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Vanity Fair

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A novel that 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.

867 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1847

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About the author

William Makepeace Thackeray

2,394 books882 followers
Thackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta, India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), held the high rank of secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864) was the second daughter of Harriet and John Harman Becher and was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company.

William had been sent to England earlier, at the age of five, with a short stopover at St. Helena where the imprisoned Napoleon was pointed out to him. He was educated at schools in Southampton and Chiswick and then at Charterhouse School.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_...

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5 stars
37,233 (29%)
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3 stars
31,818 (25%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,214 reviews
Profile Image for Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.).
482 reviews296 followers
July 6, 2021
Here I am, 54 years old, and for the very first time reading William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. "Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero." I disagree with Thackeray. The 'Hero' of Vanity Fair is the steadfast and stalwart William Dobbin; of that there is no doubt. This novel is not the coming of age, or bildungsroman, of Becky Sharp. No, Miss Rebecca Sharp sprang from the womb enlivened with her desire to claw her way to the top. She can't help it, and nor should she; is she really any different than any of us? No, she's not. It is her methods that vary from what you and I might use; or do they?

To me, the narrator's voice in the novel was most amazing. It seemed that at every opportune moment, the narrator took a step back and informed us, the reader, of some nugget, some little moral, that placed the actions of the participants in the Fair in context. Vanity Fair is with us, all around us; and many times we never fully understand the roles that the players play. This voice of reason grounds us; makes us understand the joy, the pain, the happiness, and the sorrow that accompanies each of us in our journey through life. If we care to, we can learn to become better parents, better husbands, better wives, and better friends.

I also learned through the course of the novel that I can't outright condemn Becky Sharp. Becky is perhaps not a woman easily liked, but she is an admirable woman, a tough woman, and a woman I can respect. Strong-minded and willed, a terrible mother, but a battle-axe to those who take her head-on. Miss Becky Sharp -- Mrs. Rawdon Crawley -- is committed to living life at its fullest, and not one jot less. She is a woman of purpose, and that is a rare quality in many people.

The novel drips with satire from page to page; it is full of wit and sardonic humor. It is through the use of satire that we realize that the characters at the Fair are us -- have been us, and always will be us -- generation after generation, and nothing will change; only the time will change. There will always be Lord Steynes, Jos Sedleys, Old Osbornes, Mother Sedleys, Sir Pitt Crawleys, Miss Crawleys, the George Osbornes, William Dobbins, and Amelias. Our task, according to Thackeray, is to figure out how best to treat them, how best to interact and understand them, how to live with them. The real challenge, however, is how best to love, appreciate, and care for the Miss Becky Sharps in our lives. We do deserve to know her, to care for her, to appreciate her for whom she is, and she deserves to be brought in from the rambunctiousness and vagaries of the Fair.

In the end, it is Miss Sharp that gains at least some measure of redemption. It is she, and she alone, that removes the mote from Amelia's eyes regarding her feelings for William Dobbin. For Becky Sharp does understand honor, virtue, and integrity (or, does she?). Thackeray finishes appropriately -- For truly it can be said, "Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? -- Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out."

A magnificent novel from start to finish.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,061 followers
March 29, 2023
Written in 1848, Vanity Fair is an excellent satire of English society in the early 19th Century. Thackeray states several times that it is a novel "without a hero", and at a couple of points tries to claim that Amelia, a good person but who inevitably comes across as rather wishy-washy, is the heroine. But we all know that a "bad" girl or boy is infinitely more interesting than a "good" girl or boy, so I suspect Thackeray of dissembling even here. Becky Sharp is out and out the anti-hero(ine) in this book, which could well have been named, "The Rise and Fall of Rebecca Sharp".

Thackeray apparently saw people as "abominably selfish and foolish", and this negative view comes across loud and clear with his use of vicious vocabulary, and his unremittingly dark portrayal of human nature. The author's voice is continually present, and his wry observations do contribute to making the novel vastly entertaining. They were also intended to make it instructive to his readers.

Interestingly the author makes a habit of commenting on particular instances of female behaviour, and drawing from this to make a general observation of all women. At first the reader is inclined to think how astute this is; how well Thackeray knows women and how unusual and refreshing it is to find this in a male writer of his day. However, these observations are invariably judgemental, whereas he tends not to apply the same maxims to his male characters. The men are seen much more as individuals. A modern reader becomes uneasy with this after a while; it begins to seem less witty and apt, and in fact rather tiresome.

Here is an example of Thackeray's views on women:

"What do men know about women's martyrdoms? We should go mad had we to endure the hundredth part of those daily pains which are meekly borne by many women. Ceaseless slavery meeting with no reward; constant gentleness and kindness met by cruelty as constant; love, labour, patience, watchfulness without even so much as the acknowlegement of a good word; all this, how many of them have to bear in quiet, and appear abroad with cheerful faces as if they felt nothing. Tender slaves that they are, they must needs be hypocrites and weak."

Thackeray's perceived audience will have been male readers, of course, and this is clear when he addresses the reader personally referring to "your wife", "your sister" or "your servants." And the audience will have been educated, land-owning white males at that. Some of the "witty" observations about an heiress from St. Kitts, or a black manservant called "Sambo" make the modern reader cringe. The author is scathing about all his characters' partialities and weaknesses, yet because he is a man of his time, culture and class, he cannot see his own prejudices, complacently considering that this is the only correct stance.

Vanity Fair was serialised in 20 monthly parts. As with other novels which were originally issued in this way, the structure is not as tight as the reader would wish. There are great swathes of writing about charades, or a play, or a battle, which are rather flabby. Some parts seem very ponderous, or lead nowhere, whereas others are extremely witty and/or exciting. Authors such as Thackeray and Dickens (to whom this applied for nearly all of his novels) would surely have wished to edit their work, or even rewritten scenes or altered characters, had they had the opportunity. It is incredible to a modern reader that they fared as well as they did under this draconian regime. And it is therefore unfair to compare this with the more structured later novels, as it is not a level playing field.

"Vanity Fair is a wicked foolish place, full of all sorts of humbugs and falsenesses and pretensions,"

states the author. This theme of "Vanity Fair" is reiterated over and over again, and throughout the reader will be thinking that nothing has changed over a century later. Thackeray's observations of human behaviour are so apposite, the descriptions of situations, personalities, expressed motives and hidden motives (which are inevitably very different) are timeless. And this of course, coupled with the deliciously droll manner of Thackeray's writing, is what makes this novel a classic. It is hugely entertaining in parts, and would have been a 5 star novel had Thackeray's voice and attitudes not been quite so dominant throughout.


Interestingly each monthly installment of Vanity Fair only ever sold 5000 copies at the most. At the same time, the hugely popular figure Charles Dickens was publishing his novel "Dombey and Son", which was also being serialised by the same publisher. Before long the episodes of "Dombey and Son" were selling 40,000 copies per month - eight times as many! Yet of the two, nowadays, probably Vanity Fair is the more popular.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.3k followers
Want to read
May 30, 2023
did authors from old times know it was possible to write something that wouldn't take future readers three months, a huge amount of confidence, and the energy of an eleven year old with a sugar rush to read?

just wondering.
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews4,021 followers
August 10, 2010
"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 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 too short than otherwise and her cheeks a good deal too round and red for a heroine..."

I just chose this passage randomly out of the first few pages of the novel to illustrate how much I love Thackeray's voice. He himself is the best character in the novel. To use theatre terminology, he definitely breaks the 4th wall into the story quite frequently. Reading it is rather like watching the play, but with periodic pauses for the playwright to jump up on stage and offer his commentary upon the action, and also upon his perceptions of the feelings of those watching his creation. (Thackeray himself terms the "Vanity Fair"- his comment on society in general- a sort of play.) This might sound annoying to some, but, really, it isn't. If you're already reading the book critically... I suppose it could also be compared to reading a chunk of a book for class and then stopping to discuss your reactions with a professor determined to make you see things beyond the surface and expose whatever prejudices you might have against the book. I loved debating with Thackeray in interpreting scenes and actions. The margins are filled with my disagreements or indulgence of his point of view. And I almost never write in books. It was irresistable in this case.

It is as interesting trying to draw a portrait of Thackeray's character as it is the rest of them. He is sometimes defensive, sometimes judgemental of his audience, at times quietly insightful, at times ironic, at times as gleeful as a child at some trick he believes he's played upon us. You can just see him cackling over his writing, clapping his hands when he thinks of something good and scribbling away furiously into the night. He makes the tale seem brightly, urgently alive just in the sheer immediacy of his feeling and force of personality.

Right. As to the story itself? Very solid, old fashioned tale of love, war, betrayal, money, family. All the standards for an epic. But in the way it is executed, it is anything but standard. Particularly for its time. It was subtitled, "the novel without a hero," by Thackeray. It is a book filled with, as the best are, very grey characters with motivations and actions sometimes very hard to fathom. The epitome of this is of course Becky Sharp, the main character if not the "heroine," of the piece. Capable of both acts of great kindness and selflessness, and sheer, naked cruelty when it suits her, it is hard to either condemn or praise the woman in the end. I grew to root for her anyway, though. She's awful, she really is, but she does seem to learn by the end of the book. She changes, progresses, and all while getting everything she's ever really seemed to want. She's ambitious and cutthroat, but manages to do well in a world that tries to slap her down at every turn. (Not that she doesn't deserve it sometimes, I will admit.) There is also a more standard, sweeping love story for those of you in it for the more conventional aspects. The above described Amelia is involved in that plotline.

Also? This book has the best, the longest, the most throughly researched and detailed description of the battle of Waterloo that you are likely to find. A huge chunk of the book is devoted to that day and the reaction to that day, and it is as epic a war novel as one could hope to find for that space of time.

In some ways, I feel like Thackeray was trying to encompass his century as a whole, not just the very specific time of the Napoleonic wars. He deals with class, money, ambition, war, roles and rights of women, questions of morality, and times that inevitably change and change again, pushing the old world and the old ways into ever faster irrelevance. Just as the 19th century did. I think Becky Sharp might well be a fitting symbol of the whole century: she wants to rise high in society, she wants as much money as she can get her hands on, she wants the appearance of morality (but doesn't much care for the actuality), she is from the lower class and spends the book working her way up the ladder tooth and nail through representatives of the "old guard," at any cost to herself or others. And yet, she still holds sentimental feelings for Amelia, for her husband, she does what she thinks is best for her son (however controversial that might be and at whatever cost in pride), and she cannot quite bear to be completely alone.... I don't know. I'm really just remembering things I wrote down when I read this over two years ago, re-piecing together theories, so I hope you'll forgive me if they're a wee incoherent.

