Victorians! discussion

Archived Group Reads 2009-10 > Vanity Fair Ch. 19 - 35

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message 1: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited Jun 14, 2010 06:15PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Great questions, Mary!

And my 'two-cents' are as follows:

1. I still find Amelia to be a simpering fool who blindly believes in that idiot George. I very much like Dobbin; he's a good-hearted man. I do wish he'd be just a tad more assertive though. After all, if he 'truly' loved Amelia wouldn't you expect him to warn her off of George?

2. I like Miss Crawley. She lives life large, and I think Thackeray probably liked her as a character too. Who knows, but he probably had a spinster auntie just like Miss Crawley.

3. In my humble opinion, I feel that Dobbin is the only candidate to be the novel's hero!

4. A couple of thoughts -- One, Dobbin has convinced him of the moral correctness of marrying Emmy. Two, I think he kind of feels sorry for Emmy. Finally, I think he typically takes exactly the opposite tack to the wishes of Pere Osbourne's wishes.

5. I think both of them use the review of George's old documents or letters to reinforce their own perceptions of reality (the old 'pride and prejudice' routine, don't you know). I don't think they look at them to determine if, in fact, they are wrong about George's motives or character.

6. Dobbin wants to keep George's financial affairs on the up-and-up in order to avoid any potential problems for Emmy. He is really Emmy's 'Fairy Godfather,' if you will.

7. Personally, I think the novel was very well written and structured; and like all novels written in that time it has its own internal ebb and flow that reflects serialization. It really reads quite well though.

message 2: by Rochelle (new)

Rochelle Gridley | 21 comments 1. I agree, Amelia is a fainting couch girl who can't pull up her socks. She was raised to be dependent and will always be so. Dobbin on the other hand is too conventional.

2. I jumped the gun on the comments on Miss Crawley during the earlier discussion. I think Thackeray liked her very much and possibly had her same outlook on life.

3. Dobbin would like to be the hero? He would have to break with convention however, and snatch Amelia for himself to be the hero.

4. George has a high opinion of his status as a gentleman. He thinks marrying Ms. Schwartz is beneath him because she is a black person. Racial prejudice can be seen at points throughout the book (at the sale, the stereotyping comments about the Jewish buyers.) His father on the other hand is won over by her money.

6. Deep down Dobbin knows that this marriage is not in George's best financial interests, and he is trying to do what he can to soften the blow.

message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan | 74 comments 1. both way too passive
2. I LOVE Miss Crawley!
3. No hero/no heroine--this is a commentary on this "new" society's inability to sustain heroism.
4. a rebellious nature through and through, stemming from his self-centeredness, her being black doesn't help
5. not sure why
6. because he truly cares for Amelia.
7. well, it has definitely affected the length. Man, it is long! I'm sure he was paid by the word...

message 4: by Silver (new)

Silver 1. Amelia was always kind of annoying, but as the story progresses she grows worse, becoming down right unlikable. In addition to her being a placid and rather stupid little creature that spends most of her time feeling sorry for herself she also develops certain traits of snobbery.

Dobbin I cannot bring myself to like, well I should not say that I don't like him per sae, I will not argue that he is a noble, good-hearted person, but that is what turns me off to an extent. He is so good and so selfless that he simply is not interesting. In addition it is a bit annoying the way he always represses his own feelings for George's sake when George does not truly do anything in return for him.

2. I rather like Miss Crawley for the most part, though she is clearly a hypocrite, in the way she treats the people around her, particularly in the case of Rebecca and Rowdon compared to the things she claims she believes in. I was also surprised by how easily she lets other people come in and bully her around. One the one hand you would think she would be a bit wiser to the likes of Bute and her other family members but she does let herself be cowed by them.

3. No I do not feel as if there are any hero's within the story, I think Thackery does a very good job at staying true to the subtitle in writing a book without a hero. It is quite an interesting approach to writing a story particularly for Victorian novels. One of the things that not having a hero does for the novel is allowing it to have such a wide scope on talking about such a variety of different characters instead of focusing on anyone in particular. I think the not having a hero also adds a lot to the satire of the story because Thackery does make fun of all the characters in equal measure.

