedley, she immediately begins faking attraction to him because she understands that marriage to him would make her wealthy.
However, as she moves up in the world and meets richer men she drops Joseph and begins appealing to them instead. Eventually she marries Rawdon with the expectation that he will inherit his aunt’s fortune when she dies, although things do not work out this way. Rebecca seems to have a power over men that she fully realizes and controls and whether this is due more to her looks or her charm is debatable. However, she is heavily manipulative at heart and seems to truly love no one but herself. She sees everyone around her as a mark and is constantly coming up with ways to trick them out of money. She even dislikes her own son and is not sad to be parted from him in the end. She is terrible with money and must move around constantly to avoid her creditors although it is revealed that she has the money to pay them off at one point in the novel.
However, Rebecca is so obsessed with money and precious things that she only wishes to collect them and never to repay her debts. In the end, Rebecca is alone and probably still evading her creditors. Although she ostensibly kills Joseph for his money, she probably still refuses to spend it.
Amelia Sedley – the second main character of the novel. The story introduces both Rebecca and Amelia in the first chapter and then follows the lives of both, incredibly different women as they progress. In contrast to Rebecca, Amelia is a kind-hearted, soft-spoken person. She has many friends at Miss Pinkerton’ school as a child and continues to make many friends throughout her life.
However, this kind-heartedness does sometimes make her naive and easily manipulated, especially by Rebecca. Amelia’s first husband, George, treats her very poorly as does Rebecca. Amelia stays in love with George, refusing to believe that he cheated on her for years after his death until Rebecca herself finally reveals the truth.
Amelia is often the victim in the novel. The victim of her family’s financial woes, Rebecca’s ruthlessness, George’s cruelness and society as a whole. However, she remains determined in the face of all of her hardship and takes good care of her son, becoming obsessed with providing for him and making sure that he is healthy. Because of this perseverance, at the end of the book, it is Amelia who gets the happy ending with her fortune and son returned to her.
William Dobbin – George’s best friend and fellow soldier. George is one of the only heroic characters in the story which is not consumed by vanity at some point. He is kind and sincere and does not expect anything for it. Although the reader is not privy to as many of his inner thoughts as other characters, it is obvious when he falls in love with Amelia and what his true feelings for her are.
Although he is in love with her and does not feel that George treats her well, Dobbin respects his friend and keeps his love for Amelia a secret for many years. Dobbin is very humble, and there are many scenes in the book when he submits during arguments even though he is obviously on the right.
However, Dobbin suffers from a lack of speaking up for himself, and as a result, he hides secrets and his love for Amelia in what he feels is a noble way for so long that we can assume he waited most of his life for her.
Rawdon Crawley – Rebecca’s husband. Rebecca first meets Rawdon when she is sent to the Crawley house to work as a governess for his two younger sisters. Rawdon is a textbook playboy and gambler who clashes with his family because of his laid back lifestyle. However, after he and Rebecca marry in secret it is Rawdon who regrets the marriage first. After he realizes that she is very open with other men and finally when he realizes that she is cheating on him with Lord Steyne, Rawdon seems to undergo a transformation into a more mature individual. This comes in part when Little Rawdon is born and Rawdon surprisingly displays the actions of a good father, appreciating and doting on his son and keeping him in mind over all else. Rawdon chooses to divorce Rebecca and take their son away from her and not much else is heard of him until he dies several years later.
William Makepeace Thackeray Biography
William Makepeace Thackeray was born July 18, 1811, in Calcutta, India into a wealthy English merchant family. In 1829, Thackeray entered the University of Cambridge. Leaving the university without taking his degree, he attempted to develop his literary and artistic abilities, first as the editor of a short-lived journal and then as an art student in Paris.
In 1836, he married Isabella Gethin Shawe, and the two had three daughters together. Thackeray began working as a satirist and parodist and wrote under pseudonyms so that he could attack London high society and it’s warped ideals in his books. Thackeray’s first published work was “The Yellowish Papers” in 1837, and his first novel was “Catherine” published between 1839 and 1840 in Fraser’s Magazine.
Throughout their marriage, Isabella, unfortunately, suffered from depression and suicidal attempts. Eventually, her mental state deteriorated to the point that she had to be homed with a professional nurse. Thackeray never remarried and lived as a de facto widower for the rest of his life.
In 1840, despite financial hardship and the mental illness of his wife, Thackeray produced “The Paris Sketchbook,” one of two travel books that he created. Thackeray published many novels through serialized versions in magazines, including his most famous novel, “Vanity Fair” (1848).
After the success of Vanity Fair, Thackeray suffered some mellowing of his satire and began to see less and less success. During his lifetime, Thackeray was, if not highly respected, as least a very highly read author. He was, at that time, ranked second only to Charles Dickens in readership. In recent years, however, he is less widely read and primarily known for ‘Vanity Fair’ which is still considered a classic work of Victorian literature.
During the 1850’s, Thackeray’s health worsened, and he suffered a stroke on December 29th, 1863 and was found dead at home the following morning at the age of fifty-two. His death was a cause for national mourning, and some 7,000 people attended his funeral at Kensington Gardens in London.