There is more to it than that, but I do not think that any review of reasonable length can encompass everything in this book, particularly when I've already rambled about my favorite things for so long, and things are already this disorganized. Fitting, I suppose, in such a merrily chaotic book. So I'll just leave you with the quote that I think explains and drives much of the action and is one of the major points of the novel:

"Vanitas Vanitatium! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or having it, is satisfied?"
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,464 followers
December 10, 2016

1. I liked the company of Thackeray who is breezy, ebullient and cynical about everyone’s motives. And he’s very confident too. He thinks he knows everything, although there’s not a word about how the poor live here, that’s not his subject. So he’s like the mid-19th century version of Tom Wolfe or Jonathan Franzen, two authors (among many others) who also think they know everything. I don’t mind them thinking that. It’s a good quality in a writer who’s trying to depict all of society.

2. An example of his cynical sermonizing – here he waxes forth about our – yours, mine - postmortem fate :

Which of the dead are most tenderly and passionately deplored? Those who love the survivors the least, I believe. The death of a child occasions a passion of grief and frantic tears, such as your end, brother reader, will never inspire. The death of an infant which scarce knew you, which a week’s absence from you would have caused to forget you, will strike you down more than the loss of your closest friend… and if you are old, as some reader of this may be or shall be – old and rich or old and poor – you may one day be thinking for yourself – “These people are very good round about me; but they won’t grieve too much when I am gone. I am very rich, and they want my inheritance – or very poor and they are tired of supporting me.”

3. I can’t believe everyone who has read this has read every page. For instance the eight pages of satire about the small German Duchy of Pumpernickel (p 726-732). Or the detailed descriptions of charades at upper class parties (p 594-601). Mother of God, these sections are unreadable. This is what drags the rating down to 4.5 stars.

4. Why is this book 800 pages long? Many passages like this:

The house was dismantled; the rich furniture and effects, the awful chandeliers and dreary blank mirrors packed away and hidden, the rich rosewood drawing-room suite was muffled in straw, the carpets were rolled up and corded, the small select library of well-bound books was stowed into two wine-chests, and the whole paraphernalia rolled away in several enormous vans to the Pantechnicon, where they were to lie until Georgy’s majority.

5. The author breaks the fourth wall all the time, as they liked to do in the early-ish days of novelling, before such stuff was frowned upon as being uncouth and inartistic. So on p 296 we get :

In the course of the evening Rawdon got a little family note from his wife, which although he crumpled it up and burnt it instantly in the candle, we had the good luck to read over Rebecca’s shoulder.

“We” here means the author and the reader. And later on page 721 whilst talking about his main characters holidaying in Germany he suddenly announces

It was on this very tour that I, the present writer of a history of which every word is true, had the pleasure to see them first, and to make their acquaintance.

6. The author is not embarrassed to jump in and comment directly on his characters, like this :

I like to dwell upon this period of her life, and to think that she was cheerful and happy. You see she has not had too much of that sort of existence as yet, and has not fallen in the way of means to educate her tastes or her intelligence. She has been domineered over hitherto by vulgar intellects. It is the lot of many a woman.

You wouldn’t get a modern novelist doing any such thing but it’s kind of fun.

7. He has a brilliant section called “How to Live Well on Nothing a Year”. Essentially, you could maintain your place in well-to-do society by racking up credit extended to you by umpteen tradesmen and servants (who would do it because you had a place in well-to-do society!) and robbing Peter to pay Paul continually ; plus, the wife would inveigle loans out of rich old guys who thought they might have a chance to get something going with her; and the husband would contribute with winnings from cards and billiards. It’s a precarious way of life but if you have strong nerves it can be done.

8. Which leads us to the issue of Becky and her husband Rawdon. Becky is the best, most interesting character by far. Lots of commentators describe her as in some way morally questionable, even “bad”. At first this seems quite unjust. She has no family, she’s as poor as a mouse, so she schemes and ducks and dives to land a husband with money. This goes awry (she gets the husband but he doesn’t get the expected inheritance) so she dodges and weaves and figures out how to live well on nothing a year (see above). In the time-honoured way of plots in novels, all her maneuvering and manipulating and cajoling and flattering and flashing of bosoms is just about to pay off handsomely when it all goes tits up. Not her fault. She’s a woman trying to get by in a world where money and position is everything.

Then she disappears from the novel for a hundred pages or so. When we meet her again she’s a fully fledged demimondaine and now you can say her moral bankruptcy has blossomed – Thackeray makes a song and dance about not being able to set down exactly what she’s been up to because this is a family show, so he drops hint after hint, ending in the possibility of murder. All the ambiguity is I suppose understandable; but after it all she’s still the only character with a zest for life in the whole mutton shop.

9. Meanwhile her husband Rawdon is a military gentleman until he resigns from the Army and then – does nothing. Continues with his cardsharping and pool-sharking but as for gainful employment, raises not one hand. And Thackeray who likes to describe most other aspects of these people’s lives ignores this as not worth commenting on. Rawdon writes a pitiful letter from debtor’s prison at one point :

I wasn't brought up like a younger brother, but was always encouraged to be extravagant and kep idle.

And that’s all the explanation you get.

10. The subtitle of Vanity Fair is “A Novel without a Hero” meaning that we are not following one particular character and we do not see the story through any one person’s eyes. Nor yet, really, is it that much of a story. A couple of women make rash marriages. After which there are some ups and downs. There was a song in the 1920s called “After You Get What You Want you Don’t Want It” and Thackeray believes people are exactly like that so happy endings and neat bows are not his thing. He leaves us with the image of Vanity Fair itself, that whirligig of human foolishness, rocketing on like a perpetual switchback ride. Best thing to do is not get on in the first place, the ride is not worth the admission fee, but if you’re on, then don’t fall off, because the drop will be considerable hard on your feelings.

Profile Image for Luffy.
867 reviews720 followers
April 12, 2021
The author makes his presence known towards the end of the book. It was both eerie and uncanny. He kept breaking the fourth wall, then he conjured that apparition of his in one of the last chapters.

Vanity Fair contains no real heroes. That was a fact that Thackeray himself stated, and who am I to dispute that. This book of his is quite droll in its stitching together. There is a threat of a continuum, then everything is put back into question.

Classics are a strange beast. With them, I feel attachment like it's the result of Stockholm Syndrome. My delight at finishing these Mesozoic beasts is unique to the genre. Long may it continue.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,240 followers
November 19, 2022
The premise I believe that Mr. William Makepeace Thackeray reveals here in his accomplished novel Vanity Fair is people are complex , yet still they strive for their own self- interest above everything, all else is irrevelant. Our Becky (Rebecca) Sharp is a prime example of this fact she goes too far in climbing the ladder to respectability, lies, cheats and steals to reach goals unattainable if her ways were nominal. A poor orphan when the teenager married Captain Rawdon Crawley lacking intelligence though, nonetheless from a wealthy family before the decisive battle of Waterloo, Napoleon's last bloody struggle. And her maybe friend Amelia Sedley also of the consequence becomes widowed to a man who loved another, Becky, no surprise unfaithful husband George Osborne. A tiger cannot change his stripes and this truism applies to our anti- heroine Becky most emphatically as she enters High Society.These people spend money they can't afford just to give the impression of limitless riches which few have but debts acquired, a silly condition in order to deceive the quite pompous empty lives of their fellow hypocrites trying to show how great it is to be them, in opulent parties, if only the public knew the reality. The numerous people fall for the concept and many will regret this fallacy like Becky however the family of her estranged husband hates her with a passion and disowns the pretentious woman, here the writer shows his knowledge of England. The impoverished Amelia disliked by her father-in- law with her little son George, pines for her late mate while Captain William Dobbin loves her but is rejected feeling guilty, she. Mr.Thackeray's best book gives a glimpse into the human character warts and all, the good and bad not the superficial but the authentic, this is quite refreshing. A European tour after the war by Amelia tells us her situation has improved and meeting Becky in a small German town not very comfortable for them however a place which helps both reach their ultimate destiny. The fun if that is the proper word in Vanity Fair (this the correct title) as Miss Becky Sharp manipulates those who deserve to be fooled by the smart, pretty girl who for a time gave the mirage of being one of their kind. Not quite an honest person but neither were the so called elites and we the countless reader are the delighted benefactors.
Profile Image for Maziar MHK.
174 reviews152 followers
August 18, 2020
.اِمی با اندوه گفت: کاش به من محبت پیدا می‌کردند. همیشه با من سرد بودند
جورج پاسخ داد: طفلکِ من، به تو هم اگر دویست هزار لیره داشتی، محبت پیدا می‌کردند. اینها را این‌جور بار آورده‌اند. جامعهٔ ما، جامعهٔ پول و پَله است. ما در میان صرافان و کَله‌گُنده‌هایِ بازارِ شهر زندگی می‌کنیم که لعنت بر همه‌شان باد و هرکس که با آدم حرف می‌زند صدای جرینگ‌جرینگِ لیره‌های جیبش
را درمی‌آورد

جائی خواندم، رمانِ "بازار خودفروشی"، این داستانِ بی قهرمان را، یکی از بیست رمانِ بزرگِ قرن 19اُم دانسته اَند، اکنون که مطالعه اَش را به پایان بُرده ام، بعید می دانم که ادعائی بی راه و گزافه باشد
نویسنده، "ویلیام تکری"، با نگاهی نقادانه به زندگیِ مُزورانه و بَزَک-دوزَکیِ بریتانیائیهایِ هم عصرش، که شخصیت هائی از طبقاتِ مختلفِ اجتماعی اَند، داستانِ زندگی دو زن را مبنایِ روایتَش قرار می دهد. یکی فَلک زَده اما آب زیرکاه والبته در اندیشه یِ در صَدر بودن و قَدر دیدن و آن دیگری، ساده دلی مهربان و مُرَفه که در مدرسه ای شبانه روزی با هم آشنا -اگر نگوئیم یک روح در دو بدن- شده اند. ابزارِ اصلیِ تکری در ساختنِ این یاوه بازار، تغییر و تبدیلِ روزگارِ این دو زن است که ضمنِ آمدن و رفتنِ گاه و بی گاهِ شخصیت هایِ دیگر، جذابیتی دوچندان می یابد. این دو "آملیا" و "ربکا" هستند

الف: سبکِ ترجمه یِ "منوچهر بدیعی" در این کتاب، از لحاظِ بهره بردن از نسخه نسبتاََ به روز و قابلِ فهمی از فارسیِ قَجری، با ترجمه دریابندری از "بازمانده روز" مشابه است
ب: ترجمه دوست داشتنیِ بدیعی پُر بود از عباراتِ زیبا و ناشنیده یِ فارسی که گرچه خواندنش دلنشین بود اما یاد سپردنش، البته سخت
ج: بدیعی در مقدمه ای ارزشمند، ضمن اشاره به عبارت "یاوه بازار"، با استدلالاتی مقبول و با عنایت به بیتِ زیر از حافظ، عنوان برازنده یِ "بازارخودفروشی" را به سایر مواردِ متصور ترجیح می دهد

