(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
Introduction by Catherine Peters
A panoramic satire of English society during the Napoleonic Wars, Vanity Fair is William Makepeace Thackeray’s masterpiece. At its center is one of the most unforgettable characters in nineteenth-century literature: the enthralling Becky Sharp, a charmingly ruthless social climber who is determined to leave behind her humble origins, no matter the cost. Her more gentle friend Amelia, by contrast, only cares for Captain George Osborne, despite his selfishness and her family’s disapproval. As both women move within the flamboyant milieu of Regency England, the political turmoil of the era is matched by the scheming Becky’s sensational rise—and its unforeseen aftermath.
Based in part upon Thackeray’s own love for the wife of a friend, Vanity Fair portrays the hypocrisy and corruption of high society and the dangers of unrestrained ambition with epic brilliance and scathing wit.
VANITY FAIR, Thackeray's panoramic, satirical saga of corruption at all levels of English society, was published in 1847 but set during the Napoleonic Wars. It chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family. Becky's fluctuating fortunes eventually bring her to an affair with Amelia's dissolute husband; when he is killed at Waterloo, Amelia and her child are left penniless, while Becky and her husband Rawdon Crawley rise in the world, managing to lead a high life in London solely on the basis of their shrewdness. (The chapter entitled "How to Live on Nothing" is a classic.) Thackeray's subtitle, "A Novel Without a Hero," is understating the case; his view of humanity in this novel is distinctly bleak and deliberately antiheroic. Critics of the time misunderstood the book, decrying it as (among other things) vicious, vile, and odious. But VANITY FAIR has endured as one of the great comic novels of all time, and a landmark in the history of realism in fiction.
- Family + Relationships, Humor, Literary Criticism, Social Science
- European / English + Irish + Scottish + Welsh, Women's Studies, Sociology / General, Marriage, General
- September 1, 1991
- September 1, 1991
- William Makepeace Thackeray