Saturday, June 18, 2011

Readalong: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

I am participating in the readalong of Vanity Fair by William Thackeray, hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey. This is the first post of two for Vanity Fair.

I am halfway through the novel now, the first 34 chapters are behind me. This is my first time reading Vanity Fair  and so far it reminds me of the characters from Gone with the Wind and the scope of War and Peace. The subtitle of the novel is 'A Novel without a Hero,' which hints at the fact that most of the characters are not good people, similar to Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Notably, Becky Sharp, in Vanity Fair, is a selfish girl who knows how to connive and beguile people to get her way.

Becky can be very sweet and gentle when it suits her, which is how she behaves through most of the beginning of the novel, but then she shows her true colors more and more as moves through the ranks of people. Many of the other characters also use each other for their own gain, either money or social connections. The superficial and selfish connections between the characters really drive home the point that this is a novel without a hero and Thackeray's criticism of wealth.
There are a few good characters, namely Amelia, who befriended Becky when she was poor and lonely, and Dobbins, who is in love with Amelia but still helps his friend to marry her. Although Thackeray includes these inherently good characters, so far at least, nothing good has happened to them. They suffer needlessly because of the selfishness of those around them. Therefore, they are not heroes but victims to society.

Although there really doesn't appear to be a hero in Vanity Fair, I'm still drawn into the story. I love that it covers the lives of many different characters so that we get a feel for the whole society rather than just one or a few characters. I also appreciate Thackeray's/the narrators interjections into the story. At first I was annoyed that he interrupted the story but then I began to find them humorous, my favorite times are when the narrator says that he is not privy to certain information, like what a character is thinking at that moment.... but come on, we get the feeling that this is an omniscient narrator, so why do they not know what the character is thinking?!

I'm looking forward to finishing Vanity Fair  because I want to see how it ends for a lot of the characters, especially Becky and Amelia. Will Becky get her comeuppance and Amelia be rewarded or is that not how it works in Vanity Fair?

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