در کویِ ما شکسته دلی خَرند و بَس /// بازارِ خودفروشی از آن سویِ دیگر است

تاریک روشنِ بازارِ "خودفروشی"، برایِ خواننده اَش، نَه یک چاله و چاه، که مَغاکی است هَم تاریک و خَلسه آور، هَم روشن و دوس داشتنی!. متنِ سخت خوانِ رمان، گاهی خواننده را -هر قدر هم که بلحاظِ عادت مطالعه، منظم و سخت جان باشد-، به زمین گذاشتنِ کتاب و دوری جستن از "تکری" می خواند، آنهَم نَه یک ساعت و یک روز بلکه گاهاََ چند روز. بعنوانِ نمونه، برای خودِ من، برآوردِ هفت تا 10 روزه برایِ اتمامِ رمان، عملاََ به یک ماهِ تمام رسید. شایان ذکرست که جاذبه و دافعه یِ توصیفاتِ خُردکننده یِ تکری از جلوه فروشی هایِ تفاخرگونه و نمایشی، چنان مایه و پایه درستی دارد که در عیب جوئی، هیچَش نَتوان گفت اِلا سکوت
رخصت دهید مثالی بیاورم. کیست که به "اورست"، این دست نَیافتنی ترین خاکِ عالم برایِ ��دمیان صعود کند و در خاطره گوئی اَش، توصیفاتِ دل انگیز از شعفِ نیل به قله را وانَهد و از اِفلاس و جان کَندن هایِ کوهپایه ها نوحه سرایی آغازَد؟!. تکری اما، در بازارِ خودفروشی اَش، راهی دیگر در پیش می گیرد. اگر که از کوهپایه هایِ سخت گذرِ توصیفاتِ تکان دهنده و مواجهه با سوال هایِ گاه و بی گاهِ تکری از وجدانِ خواننده بِسلامت بگذرید و نگاهی به پشتِ دُکانِ کاسبانِ پرشمارِ بی روی و چشمِ بازارِ خودفروشی بیندازید، آنگاه همچو خریداری دقیق، از لابلایِ 846 صفحه -که هر صفحه اَش یک دُکان از بازار خودفروشی است- به قُله خواهید رسید
!و چه سخت است این، هَم اگرکه حاصل شود، چه شیرین

در این رمان که به روشی بیشتر شبیهِ "دانایِ کُل" روایت شده، نویسنده، گهگاه سوالاتی با مَطلعِ "کیست که نداند / نتواند..." ، می
پرسد که هدفش را می توان خواندنِ مخاطب به عرصه یِ مَحکِ ریاکاریِ خویشتنِ خویش در معرکه یِ بازار خودفروشی دانست و بَس
در پایانِ ریویو، چند نمونه از این دست را -از متن کتاب-، پیشکشِ نگاهتان می کنم

مگر در زندگیِ هَمگان فصلهایِ کوتاهی وجود ندارد که ظاهراََ چیزی به نظر نمی رسند اما در بقیه زندگیِ آنان اثر می گذارد؟
پس ای بانوانِ جوان!، محتاط و به بِهوش باشید که چگونه دل می بندید. چنان به خانه شوهر روید که در فرانسه می روند. در آنجا حقوق دانان ساقدوش و ینگه عروس و داماد هستند. عهدی مَبندید که به وقتِ ضرورت نَتوانید بر آن چیره شوید. در بازار خودفروشی راهِ حُرمت دیدن و فضیلت یافتن همین است

فقط زنها می توانند این گونه زخم بزنند. نوکِ تیرهایِ کوچکِ آنان به زهری آلوده است که هزاران بار بیش تر از شمشیرِ مردان کارگر می افتد
نمی دانم آیا اینکه مردمان، شجاعت را تا بدین اندازه می ستایند ، بِدان سبب است که در نهان بُزدل هستند؟
فلان عضوِ شورایِ ولایتی که از ضیافتِ بوقلمون می آید، دیگر از کالسکه اش پایین نمی پَرد تا رانِ گوسفندی بِدُزدد، اما همین آدم را گرسنگی بدهید، می بینید که از کِش رفتنِ یک قرصِ نان هم ابایی ندارد
هر مردم‌آزاری، صرفاً به حکم عقل و منطق، ناگزیر است که خباثتِ مردِ از اسب اُفتاده را ثابت کند – وگرنَه بَدطینتی خود را ثابت کرده است

لینکِ مقاله فرج سرکوهی درباره رمان بازار خودفروشی در کافه بوک

لینکِ مقاله یِ رادیو فردا درباره رمان بازار خودفروشی
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
July 4, 2021
Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair is an English novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, which follows the lives of Becky Sharp and Emmy Sedley amid their friends and families during and after the Napoleonic Wars.

A novel that 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.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «بازار خودفروشی»؛ «آملیا»؛ «بازار غرور»؛ «یاوه بازار» نویسنده: ویلیام تکری؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1990میلادی

عنوان: بازار خودفروشی؛ نویسنده: وی‍ل‍ی‍ام‌ ت‍ک‍ری‌‏‫؛ مت‍رج‍م: م‍ن‍وچ‍ه‍ر ب‍دی‍ع‍ی‌؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1368؛ در 868ص؛ شابک9644481046؛ چاپ چهارم سال1396؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 19م

عنوان: آملیا؛ نویسنده: دبلیو.ام. تاکری؛ تلخیص: ای.ام آتوود؛ مترجم: نوشین ریشهری؛ تهران، نگارینه، 1386؛ در 320ص؛ شابک9789648935455؛

عنوان: بازار غرور؛ نویسنده: ویلیام میکپیس تاکری (تاکرای)؛ مترجم: موحده السادات موسوی؛ سیرجان، نشر وافی؛ 1394؛ در 172ص؛ شابک9786009485321؛

عنوان: یاوه بازار؛ نویسنده: وی‍ل‍ی‍ام‌ م‍ک‌ پ‍ی‍س‌ ت‍ک‍ری‌؛ ت‍رج‍م‍ه‌ ف‍رح‌ ی‍ک‍رن‍گ‍ی‌ (دواچ‍ی‌)؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب، 1341؛ در 148ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، 1351؛ در 146ص؛

‏‫ای‍ن‌ ک‍ت‍اب‌ در س‍ال‌ 1334خورشیدی ب‍اع‍ن‍وان‌ «ی‍اوه‌ ب‍ازار» ب‍ا ت‍رج‍م‍ه‌ جناب «ف‍رح‌ دواچ‍ی‌ (ی‍ک‍رن‍گ‍ی‌)» در 148ص؛ و در سال 1341؛ و در سال 1351؛ در بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب م‍ن‍ت‍ش‍ر ش‍ده‌ اس‍ت‌

بازار خودفروشی: رمانی بدون قهرمان؛ اثر «ویلیام تاکری» نویسنده «بریتانیایی» است که برای نخستین بار در سال 1847میلادی تا سال 1848میلادی منتشر شده‌ است؛ این رمان یکی از بیست رمان بزرگ سده نوزدهم میلادی است که از سوی «سامرست موآم» داستان‌نویس و نمایشنامه‌ نویس «بریتانیایی» برگزیده شده است؛ در کوی ما شکسته‌ دلی می‌خرند و بس - بازار خودفروشی از آن سوی دیگر است؛ حضرت حافظ

بازار خودفروشی سرگذشت یک دورهٔ بیست ساله (از سال 1811میلادی تا سال 1830میلادی) را در فضایی واقعی و با شخصیت‌هایی غیرواقعی در برمی‌گیرد؛ در شرایطی که طبقهٔ بورژوآ به‌ نوعی حاکمیت جامعه را در دست گرفته است؛ حکایت زندگیِ خانواده‌ های اشرافی در برابر خانواده‌ های فقیر «بریتانیایی» است؛ محوریت داستان دو‌ شخصیت به نام‌های «آملیا» و «بکی»، دو دختر از طبقهٔ پولدار و تهی‌دست هستند، که درگیر ماجراهای بسیاری می‌شوند؛ «آملیا»، دختر رئوف و‌ خوش‌قلب داستان است، که بارها اسیر بدجنسی‌های «بکی» و همسر خیانتکارش می‌شود، و «بکی» با مکر و ‌‌دسیسه‌ های زنانه با پسر رئیسش ازدواج می‌کند، و داستانش این‌گونه رقم می‌خورد؛ اما این ظاهر رخداد است، خوانشگر از همان آغاز داستان با چیزی فراتر از یک داستان سادهٔ عشقی مواجه می‌شود؛ بازار خودفروشی داستان مردمانی عادی است و قهرمان ندارد؛ بازار خودفروشی شرح دردها و رنج‌ها و خوشی‌های طبقات گوناگون جامعه است، که دچار حرص و طمع و حسادت و کینه شده‌ اند؛ در بازار خودفروشی دلال‌ها کلاه‌برداری می‌کنند، زن‌ها را به بردگی خود درمی‌آورند، از گناه‌ کردن نمی‌هراسند، قمارخانه‌ ها پُر از کسانی‌ است که برای حفظ منافعشان دست به هر کاری دست می‌یازند، آدم‌ها را می‌خرند و می‌فروشند، به‌ راحتی به هم بهتان می‌زنند، و هزاران کار می‌کنند تا زندگی کنند، و در نهایت رضایتشان جلب نمی‌شود؛ در حقیقت این کتاب به جزئیاتی اشاره دارد تا به قول نویسنده در یک جمله نشان دهد که «آدم‌های درجه دهم همواره در کارند تا به درجه نهم برسند!»؛ در صفحه ی شماره265کتاب از اختلاف طبقاتی جامعه گفته شده است: -«امی» با اندوه گفت «کاش به من محبت پیدا می‌کردند؛ همیشه با من سرد بودند»؛ - «جورج» پاسخ داد «طفلک من، به تو هم اگر دویست هزار لیره داشتی محبت پیدا می‌کردند؛ اینها را این‌جور بار آورده‌ اند؛ جامعهٔ ما جامعهٔ پول و پَله است، ما در میان صرافان و کله‌ گنده‌ های بازار شهر زندگی می‌کنیم، که لعنت بر همه‌ شان باد، و هرکس که با آدم حرف می‌زند، صدای جرینگ‌ جرینگ لیره‌ های جیبش را درمی‌آورد.»؛ در بازار خودفروشی، پول و ثروت بهترین چیزهاست، لقب و کالسکه‌ های مجلل به‌ یقین ارزشمندتر از خوشبختی هستند، در میان مردان بازار خودفروشی، پیروزی در عشق پس از پیروزی در جنگ مایهٔ مباهات است! جای جای این رمان حکایت از این دارد که هرگونه رفتاری که از ما انسان‌ها سر می‌زند، طبیعی‌ است حتی اگر مثل کینه و حسد، اعمال نکوهش‌ شده‌ ای باشند؛ اما جهان به مرور همانند یک آینه، چهرهٔ هر شخص را به خودش نشان می‌دهد؛ پس چه بهتر که به آن بخندیم و با آن مهربان باشیم، تا بازتابش را در خود ببینیم؛ ما نیز همراه با تک‌ تک شخصیت‌های این رمان بزرگ می‌شویم، اشک می‌ریزیم، افسوس می‌خوریم، و گاهی هم به حماقت‌های آنان می‌خندیم؛ ابتدای داستان کمی کند و کسل‌ کننده است، اما هر چه پیش می‌رویم، مجذوب رویدادهایی می‌شویم که برای شخصیت‌ها رخ می‌دهند، و ریتم داستان هم تندتر می‌شود؛ و پایان داستان بر خلاف تصور خوانشگر رقم می‌خورد، و شاید این مورد، وجه تمایز این رمان با دیگر رمان‌های کلاسیک باشد؛ از نکات بسیار جالب در این کتاب، می‌توان به مواردی اشاره کرد که نویسنده گاهی رویدادهای فصلهای پیشین را برای خوانشگره مرور می‌کند، و گویی خارج از موضوع دارد با خوانشگر سخن می‌گوید، و دیگری طنز تلخ و پُر از کنایهٔ آن است: مارهایی هستند که آدم گرمشان می‌کند و سپس به آدم نیش می‌زنند، گداهایی هستند که شما سوار کارشان می‌کنید، و اول کسی که زیر لگد اسب آنها پامال می‌شود خود شما هستید (رمان بازار خودفروشی – صفحه 261کتاب)؛