4. I think that George is generally moved to pity by Emmy and he holds himself up as being a true Gentleman, and to go back upon his promise to Emmy would mar that status in his eyes, as well he does allow Dobbin to convince him that it is the right thing to do. Renewing his connect with Emmy allows him to feel good about himself, as well as rebel against his father. I think there is a certain bit of because he was forbidden he wants to do it just for that reason. He also gets to feel like a hero defending her against the criticism of his father. I think it also feeds his ego to have someone so completely devoted to him.

5. That is interesting, I haven't really thought about that. I have to agree with what Christopher says. For both of them it reaffirms what they want to believe in George, and what they choose to see in him, and in this way helps convince them that thier actions towards him are correct.

6. I think everything Dobbin does revolves around the fact that he is obviously in love with Amelia but does not want to act upon it because of the loyalty he feels towards George. He helps George to help Amelia.

message 5: by Rochelle (new)

Rochelle Gridley | 21 comments Mary, I finished the book a couple weeks ago, but I had started before the book was selected.

It is amazing how everyone seemed to think that a battle was cause for a gathering -- obviously the women were too sheltered to realize the enormity of hand to hand combat. Of course Thackeray never saw battle either. I'm trying to think of an author at the time who did?? There have always been camp followers from the Crusades and on, some who were more useful than others.

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Rochelle wrote: "Mary, I finished the book a couple weeks ago, but I had started before the book was selected.

It is amazing how everyone seemed to think that a battle was cause for a gathering -- obviously the..."

You have to realize that when Napoleon left Elba (about March 1814) and made his way back to France and then rallied an army to him, the rest of the leaders of the European countries had been meeting for a few months in Vienna, Austria. The Congress of Vienna was intended to restore Europe to its pre-Napoleonic Wars state after some 15 years of continual war. In fact, Wellington was the representative of Britain at the congress, and had to ride hard to arrive in Brussels in order to start assembling the allied army that would be necessary to fight the French army. Consequently, many of the generals, royalty, and diplomats from each country traveled to Brussels to help facilitate their country's involvement in the coming campaign (Waterloo). Having everyone in Vienna probably actually helped the allies mobilize their forces even more quickly than expected.

Apparently the ball in Brussels was scheduled thinking that there were still probably a few more weeks before they would face the French in battle. It was at the ball that Wellington received word that the French had crossed the frontier into Belgium and that battle was imminent. Over the next couple of days the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras were fought (largely between the Prussians and the French), while Wellington maneuvered his forces onto the battlefield near Waterloo, and the rest is, as we say, history.

If you'd like to read a fascinating, and extremely well written account of the Congress of Vienna, I highly recommend David King's Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made War, Peace, and Love at the Congress of Vienna. They should make a period-drama mini-series from this book. It would be very entertaining.

message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver MaryZorro wrote: "How is everyone doing with Vanity Fair? I was thinking about putting up the next section, but I have not quite finished this section yet. I think that Waterloo is just about to start.

This is..."

It is a bit tedious to read at times, but so far I am getting along and enjoying it, and I will be ready for the next section whenever it is posted.

Yes I thought the whole making a war into some sort of big social event was quite surreal, I could not beleive it at first when they were talking about brining thier women along with them when they were going to march out again and then you had these random poeple following them and just hanging out having a party.

message 8: by Sasha (new)

Sasha | 0 comments Silver wrote: "MaryZorro wrote: "How is everyone doing with Vanity Fair? I was thinking about putting up the next section, but I have not quite finished this section yet. I think that Waterloo is just about to..."

I remember reading somewhere that when the American Civil War started, people traveled with picnic provisions to see the fighting. My memory is pretty vague but I think folks from Washington and Virginia rolled up to see the fun.

I also read somewhere that some officers went off to the battle of Waterloo wearing their evening clothes because they didn't have time to change, however that may be apocryphal.

message 9: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) MaryZorro wrote: "4. In Chapter 30, George mentally compares war to a game: "the great game of war was going to be played, and he one of the players. What a fierce excitement of doubt, hope, and pleasure! What tremendous hazards of loss or gain!" Does the novel support the idea that war, like everything else, is a game?"

Hmmm... I haven't thought about this before, but I like this comparison.

It does seem to me that the war is treated as a game, almost as a game of chess. It is almost assumed that there are moves that can be made to win, and the English are going to make those moves. And family and friends can come along to watch the match take place.

