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Vanity Fair


Vanity Fair Summary

"Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero" is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, first published in 1847-48. It satirizes society in early 19th-century Britain, focusing on the lives and adventures of two main characters, Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley.

Themes and Characters

  • Becky Sharp, the novel's central figure, is an ambitious and cunning woman who rises from her lowly status as the daughter of an art teacher and a French opera dancer. She uses her wit, charm, and lack of scruples to secure herself a more advantageous position in society.

  • Amelia Sedley, in contrast, is kind, gentle, and naive. Coming from a wealthy family, her journey is one of descent rather than ascent, experiencing the loss of fortune and the challenges of living according to her values in a materialistic world.

Key Themes

  1. Social Climbing and Morality: Thackeray explores the corrupting influence of a society obsessed with wealth and status, illustrating how characters navigate, manipulate, or fall victim to these societal pressures.
  2. War and Peace: The backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars adds a layer of complexity, affecting the characters' fortunes and testing their true mettle.
  3. Illusion vs. Reality: The novel frequently contrasts the superficial appearances that characters maintain with their actual circumstances or characters, highlighting the pervasive deception within "Vanity Fair."

Plot Overview

The narrative spans several decades, tracing Becky and Amelia's lives from their time at Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies through their marriages, family lives, and various social machinations. Becky marries Rawdon Crawley, partly to gain entry into higher social circles, but her schemes eventually lead to isolation and financial distress. Amelia marries George Osborne, but her life is marred by his early death and her struggle with poverty, before eventually finding happiness with William Dobbin, George's best friend who has always loved her.


"Vanity Fair" is a complex tapestry of interwoven lives and destinies, offering a critical, albeit satirical, view of Victorian society. Thackeray’s novel remains a timeless exploration of human vanity, ambition, and the search for genuine human connections amidst a superficial world.