برهان گزینش چنین عنوان پارسایی برای کتاب این بوده است که «ونیتی» به معنای بی‌حاصلی، و بیهودگی و بی‌ارزشی است، و در ادبیات فارسی، واژهٔ «خودفروشی» بر طبق «لغتنامهٔ دهخدا»، هرگزی به معنای فاحشگی نبوده، و به معنای «جلوه‌ فروشی»، خودنمایی و خودستایی است، و ازاین‌رو مترجم کتاب استاد «منوچهر بدیعی»، این عنوان را برگزیده‌ اند، که بسیار مناسب و در خورِ رخدادهای داستان است؛ ترجمهٔ بی‌بدیل استاد «بدیعی»، رمان را چنان دلنشین کرده که از ‌هر لحاظ ارزشمند و تحسین‌ برانگیز است؛ این اثر شامل شصت و هفت فصل است، و هر فصل عنوان ویژه ی خودش را دارد؛ شخصیت‌های داستان بسیارند، و گاهی باعث سردرگمی خوانشگر است، که نویسنده بعضاً آنها را از میانه های داستان، به خوانشگر یادآوری می‌کند؛ و‌ نکته ی پایانی اینکه عکس روی جلد کتاب اثر خود نویسنده است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 12/04/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Emily.
253 reviews31 followers
May 17, 2007
I realize that I'm not making friends here by only giving what is considered a masterful piece of literature what amounts to a "meh" review but that's really how I felt about this book.

On a small scale, I thought the writing was too long-winded. This is not a fancy story and it could have been told more concisely. I was mostly bored reading it.

On a bigger scale, I had serious issues with the heroine. Rebecca is the type of woman who has always made my stomach churn in anger and to ask me to sympathize, even for a brief moment was just too much for me. I ended up despising every single character in the book. Which, if you want to get all literatti about it might be a good thing - having a visceral reaction to the written word is often seen as a power few can manage but it didn't make me like the author, the characters or the plot any better.
Profile Image for Nicole.
442 reviews13.4k followers
November 4, 2021
DNF na 150 stron przed końcem.
Wrzuciła mnie w zastój czytelniczy. Raczej nigdy do niej nie wrócę.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews782 followers
July 17, 2016
Vanity Fair is a big surprise for me. I was expecting a story about the trial and tribulations of a couple of plucky lady friends what I discovered was a witty, satirical novel that made me laugh several times, engaged my attention always and even moving at times.

On the surface Vanity Fair is a story of the two main characters Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, two childhood friends from the opposite ends of the moral and intellectual spectrum. Becky is ambitious, conniving and smart, Amelia is humble, kind, simple, and rather dim.

The novel concurrently charts Becky’s rise from her humble station in life to the rank of the fashionable high society, while Amelia meets with several misfortunes and becomes penniless. It is quite a lengthy novel of more than 800 pages with a large cast of characters who revolve around the lives of the two protagonists.

The most interesting feature of Vanity Fair is how meta it is. Thackeray often breaks the fourth wall to address the reader directly with sly and humorous asides, making light of the novelist’s omnipotence.

Thackeray’s satirical self-portrait

The characters are very well drawn (in more ways than one), particularly Becky who is basically a femme fatale but still manages to show the odd flashes of conscience. Amelia is too virtuous for her own good yet unintentionally takes advantage of a man who has an unrequited love for her.

Nice but dim Amelia

It is an interesting trope of a lot of fiction that the nicest, kindest man is immediately friend-zoned by the love of his life. This is very much the case for William Dobbin the man who longs for his (dead) best friend’s girl Amilia like a Norwegian Blue parrot pining for the fjord*

My only minor criticism of the book is that some of the characters are just a little too stupid to be realistic. Amelia is well aware of Dobbin’s love for her but feels unable to return his love because she feels that she would be betraying the memory of her dead husband. Although Amelia is naïve, dimwitted and does not care for him Dobbin – an intelligent fellow – cannot get over his obsession with her. Amelia’s brother Jos is even worse, he has seen with his own eyes that Becky is dishonest, mercenary and cannot be trusted but he still falls for her entrapment. His stupidity is surprising because he is described as talented and singlehandedly recues his father and his sister from extreme poverty.

Thackeray’s writing is wonderful, excessive usage of the word “prodigious” notwithstanding. I don’t think I have read anything this witty since The Picture of Dorian Gray. Like all long novels it is something to sink into and live with rather than just passively reading.

The book makes me reflect that being virtuous is not enough to be of much use to the world if the virtue is not supported by intelligence and wisdom. On the other hand being clever like Becky and achieving wealth and fame is a hollow accomplishment if you are left with no genuine friends and family and viewed with disdain everywhere you go.

Becky being Sharp

One of my favorite Victorian novels, if you like reading the classics Vanity Fair is a must.


For a change the free audiobook does not come from Librivox.org, they have their own edition but it is read by multiple readers several of them are very bad. The edition I listened to is from Lit2Go, beautifully read by Amanda Elan.

My favorite quotes are not included on GR’s quotes page for this book so I’ll drop them here:

“Though he was familiar with all languages, Mr. Kirsch was not acquainted with a single one, and spoke all with indifferent volubility and incorrectness.”

“If, a few pages back, the present writer claimed the privilege of peeping into Miss Amelia Sedley's bedroom, and understanding with the omniscience of the novelist all the gentle pains and passions which were tossing upon that innocent pillow, why should he not declare himself to be Rebecca's confidante too, master of her secrets, and seal-keeper of that young woman's conscience?”

* Hi Cecily! ;)
Profile Image for Guille.
756 reviews1,546 followers
December 11, 2018
Cómo me sorprendió y divirtió este libro en el que el narrador mantiene un continuo diálogo con el lector y en el que disecciona en una mordaz caricatura a la sociedad de su tiempo, donde el tanto tienes tanto vales es ley y donde la mujer solo tiene una salida airosa: el matrimonio.

Un libro que llega a provocar carcajadas y que se lee siempre con una sonrisa, aunque no sea siempre alegre. No hay piedad por nadie, ni por los hombres ni por las mujeres, cuya situación parece denunciar aunque sin quitarles a ellas ni un gramo de su responsabilidad y con un cierto grado de misoginia. Por su parte, los hombres, que pueden ser ambiciosos, ridículos, vengativos, patéticos, antipáticos, vanidosos, son, en el fondo, nobles.

Fantástica la mala leche, la forma en que el narrador dice las cosas sin decirlas e incluso diciendo las contrarias; como juega con el lector, en ocasiones levantando el velo solo un poquito, en otras desvelándolo completamente, algunas más dejándonos todo a la imaginación. Sus continuos comentarios al margen dirigidos al lector son tan interesantes como la propia historia. Una delicia de libro.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,548 reviews1,821 followers
September 3, 2019
I finish the book and wonder how to best convert the muddy puddle of my impressions into some-kind of a coherent rich picture of a review.

Well what is is, imagine an exhibition of of George Cruikshank's drawings or of those of Gilray perhaps, there is wit and fun, but after a while , maybe they are a little wearisome. In this it reminds me of when I was a student and sometimes, not knowing any better I'd read The Economist, eventually I noticed whatever country or problem was discussed the analysis was the same: slash public spending, liberalise markets and open them to foreign trade as you open a person's chest for open heart surgery, and be smug. Then I moved on to Private Eye for a while - here the message was aside from the staff and readers of that journal that everybody is stupid and stupidly commits stupid acts, everything always has been stupid, everything always will be. This I felt was worse, because it was also depressing. About that time I suppose I also read Vanity Fair for the first time .

Again it is a classic, perhaps, at least in English, the classic moral sandwich book - a wafer of morality on either side of an oozing filling of vice and stupidity and greed.

Then again one might say it is an English War and Peace a family saga structured around the Napoleonic wars, with characters questing for self actualisation, except as satire rather than the seeking to satisfy the reader emotionally.

It is maybe an ancestor of Bonfire of the Vanities a slice of life in which everybody is reprehensible or ridiculous to varying degrees.

There is problem in terms of the book as a moral sandwich, in that the title would suggest that we are in the moral universe of Pilgrim's Progress hurrying through the vanity fair, shunning its sinners seeing only the self inflicted misery, however the author does not seem to wearing John Bunyan's shoes, his attitude to vanity fair is a relaxed amusement and from the first he suggests to the readers of the novel attitudes to the characters and their doings that don't really fit into the world of Pilgrims Progress instead he suggests that the reader can be sympathetic or amused. Of course by moving the story into the recent past, he is not suggesting that such dreadful goings on that place in Victorian society - oh no, it is the people of the reign of George IV who were so foolish and louche! The problem with laughing at the characters is that author has chosen the barrel and selected his fish, watching him shooting them for eight hundred pages, well I return to my original point.

Vanity Fair like so much nineteenth century novels was written for publication in instalments in a magazine, Thackeray earned himself a handsome £60 an issue (for about eighty printed pages) this was very good for him, the reader however can easily imagine sitting down with a sharp knife and a pot of glue and revealing the slim novel that may be struggling instead it to get out. It can be very droll and amusing as I hope the excerpts quoted below give some idea, it can also go on a bit, and if certain sections were not there would I have missed them?