I can understand a wife wanting to travel with her husband, especially when it took so long for news to travel back, however, the way that so many people travel close to the battlefields and carry on with dances and tea time seems arrogant. As if the men can go fight, win, and be back to dress for dinner and spend an evening at a concert. Is this part of a larger British attitude of arrogance that Thackeray is implying or just an attitude of the upper-crust?

It has been awhile since I read VF, so forgive me if I am off-base; I am just going by the impressions that I can recall.

message 10: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 29, 2010 06:27AM) (new)

MadgeUK It was not arrogance but custom:-

Today people can support their troops by various means of prompt communication but when communications were very slow and unreliable, some people felt that being near to the front was good for the morale of the army and also, before proper field hospitals were established, it could be life-saving if your wife or fiance was nearby to nurse you. Camp followers were an essential part of an army's support system right up until WWI. The French authorised female cantinieries (canteen hands) during the Napoleonic wars:-

(Thackeray may be basing some of what he writes about the dances etc on the above report about what happened in Brussels and Antwerp.)

Entertainment was provided for the troops then, just as it was in WWII by ENSA and USO, and is provided in Afghanistan today. Unrelenting war is bad for morale and light entertainment must be provided to keep soldiers sane.

Obviously, the wealthier you were, and Thackeray is portraying some of the habits of the upper-crust, the more extravagant the entertainment can be but I suspect you find the same sort of extravagance amongst officers today when the conditions of war allow for it. Mess dinners, for instance, are still very formal and take place wherever an army is garrisoned:-

message 11: by Rochelle (new)

Rochelle Gridley | 21 comments In chapter 28 there is a definite change of tone back to the narrator. Thackeray shows his national pride here: "But it may be said, as a rule, that every Englishman in the Duke of Wellington's army paid his way. The remembrance of such a fact surely becomes a nation of shopkeepers. (An insult from Napoleon that rankled.) It was a blessing for a commerce-loving country to be overrun by such an army of customers, and to have such creditable warriors to feed. And the country they came to protect is not military. For a long period of history they have let other people fight there. . . . All looked as brilliant and harmless as a Hyde Park review. Meanwhile Napoleon, c\screened behind his curtain of frontier fortresses, was preparing for the out break which was to drive all these orderly people into fury and blood, and lay so many of them low."

This narration is framed however by the account of Jos Sedley's arrival and adventures in Brussels.

message 12: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK There was a lot of patriotic pride about at a time when Britain had an Empire which covered 1/3rd of the globe:). Thackeray is recording after the event one of the greatest battles in British military history - the Battle of Waterloo - so his portrayal of national pride is understandable. He is also developing his satirical theme that all is vanity, especially war. A theme similar to the one Tolstoy expresses in War and Peace but Thackeray gives it more humour.

BTW so many corpses meant a lot of spare teeth to use for dentures, which came to be known as Waterloo teeth!!

message 13: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 18 comments I am a bit surprised at the dislike of Amelia here. Sure, she isn't all that interesting because she doesn't have the independence we like our female characters to have but seeing her in contrast to Becky may be detrimental to her. I haven't come across her being snobbish at all (so far) and I think she genuinely cares more about people than Becky does.

I think Dobbin is the only possible candidate for a hero here, as George was a jerk (though he stuck by Amelia and married her only to be disinherited) and is now dead, and Rawdon is just a good-old boy without true nobility like Dobbin has. And Joe Sedley is just a big fat coward--literally! :)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 604 comments Amelia really does remind me of Melanie in Gone with the Wind.

message 15: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I am actually currently reading GWTW for the first time and I am surprised by how much it reminds me of Vanity Fair; it could definitely be another 'novel without a hero'. I would be very interested to know if Mitchell read it VF.

message 16: by Sasha (new)

Sasha | 0 comments Joy wrote: "I am actually currently reading GWTW for the first time and I am surprised by how much it reminds me of Vanity Fair; it could definitely be another 'novel without a hero'. I would be very intereste..."

Long, long ago, I read an excellent biography of Margaret Mitchell (can't recall the author, sorry, but she also wrote a biog. of Vivien Leigh). I seem to remember MM loved VF and was very much influenced by it. Even without having read the biography, I would be astonished if MM had not read VF-there are just too many parallels.

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