The other problem about the weakness of the moral wafer is that we are left cheek by jowl with Thackeray. I read somewhere that Thackeray dropped early on the ever smiling Sambo the black servant and the 'amusingly' named Miss Swartz daughter of a German-Jewish father and a black Caribbean mother on account of reader criticism, I don't know if he was Racist as such, or it was more a case that all non-English people were inherently ridiculous in his opinion, indeed when Dobbin's regiment is posted to India his chief danger is that he may end up getting married to an Irish girl (steady the Buffs), though at least she isn't Roman-Catholic (for the benefit of the ladies and gentlemen at the back, smelling salts will be passed round), having said that if you are going to read it, don't read this edition, get this one or another with Thackeray's original illustrations - Glorvina looking at Dobbin across the dance floor is particularly fine. The flip side of this is if you've ever wondered where this British empire thing is in the British novel, it is mostly hiding out in vanity fair: the intrinsic humour of mixed race children, exotic servants, fancy shawls and foods

The joy of the novel I fear lies most in the side characters and the sketches of the hunting, shooting and boozing parish priest and his boxing gin drinking son (I guess also bound for the clergy town before the Great Reform Act 1832 which sent two people to parliament but which might have one or up to a handful of voters, perhaps all controlled by one family to rent out a seat in a Parliament, which brings in a few pennies.

A problem is that Thackeray's principal characters can never develop there always has to be some angle or several angles at which they are ridiculous and mocked by the author. Interestingly (from my point of view) Thackeray's conception seems Wordsworthian - the child is the father of the man admittedly in part because the child remains a child - I think I recall one of his drawings of his characters as children but flopping about in adult clothes to underline that idea - but then getting back to the moral sandwich idea you might ask where the adult is in the book - but there isn't one, this is a book resolutely without a hero. But digressing back to my digression I digress to Thackeray criticising Goethe's Elective affinities, which for Thackeray is morally dangerous, however we may feel psychologically much more sophisticated .

Rereading I felt a little more sorry than I remembered from previously for Becky Sharp as she comes across as the most intelligent - but in the way of tv cartoon villains - she knows her end desire, and she knows what she can do do, but she can't see that there is no road between the two. All the characters are so completely conditioned by their childhoods that there is no possibility of growth they are doomed to be slaves of satire forever, Dobbin so whipped and beaten as his name invites in childhood, that as an adult he has to visit the same on himself . Obviously Becky Sharp is your girl if you love the idea of always having the last word witty come back, more cutting than the world hairdressing championships, plainly in the contemporary world she'd be the leading edge CFO keeping a financial empire just about afloat by lending money to herself, currencies moving through jurisdictions like planes landing and taking off at an international hub airport. We get to enjoy her wheelings and dealings and then her comeuppance, yet I feel post vindication of the rights of woman and Jane Eyre that her fatal fault is that she is too French, it's all in the blood of course so it can't be helped but there you go. Biology is destiny. Ancestry is destiny. But it is all for laughs, the problem with satire is I feel sometimes the line between humour and a horrible world view, as with the treatment of non-English characters above, can be pretty fine

"Everybody is striving for what is not worth the having!" (p.563)

On the rereading I found less funny than I remember, though I suppose it is just possible that the book has stayed the same while I have grown less tolerant, it doesn't seem to me to be the kind of book that requires multiple readings or which grows and grows in the rereading, I did this time notice the tightness of the London geography - still, amusing, but if you are going to give it a go - get yourself an edition with the original illustrations!
Profile Image for Piyangie.
518 reviews414 followers
April 2, 2023
I'm in the minority here, and the lovers of this book wouldn't be so pleased with what I have to say. But I must have my say. It is only Thackeray's use of satire that held me through the novel. When that collapsed at the end, being replaced by sentimentality instead, and when an unwanted twist, just to give a touch of eeriness, trespassed on the coherent flaw, there was nothing for me to cling to, the floor being blown under my feet. Beaten and exhausted, with a sense of waste of time, is something quite unpleasant to feel after reading a classic that is said to be a 'must-read".

Some of the lengthy Victorian novels have soap-operatic quality, and Vanity Fair would easily pass as one. The introduction chapters in which the author introduced his story and characters were unalluring, and I had to struggle to find my way through the novel. Despite my indifference to the story and the greater aversion for its characters, I found ground in Thackery's satire. The whole of Victorian society, from the people's individualistic behaviour to their morals and conventions, hasn't escaped Thackery's satirical eye. The caricature portrayal of the characters, whether they are from the houses of Crawleys, Osbornes, Sedleys, or Steyns, or individuals - either not attached to a prestigious house, like our "remarkable" heroine, Rebecca Sharp, or attached to a house to which much credit wasn't given, like that of our hero, Dobbin - was entertaining.

This brings us to the point where I must address the contradictory nature of the novel's subtitle: A novel without a hero. Notwithstanding Thackeray's protestations against a hero, he has unwittingly introduced two, not one, from both genders. If one can see the story of Vanity Fair as a battle between good and bad, the hero, Dobbins, and heroine, Becky, were the respective representatives of the two factions. Even though Thackeray was cynical of both sides, and unintentional in appointing a leader to each side, there is no denying that he has brought about a heroine and hero to a story.

I didn't care much about the story, nor I cared for the characters - they exasperated me to no end. But I enjoyed the satire which enveloped the story. This was unchanged until towards the end when Thackeray decided to change the colour in favour of sentimentality. This is where the total estrangement ensued between him and me. When the only thing to which I have anchored my reading has been pulled out, I was completely drowned. However, I later learned Thackaray's reason for switching modes and adopting a sentimental tone - part of the story being semiautobiographical; but it didn't help me change my opinion about the book.

This is my personal perspective, and no one should be guided by it. Given its popularity, I feel the book deserves an audience. Although my response to the novel was poor, yours may be better. For my part, I was disappointed in my expectations.

More of my reviews can be found at http://piyangiejay.com/
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,048 followers
July 11, 2022
There are different ways of reading a novel. Reading a novel is a creative act in itself. Firstly there's the perspective from which we choose to read. The step on the stairs of our mind we choose to sit on from which to view the work of imagination. How high we crank up the volume of our critical faculties. How much historical context we give to what we're reading. How much of our own reading experience we bring to bear, to what extent all the other novels we've read shape and inform our appraisal. For example, I realised that Virginia Woolf stole many aspects of Thackeray's comic voice for Orlando. And because Orlando was a book she didn't take very seriously she's both mocking and paying tribute to Thackeray.

We're never as modern as we think. Novels from the distant past often point this out to us. Becky is a me, myself and I girl. She is self-indulgence personified. Morality for her is of little more importance than a daily newspaper. It's in the bin by the end of every day. But Vanity Fair is peppered with characters whose favourite emotion is moral disapproval, whose default setting is duty. They are dreary unhappy people, only half alive. (Thackeray himself is overly fond of doctrines.) Becky is by far the most alive and celebratory character in the novel. Everything she does is as if accompanied by uplifting dance music. She is contrasted in the novel by the dutiful Amelia. So respectful of duty is Amelia that she becomes estranged from her true feelings. Becky is never in doubt about her feelings; she owns them wholeheartedly. It's important that Becky is fatherless. This is a militantly patriarchal world. And the father was its figurehead. Supposedly a figure of trust and security, but more often as brutally self-serving as a fascist dictator. All the fathers in Vanity Fair are vain, egotistical self-righteous men. And it's Becky's determination to be seen and admired and have her share of the pie that brings into relief the hypocrisy and morally corrupt nature of the world she is compelled to live in. It's often morally flawed individuals who shine the brightest light on what is demoralisingly off kilter in the world we live in. There were times when I believed I could imagine the secret glee taken in Becky's behaviour by a 19th century female reader saddled with a despotic father and husband, compelled to live in a world where a woman's role was to be seen and not heard. Vanity Fair is a better feminist novel than most books written by overtly feminist authors.
Profile Image for Najeefa Nasreen.
62 reviews65 followers
September 1, 2022
With this, completing 10 of 339 from The Rory Gilmore Reading List.

4.5/5 stars

Yet another book from the rory gilmore reading list that I enjoyed reading. The show didn't disappoint me, neither did its reading list. I'd a fantastic time reading Vanity Fair.

"Are not there little chapters in everybody's life, that seem to be nothing, and yet affect all the rest of the history?"

Would you be convinced to read Vanity Fair if I told you that this is a novel without heroes. No? Okay. Would you be convinced enough to read it if I told you that Vanity Fair was an inspiration for Tolstoy's War and Peace? Yes? Thought so.

At first, I was intimidated by the size of the book, but once I started reading the first chapter, there was not stopping it. I just could not put the book down. Thackeray created a classic that stood the test of time and that can still keep us on our toes. Throughout the novel I felt like I was reading a drama series. And I mean that in the best possible way.


Becky Sharp is one who is a master in manipulation. You might hate her but you can't pretend that you don't admire her cleverness and practical attitude. Amelia, on the other hand is the purest soul you can find on Earth. If I've to describe both, Becky is the brain whereas, Amelia is the heart.


I'd read Gone with the Wind just before Vanity Fair and I somehow found analogy between two of the characters of Vanity Fair to that of Gone with the Wind. Becky's character was somewhat similar to Scarlett O'Hara's and Amelia's character was similar to that of Melanie's. Having said that I want to state this too that Scarlett O'Hara was cleverer. Scarlett was written by a woman after all.

"A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her, if she has a plain face. What folly will not a pair of bright eyes make pardonable? What dullness may not red lips are sweet accents render pleasant? And so, with their usual sense of justice, ladies argue that because a woman is handsome, therefore she is a fool. O ladies, ladies! there are some of you who are neither handsome nor wise."

Vanity Fair has brilliance and we can't deny it. I'm glad I read it and experienced Thackeray's satire. His writing style was so on point. It was infuriating. It revealed awful truths about the world we live in. Thackeray didn't care if his readers were having a great time with the novel. He wanted to make a statement. He wanted to disturb us from our comfortable seats and boy do I love him for that.

I would like to end my review with a question that I'm leaving for you. Should we be like Rebecca, smart, intelligent and practical who knows how to extract the best out of a situation and transform according to the situation's demand? Or should we continue to live by our qualities and virtues and never change just to gain worldly belongings?

Review Posted: 19 August 2022.

Visit My Blog to read this and all my other reviews.
Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
January 4, 2015
Excessively Long Book Syndrome: It takes ages to read and it's more than a 100 years old, therefore it must be great, right? Wrong! So wrong, in this case, that the editor's claim that it "has strong claims to be the greatest novel in the English language" is laughable. It's not even the greatest such novel of its century by a huge stretch - seriously, the best works of Hardy, the Brontes and Austen are all better by a country mile, not least because they don't carry such a ridiculous weight of excess verbiage. A modern editor would need to employ slash and burn to prune this jungle back. Most of the excess is Authorial Voice going off along lengthy tangents before getting back to describing the action. It's extreme even by Victorian standards.

Leaving the sheer length aside, the tone of the book ranges from scathing, sarcastic and satirical to farcical, comical and ironical by way of such stations as bitter, sympathetic and moralistic - with the clear message that Earthly pursuits are all vanity, as encapsulated in the title metaphor, which is repeated ad nauseum through-out. Beyond that there are clear attitudes in regard to the conduct of both women and men that go back-and-fore across the line between cliche-Victorian stereotypes and socially progressive campaigner. The over-all bitter and satirical tone, however, seems to detract from rather than strengthen the power of these themes; Hardy's all-out Tragic approach is much more effective (and he is far more advanced in his views anyway). The same goes for Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, where the real terrors of marriage to an addict are laid bare. Austen's wit and humour and wish-fulfillment in Pride and Prejudice is far more entertaining and has a female character everyone can get behind and root for. That's completely absent here; the two contrasted female protagonists are on the one hand, increasingly evil as the story progresses and on the other, dull and lacking all perception of character in others. It's hard to like either of them after about the first third of the book. Instead we have a Stoic hero, who whilst admirable in many ways, is also unexciting for the most part.

By now you may be wondering why I staggered through all the 811p of relatively small print constituting the main text. (The rest is notes and other "apparatus'). Occasionally I wondered whether it was worth it, myself, but in fact, there is a good, if diluted, story here and some snort-worthy humourous cracks and comic scenes as well as drama: there are times when Thackeray focuses on his story-telling and the book becomes involving. Sufficiently so to drag the reader (or at least this one) through to the end simply to find out how the whole mess of family conflicts and marital disasters turns out for everybody (and there are so many characters that even Thackeray can't keep them all straight at times, renaming a serving maid or two here and there and the like.) And there are two great moments, two great sentences, one at the half-way point, at Waterloo, the other right at the end in the closing paragraphs, that show a way forward to a superior kind of writing - but I can't tell you what they are without spoiling everything.

Over-all, yes it was worth the effort, but when it comes to famous gigantic novels, Les Misearbles and War and Peace are vastly more rewarding.
Profile Image for Grace Tjan.
188 reviews505 followers
December 4, 2013

Miss Rebecca Sharp's Guide to the Regency Society

1. If a young lady is not born into either rank or fortune, she will be looked down upon by good society and forced to exist in a humiliating dependency on others for life, unless the said young lady is willing, nay, not merely willing, but most strenuously strive to improve her situation.

2. If the said young lady, despite being a poor orphan, happens to have the good fortune of being admitted into an exclusive academy for young ladies as an articled pupil, she has to ensure that she makes the utmost effort to learn everything that she could in that fine establishment. The modern languages, Greek, Latin and the rudiments of Hebrew, as well as music and dancing are important subjects that need to be mastered by an accomplished young lady, but most important of all is the ability to speak good French with the purest Parisian accent, for it enables the speaker to pass herself off as a daughter of the French aristocracy, even though in reality her mother is a mere stage actress.

3. “A woman with fair opportunities, and without an absolute hump, may marry whom she likes”. A wealthy husband should be prospected immediately after the young lady completes her education. The brother of a school friend is most suitable, even if the said young man is a fat dandy and not very sensible, as long as he is of ample inheritance. Beware of the gluttonous young buck though, for an overindulgence in a bowl of punch might thwart a young lady’s designs on him!

4. “Schoolmistresses' letters are to be trusted no more nor less than churchyard epitaphs”. There are notable exceptions, it must be admitted, but they are exceedingly rare. Nevertheless, the young lady, should she fail in her initial effort to land a wealthy husband, should endeavour to gain a letter of introduction that would recommend her as a governess to the most respectable of households. Such households, though populated by dissolute aristocrats, might house a number of potential spouses. A younger son of a baronet, even though he is a scoundrel, gambler, swindler and murderer, is a most suitable prospect, provided that he is to inherit an elderly relative’s fortune.

5. “Let them show ever so little inclination, and men go down on their knees at once: old or ugly, it is all the same”. A little sweet talk and a wink, and they all fall on your feet bearing trinkets of pearls and gold. It doesn’t matter a whit if he happens to be your best friend’s husband, nor if you yourself is somebody’s else’s wife. It is best, however, if the gentleman admirer is a wealthy, powerful nobleman, for the advantages that a clever lady could get from him, financially or otherwise, is great indeed. Why, not only is he able to provide the lady’s household with a thousand-pound cheque at a whim, he is also able to bestow a profitable colonial governorship on the lady’s husband. Beware of the jealous husband, though, who through an imaginary affront to his honor might destroy all of the lady’s clever schemes!

6. How To Live Well On Nothing A Year. Appearances must be kept: a residence in Mayfair, a smart carriage, the best game and wines for one’s entertainments, and the latest Parisian fashions. How to afford all these when one has no regular income? Not to despair, the ingenious lady always has means to do so. Prevail upon the generosity of friends and relatives. Impose upon your landlord and your greengrocers, washerwomen and other domestics. Unlike banks or Hebrew money-lenders, these little people are very unlikely to set loose a bailiff upon your respectable self, especially if they are in awe of your noble family.

7. If all these schemes fail, and both your husband and gentleman admirer abandon you in a cloud of scandal, despair not! A lady of some talent can always flee abroad and sing for her supper, if necessary. Better still, if you could rekindle a relationship with a former beau, now older and ailing, who though his own fortune is much encumbered, would take a life insurance naming your pitiful self as a beneficiary. The small fortune that ensues from such a settlement is surely enough to tide you over until your estranged son succeeds into his baronetcy and is finally able to provide you with a generous allowance. Then you can spend your declining years as an admirably pious and charitable society lady. Thus a penniless orphan girl need not condemn herself to a life of servitude and penury, but instead rise into the pinnacle of society through her industry and ingeniousness!

Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews503 followers
January 22, 2012
There was a girl I knew in school that made my formative years (for this purpose I'm considering the "formative years" to be 11-14) a bloody hell. She was a nasty, manipulative, cruel girl who, unfortunately for me, also had the luck of being beautiful and popular. She was wretched to the little people, and I was a little person. She was mean to me but I so wanted her to be my friend because I thought if I was her friend and a part of her circle, then everything would be okay. Life would be perfect.

I remember one day in class as we were down to the last few minutes before the bell, our teacher just let us all sit around and talk. There was a school dance that evening and it was all anyone wanted to talk about. The teacher happened to ask this popular girl if she was looking forward the dance. This girl made a comment that has stayed with me all these years: "Yeah, but I still haven't decided how I'm going to act tonight." The teacher asked what she meant by that and this girl went on to explain, "Well, if I act sad I can get a lot more attention from people, like the boys." She said it so nonchalantly, as if this was something she did every day, like waking up and brushing her hair; looking back I realize she probably did. She probably did think about what sort of attention she would get based on how she behaved. I was sort of scared of her in that moment - someone my age who knew more about human nature than I thought I ever could, someone who knew how to manipulate everyone around her. It was freakish and sort of awesome all at once.

I thought of that girl a lot while reading Vanity Fair. Becky Sharp is just as dangerous a character as that girl I knew was in real life. The concept of "being nice" was foreign to both of them; why bother being nice to people who couldn't get you anywhere in life? Why bother being nice to someone who is, for all intents and purposes, below you? It's a crazy thought process but that's what Becky (and this other girl) were all about.

What's interesting to me is that Becky is not really the main character of the story. Just like that girl I knew in school. As far as I was concerned at the time, the sun rose and set because of her. Everyone knew who she was, everyone wanted to be her friend, even the teachers. Looking back as an adult I realize everyone was really just afraid of her as I was, but I thought there was something more to the power she held. But no, she (and Becky Sharp) were just that insidious. There were other people in the school - myself included - but none of those other people mattered when she was around. Same holds true with Vanity Fair. There are other characters, like Amelia, but they're almost completely overshadowed by this really insignificant person - even during the parts that didn't include Becky, the reader is just waiting for her to step her precious little foot back into the story.

I hear that this girl from my school days is married and has some kids and has found religion. I'm told she's not as bad as she used to be. But I'm not going to lie - that girl messed me up, and now I can't imagine her being a good mother to her kids; I sort of think she probably treats them the same way Becky Sharp treated her own child in the story: as a nuisance, serving only the purpose of gaining attention for herself when necessary. Perhaps that's being unfair to that girl from school to imagine that's how she is; everyone can change. Hell, I'm not the same kid I was back when I knew her, so chances are she's just as capable of change as well. But a part of me needs her to still be that nasty little bitch I knew then because it makes me feel better about me - which, funnily enough, isn't that different from Becky Sharp at all.

The truth of the matter is that we all have a little Becky Sharp in us somewhere. It may be larger piece in some than in others, and maybe we all have a little bit of Amelia as well (who isn't quite as interesting but worthy of a little disgust thrown her way too, just for different reasons). We all love having someone to hate on - for some it's the Kardashians, for some it's Lady Gaga. It contributes to the way society works, and no one is free of it. We love to hate, and Thackeray wrote some characters in Vanity Fair that are absolutely delicious to hate - it's just Becky Sharp is the strongest of them all.

'Cause she's a bitch, through and through.
Profile Image for Edward.
419 reviews398 followers
April 29, 2020
Vanity Fair may be brilliant, but it is extremely bloated and uneven. For each page that features interesting characters and compelling dialogue, one must trudge through a greater measure of dull, relentless and misplaced description, aside and detail. Thackeray just goes on and on, spilling onto the page everything he can possibly think of, without any consideration for what is interesting and what is not. The story seems not to be driving anywhere in particular, but it drives on regardless, and the driver enjoys nothing more than tediously pointing out each minute element of the scenery passed along the way.

This is a novel built on comic wit and satire, which, I've come to realise, aren't really my thing, especially when coupled with Nineteenth Century concerns and sensibilities and packaged in bland realism. Give me a metaphor now and then, or something! Of the mostly unappealing and forgettable cast of characters, Becky was the one I felt least indifferent too, and she represents almost all of what I enjoyed about this novel. I found myself frequently tuning out when she wasn't around, barely expending the effort to keep track of which Crawley was which, or who was married to whom, or in which park did each now happen to take their walks of an afternoon (as compared to last week), and who enjoys a little claret with their meals now and then, and is tonight's veal to their liking? - all for very little payoff.

I think to enjoy this novel you have to have some sort of affinity for its excesses, to be captivated by its time and place, its wit and voice and style, in order to follow, eagerly and attentively down each unremarkable cul-de-sac. For my part, I followed, but reluctantly, and with very little enthusiasm. If Vanity Fair were about 300 pages shorter I might have enjoyed it, but as it stands I'm just pleased to have gotten through it.
Profile Image for Matt.
1,017 reviews663 followers
March 1, 2017
Ok, ok...I'm reading this as a break between books for classes in Grad School. Is that the dorkiest thing you could ever imagine? Yes. It is. It just is.

But the first two pages, the author's introduction....greatest two pages of introductory prose I've ever seen. Better than Kafka, better than Nabokov, better than whatever. Fucking brilliant- vivid, funny, rambunctious, wise, sarcastic, immortally satirical. I was hooked each time I picked up the book and read through it. Sometimes there's that first blush kind of thing going on, when a book seems amazing in the first few minutes of poking around in it in a bookstore and then it loses its shine when you take it home and read it.

Not so w. Vanity Fair...

I'm maybe a hundred pages in and I'm savoring it. It's deliciously wise and cyncial and knowing and filled with its own combustion engine, perpetual storytelling (ie serialization, 'let's throw in a subplot so we can go out to eat for the next week') is a lost art. this is prose I already know I'm going to re-read after I'm finished.

One thing, an objection anticipated-

Story being overtold? Concision? Legitimate grounds...in context. How much story does one really need? What is a story without the very thing which comprises it? The protein in the beef, the fiber in the bread....LANGUAGE.

For me as a reader, it's all about language- the way things are said, not (as much) what's said. How many buildungsroman 'idealistic young man from the sticks hits the big city and gets more than he bargained for" stories does one need to read (The Red And the Black, On The Road, Huck Finn, Great Gatsby, Portrait, whatever....all these can arguably be included in the genre but they're not the same novel at all, because they're not written by the same author) and that individual stamp can indeed be read in any amount of ways but it best manifests itself in language.
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews235 followers
December 4, 2018
"Vanity Fair" is set in England, in the years around Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. However, William Makepeace Thackeray's portrait of human nature isn't limited to any time or place. The novel is made up of nothing but super-rigidly-defined cliques; complicated rules about who is allowed to talk to whom, when, where, and for how long; small levels of popularity subdivided into types; and a bunch of people who are constantly trying to reach the top of the heap and avoid becoming social pariahs. No wonder I’ve loved this book as a teenager… it sounds just like highschool!

In a nutshell, “Vanity Fair” is the story of two young women whose lives take them in and out of every segment of English society, each of which can be mocked and displayed for laughs in turn. But what's more important than the plot is the style of the novel: its bitter and caustic humor. And it really does have something for everyone to laugh at: snobby merchants, greedy social climbers, illiterate aristocrats, nosy servants, evil nobles, macho soldiers, bossy women, bumbling men, British people, German people, Belgian people, and every other kind of group of humans that can be crammed in.

What sets this aside from the novels of its time is that it's not about very nice people. These are people who make disliking them so easy -- which makes them, all the more, interesting. I sensed that Thackeray got into everything he ever witnessed or suspected about human motives. It's a profoundly skeptical book. He pits worldliness against goodness with no illusions about which quality usually triumphs. Put it this way: In a Dickens novel, a small boy rescued from the torments of a bully will almost certainly grow up to be an exemplar of kindness and gentleness. The same boy, in Thackeray, grows up to be a snob and a rotter, and hateful to the friend who saved him from the bully. Multiply those incidents into a panorama that stretches nearly the entire height of early 19th century English society, and you have an overwhelmingly coherent and devastating satiric vision. And in the midst of it all is Thackeray's protagonist: the scheming, status-seeking Rebecca “Becky” Sharp.

A poor orphan of low birth, Becky is a born hustler and almost sociopathic striver who manages to raise herself to the upper limits of high society and wealth -- only to see her achievements crumble under the weight of her bad deeds. Evil temptress or misunderstood woman ahead of her time? You be the judge. "Vanity Fair" is inevitably a feminist tale, because Becky will not be kept down. But there's another way of looking at the story which doesn't preclude the feminist treatment, and which seems potentially richer: its inescapable revelation that in 19th century England, a woman had to be a genius to achieve success -- or even to fight life to a draw.

Her foil, Amelia Sedley, is also compelling. While Becky is self-reliant and action oriented, with a scheme or two always on the backburner, Amelia is dependent on the kindness of the next stranger to come around the corner. If you want to get fancy about it, she entirely lacks agency. In almost any other novel, she would be the heroine, and her sad-sack ways would be disguised a little better so that instead of coming across like a lump of nothing she would seem like a paragon of femininity. You know the drill: dainty, small, semi-pathetic, and needing some white-knight rescue action. Here, though, we are shown exactly what happens when you take those supposed ideals of femininity to the extreme -- you get Jell-O in human form.

Thackery's narrator, who's telling a "true" story based on the accounts of the principal characters he has met, satirizes early 19th century British and European culture (class, religion, education, business, war, tourism, etc.) so as to expose human vanity in general. He is keenly honest about their failings, yet you don't get the feeling that he despises people for their weaknesses. He tells the story almost as if he is a fond old uncle, slightly detached, amused at the foibles of, but still having affection for, his characters.

“Vanity Fair” is a very long novel, written in serialization. Sentences are complex and very long, florid, and decorative. There is a lightness in its tone, even when your emotions are being tugged a bit. The book may not be uplifting --but it’s certainly entertaining, thought provoking, and often moving. After reading this again, I could still say that this must be the most decorous, savage novel ever written -- and it's one of a handful of books I’ve encountered to describe an honest vision of the world.
Profile Image for Loretta.
306 reviews157 followers
June 27, 2019
This book really wasn't for me. Don't get me wrong, some parts were very enjoyable and humorous, while others, not so much. The Rebecca, Becky character, I just couldn't stand! She was such a snob and just so full of herself! She just wanted to be one of the rich and famous! Three stars.
Profile Image for Helga.
887 reviews126 followers
December 28, 2017
“Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?”

Vanity fair! A novel without a hero! A puppet show! The puppets are the flawed and unlikeable characters and the acts are hypocrisy, callousness, betrayal and artfulness.
Narrated by Thackeray himself who is unreliable and voluble, the story is about two opposites. The manipulative, cunning, scheming and pleasure-seeking Becky Sharp and the weak, naive and kindhearted (in my opinion stupid and annoying) Emmy Sedley.
Vanity Fair is the portrayal of human nature at its worst. It is about the vanity of human affairs and not an easy book to like. It took me more than 3 months to read it, whereas I finished Les Miserables and War and Peace respectively in 3 and 4 weeks and devoured Charles Dickens novels like they were chocolate dipped peanut butter crackers!

And so as Dante says, “Abandon all hope - You Who Enter Here.”
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 6 books296 followers
July 25, 2022
Wonderful, read in grad school in (relative) youth. Decades later, I often passed his house near the Kensington High Street (near the old Barkers Store), on the same square with John Stuart Mill.
I recall that Thackeray's daughter asked her father, "Can you write a book more like Mr Dickens'?"

Maybe a mile away is Apsley House, near Hyde Park's SE corner, not THE HP Corner. The Duke of Wellington's house, he known for the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo; but I urge you to read about that battle, won really by the Prussian troops who came in to Napoleon's rear. Here John Carey's intro notes that this, the only English novel comparable to War and Peace. Two gallant military beaux, including Amelia's Osborne, head to battle Napoleon in 1815. The English called Napoleon from his last name, "Boney."

Becky Sharp holds our attention, although Amelia is featured. I love Thackeray's idea of conversation, a battle. (As in Austen, though not explicit there.) In conversing with Becky, "Thus was George utterly routed" not that Rebecca was in the right, but she'd managed to put him in the wrong; "he now shamefully fled"(p.161, Penguin, 2001). Becky often "wins" by anticipation of her interlocutor's response. Others hope to "win" with slander, as Mrs. Bute wants to disinherit Becky and beaux, a Crawley --rich old Miss Crawley in decline, but Mrs. Bute almost killing her by slandering her nephew. Mrs. Bute's slanders provide the "provisions and ammunition, as it were, with which she fortified the house against the seige which Rawdon [the nephew} and his wife [Becky] would lay to Miss Crawley"(214).

Amelia's Sedley family is ruined--her father blames it on Napoleon's returning from Elba--so Capt. Osborne's father, whom old Sedley had helped early on, would never consent to his son's marrying the penniless Aemilia/ Emmy. Though Osborne himself may inherit enough from his mother to "purchase his majority," that is, buy the rank of Major! (222).

Thackeray writes with amusement, sometimes even using Dickensian names (Chopper at a counting housess, Dr Gulp for alcoholic patent medicines, Earl of Castlemouldy, Lady Slowbore, the Duchess of Pumpernickel [383]), but especially ironic juxtaposition, as when lowly soldiers write letters on being sent to Belgium (and Waterloo), "letters full of love and heartiness, pluck and bad spelling"(270). Irony grows, some profound, "is it because men are such cowards in heart that they admire bravery so much, and place military valour so far beyond every other quality for reward and worship?"(343) The author makes great verbs from nouns, as when Briggs thinks back to her crush on the writing master, when they both intoned evening hymns, "writing-master and she were both quavering out of the same psalm-book"(169)

Fine writing buried in the midest of paragraps, like "She walks into a room as silently as a sunbeam" Dobbin thinks fo Amelia, his love for 15 years before dumped in favor of the fallen woman Becky. Ironically, he finally wins Emmy because Becky tells her about her over-admired Osborne having made a pass at her a day or two after he had married. So another fine irony, Dobbins leaving Emmy over Becky's admittance, without which...

As in Dickens, Britisms abound, like a snack called "parliament," which is gingerbread, amidst profound ironies, say on funerals surrounded "with humbug and ceremonies," the only one grieving for Sir Pitt, his Pointer dog, who "used to howl sometimes at first"(488).

In my doctoral dissertation on literary conventions "This Critical Age," I mention women swooning, very common in 19C English novels. Here, the elder Miss Crawley, on learning of Becky's marriage, "fell into a faint"(183). Thackery's chooses perfect verbs, as when married women use smiles to "cajole, or elude, or disarm" (191). Before radio, Becky plays piano and sings--as I heard down streets in Milano, and later in Napoli at the library attached to the Opera House.

Familiar with auctions in my grandparents' Norway, Maine, I was surprised to find the Sedley house auction only through agents. Here we find what I never noticed fifty years ago, racism against those agents, and my room-mates. Attending the high-achieving Amherst College, both my room-mates were smarter and more accomplished than I, and both Jews. Neither had the "Asian face" Thackeray remarks, nor "hooked beaks" Becky remarks (193). Every race in its place, every ethnicity like the French and African. Now Huck Finn is denounced for the common racial moniker of the time, which makes me speculate which of our common assumptions will be disapproved, even hated, in a few decades.
Profile Image for Ṣafā.
72 reviews66 followers
September 25, 2019
Maybe I've matured as a reader now but I think I haven't enjoyed any classic as much as I did this one. It was thicker and longer than many a novel, but I enjoyed it the better for it. By the end, I understood why it was so long, the ending justified it. I was so daunted by its iconic title to read it before, but it was easier to read than most classics. The experience was complete, there wasn't anything missing, it had everything and so so much more.

Published in 1847-1848, Vanity Fair is a Victorian satire and covers the English era during and after the Napoleonic Wars. The novel is about two women, totally opposite to each other, who after completing their education set out into the world. One an orphan, alone and friendless in the world except for her companion who is charming, witty, satirical, poised, manipulative, and striving to make her way into the world while the other, good-natured but passive and naïve, engaged from early childhood and belonging to a prosperous family. Thus the adventure begins, of love and loss, death and tragedy, trickery and deceit, innocence and naiveté, war and conflict.

Thackeray talks about British Raj of those times and the Battle of Waterloo which changes the course of the lives of the protagonists. The writing is rich with historical, Biblical, and literary allusions and references. The omniscient narration is most endearing.

The title of the novel, Vanity Fair, has been iconic to this day. Turns out it comes from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, a Christian allegory published in 1678. The author explains his title again and again in the novel bringing its significance to light.

The author declares the heroine of the novel in the very beginning but subtitled his novel "A novel without a hero" which I don't agree with, by the way. I recognized a hero in William Dobbin by the latter part of the novel.

Thackeray's writing portrayed a realism unfound among the writers of his time. Thackeray discusses the human nature, explores the hypocrisy of society, and takes the curtain off the mysteries of life for a moment and lets us take a peek in.

The novel is about sticking to the idols we make, ourselves, of people we think we love but which are nothing like the reality, our need to believe in our ideals no matter how false they may be, the egotism and of course the vanity of the innocent and the cunning, the rich and the poor alike, the human infidelity, the brutal reality of being poor, human greed, of closing our eyes to what is right in front of us, the truth, the frailty of relations, of friendship and opportunism.

Thackeray shows us and believes that love triumphs in the end, but so does villainy, it doesn't get retribution enough, but I had the underlying sense that depravity is a punishment in itself.

"All is vanity". Ecclesiastes 1.2.

(Originally published on: https://safafatima.wordpress.com/2017...)
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews516 followers
March 30, 2018
Probably First Realistic Femme Fatale of Modern Lit
The Prototype for Most Who Followed

"Now I ain't sayin' you a gold digger, you got needs.
*** Get down girl, go 'head, get down."

"Gold Digger," Kanye West, Ray Charles, Renald Richard, 2005

Becky Sharp is perhaps modern lit's first exemplar of today's femme fatale. Clever, charming, attractive, as well as artful, duplicitous, hyper-ambitious, a superself-centered woman who uses sex as one of her tools to manipulate men but only to serve her needs. She is the anti-heroine without a scruple in this (subtitled) "novel without a hero." "I think," she says, "I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year."

I think we've all known at least one Becky Sharp, she usually comes from relatively nothing yet is the first to ridicule those less fortunate. "Old Sir Pitt...chuckled at her airs and graces , and would laugh ... at her assumptions of dignity and imitations of genteel life."

There is really only one character who could be characterized as "redeeming" in the entire lengthy novel. Nonetheless, I was thoroughly impressed with and enjoyed reading this 1848 novel which is set in England around the time of Waterloo.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book484 followers
March 22, 2018
This book might be unique in that it not only claims to have no hero, but in fact has no hero. What it does have is a cast of duplicitous, weak or inane characters, none of whom stir much in the way of either pity, empathy, or affinity. It also has the bad girl to end all bad girls, Miss Rebecca Sharp. I doubt anyone would argue that Becky is not the most interesting character in the book, and while some might admire the good little Amelia, few could actually like her.

Vanity Fair is quite a bit longer than it needs to be and some chapters meander aimlessly, but this, I believe, can be attributed to the method in which it was released. When a book is being presented to its audience in a serial form, it must go on for a prearranged period of time and acquire a certain length. Were it being edited for release as a novel today, I feel sure it would be shortened considerably.

Thackeray breaks the fourth wall constantly, talking to the reader and urging him to see the point he has just made, in a way that can become irritating at times. But, even this conceit works for me for the most part. Toward the end of the book, the narrator explains that he has “just met” the principles, which sent my head spinning, for how could one know all the details set forth in such omniscient fashion if one just had a chance encounter with these people toward the end of their stories? Up to this point, I had accepted the narrator as an all-seeing sort of presence, not a literal acquaintance of the characters, so it was discombobulating to say the least.

Vanity Fair is a moral tale, or more correctly a tale about lack of morals. One wonders if this society actually had any or if everything that passed for morals was pretense.

At one point, Thackery compares the behavior of these persons to a mermaid and her tail:
Those who may peep down under waves that are pretty transparent and see it writhing and twirling, diabolically hideous and slimy, flapping amongst bones, or curling around corpses; but above the waterline, I ask, has not everything been proper, agreeable, and decorous, and has even the most squeamish immoralist in Vanity Fair a right to cry fie.

I believe he is trying to impress upon his reader that this is a world of pretense, a world that cares more for appearance than it ever could for virtue. Indeed, we watch Becky Sharp navigate this society in the most unscrupulous way possible, and we cannot help feeling that her flaws and shortcomings are more about survival than evil.

And, there seems to be a particular emphasis on women and their relationships to one another:

I am tempted to think that to be despised by her sex is a very great compliment to a woman.


As they say, the persons who hate Irishmen most are Irishmen; so, assuredly, the greatest tyrants over women are women.

It does indeed seem that it is the fairer sex, who are proposed to have the gentler hearts, the nurturing instincts and the sweeter dispositions, who wield the knife most cruelly. The men, while equally dissipated, seem somehow more gullible and unaware than hateful or manipulative.

I had a hard time deciding what rating to give this tome. I did enjoy it and found myself caught up in the story at times. There were also moments when I might have laid it aside and never picked it up again without the slightest hesitation. It is not the best of Victorian literature to me...it has none of the power of Eliot, none of the charm of Dickens, and none of the atmosphere of Hardy. In short, it cannot be ranked with the best of its time, but it cannot be dismissed either. I could not help feeling sorry for Thackeray, knowing that he suffered in comparison to Dickens in his lifetime and will continue to do so throughout literary history.

I am happy to have read Vanity Fair at last. There are surely some important ideas addressed and some things of value that can be taken away from it, but it is not the kind of book that pleads well to be read again.
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,382 followers
June 26, 2011
First things first: Don't get this edition! I recently attended my college reunion. Whilst ambling idly around the green lawns of that hallowed institution, I had chance to encounter my most distinguished and beloved professor of English. Exalted that I happened to be dandling Thackeray's baby on my knee (instead of the glossy monthly version of Vanity Fair, as is more common with me), with sparkling eyes and an enchanting smile I thrust my copy before his erudite and discerning nose. "My favorite novel!" the learned man exclaimed in raptures; however his face then fell as he flipped through my humble off-brand edition. "I had not," he informed me, "got the proper one." He went on to explain that Thackeray had devised a large number of amusing illustrations, which are reprinted in certain -- infinitely more desirable and impressive -- editions.

"But why, good sir," I wept, "do they then publish editions such as these, deprived of pictures and designed to lead astray and to ruin the reputation of unfortunate, innocent wretches such as I?"

"Because they're stupid," the scholar pronounced, and left me gazing sadly at my inferior edition.

That said, I managed to enjoy my (pictureless) experience of Vanity Fair immensely! This is the best novel I've ever read on the topic of money. It's also got maybe the most wonderful and fascinating narrator in English literature, which is no small feat considering there's some virile competition.

Vanity Fair is supposed to be, as its title says, A Novel Without A Hero, and much fun is derived figuring out if this claim is true. In Vanity Fair, characters tend to be ruled either by love or money; by ruthless self-interest or slavish sacrifice to unworthy others. Thackeray's narrator slyly presents these modes and their virtues alongside society's supposed and actual values, forcing the reader to ask herself who, in this Fair, could possibly be called a true hero?

Of course, for this reader, the answer was clear: while there are some who may neither love nor delight in the antics of Becky Sharp, they're not in my social circle and would "cut" me rudely, should our open carriages happen to pass in the Park. Despite some superficial similarities, Becky Sharp is no odious Undine Spragg, and I can't imagine not cheering for this anti-heroine. Like the narrator, Becky's got the number of every character in Vanity Fair, and she illusionlessly proceeds based on this sound intelligence. Unlike even the noble Wm. Dobbin, Becky has no blind spots or weaknesses in judging character, and so she is that rarest of creatures: a truly charming realist who loves to have a great time. As Thackeray takes pains to remind us, Becky's not a pure cynic: she appreciates goodness in people, and doesn't begrudge others the virtue that she lacks. She is thoroughly lovable in her wickedness, as the best of us are.

What a great novel! All its considerable dramatic tension comes directly from its incredible characters -- Which will taste Success? Who shall be faced with Ruin? Will Becky triumph? Will Dobbin rally? Will Amelia ever grow a pair (or will she, one wonders hopefully, please drown herself in the Thames)? -- and from the brilliant commentary and manipulations of the narrative voice. As I said above, it's a novel focused on the topic of money, and is the best of these of any that I've ever read. Obviously, it's a comic novel, and is very funny; but it's also great literature, so beyond being funny, it's true.

O brother-wearers of motley! Are there not moments where one grows sick of grinning and tumbling, and the jingling of cap and bells? This, dear friends and companions, is my amiable object -- to walk with you through the Fair, to examine the shops and shows there; and that we should all come home after the flare, and the noise, and the gaiety, and be perfectly miserable in private.

I cried three times while reading Vanity Fair! If you think that's pathetic, wait until you see how often the female characters in here fall to weeping. You might play a drinking game while reading Vanity Fair, and take a swig of brandy-and-water each time a character starts to cry; perhaps it might be a two-person game, in which one player drinks to the sincere and awful blubbering of dopey neurotic Amelia, while another takes a sip for each of "our little adventuress" Becky's crocodile tears. Or maybe, following the book's milieu, it wouldn't be based around drinking but instead a highly risky and addictive game of chance. There was an unholy amount of gambling in Vanity Fair, and indeed this vice seems to have been to moneyed Regency (?) England what crack cocaine was to impoverished 1980s American urban centers.

Anyway, this book was great and I definitely do recommend it. I know I said that going forward I was going to make a greater effort to start quoting from the source, but I've got things to do, and anyway, it's all so choice that I hardly know where to start. Just go read it yourself -- but remember! Get the one with the pictures!
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