Victorians! discussion

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Archived Group Reads 2009-10 > Vanity Fair Ch. 36-53

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver MaryZorro wrote: "~Discussion Questions for Vanity Fair

Glen Downey, Ph. D., Department of English, University of British Columbia

1. Whatever misgivings we might have concerning Rawdon Crawley, there is no quest..."


I find the dynamic between Becky, Rawdon and the child to be quite interesting, and in some ways surprising for a Victorian novel. It would normally be unheard of at this period of time for the man of the house to take on a more "domestic" or "maternal" role toward the children, something which is becoming ever more acceptable and popular in today's world.

Rawdon is like the Victorian counterpart of a stay at home dad. He is the one that comforts the child, spends time with him, looks after him as much as possible, while Becky strikes me in many ways as being a rather progressive woman. She seems like the Victorian version of a "career woman"

Becky's "career" being her desire to rise herself up within society, the goal upon which she sets most of her attention. She is dedicating her time to trying to secure the future she wants for herself and while her methods may be morally questionable, I think that for a woman to rise from nothing and enter into society, at a time in which high society was so elitist and classicist, it was necessary to be mercenary.


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver 2. What is the significance of the friendship that develops between Rawdon Crawley and Lady Jane during this part of the novel?

I think that the developing friendship between Rawdon and Lady Jane show the widening gap between Becky and Rawdon, and the way in which Rawdon has changed with age.

When they were young they were partners in crime, scheming together, but Becky grows more ambitious and Rawdon with age as well as with the emasculation beneath Becky's rule has become more sentimental, and stripped down by his wife, made to feel more and more useless and unworthy.

Lady Jane is Becky's complete opposite, she is gentle natured and kind hearted, and Rawdon begins to turn more and more towards her out of necessity for companionship and sympathy as he is isolated by and driven away from his wife. While Rawdon begins to see there are more important things in life than station and class, and I think would genuinely like to have had Becky truly as his companion and wife, Becky becomes increasingly more desperate to acquire greatness in social status turning away from her husband.


message 3: by Silver (new)

Silver 7. Is Rawdon's decision to leave Becky a spontaneous one--the result of wounded vanity--or is it the result of subtle changes in his character that have been developing for some time?

While I think that Rawdown would not likely have left Becky if it were not for the shock of the incident with Steyne, I do believe that there were several other factors that helped build up to that moment, which if they had not occurred he may have been more willing to give into Becky yet again.

Rawdon does begin to mature and change throughout the book with his growing age, as well I think having a son also helps change his value system from what it once was, in addition, be becomes drawn closer to Lady Jane a woman of stark contrast to Becky.

With Rawdon's alternating character and changing value system, and his displeasure in the realtionship, or lack of one between Becky and her son, I think Rawdon's eyes do become more open to the nature of Becky and he grows more dissatisfied with the way in which her ambitions take president over her family.

She grows increasingly distant from Rawdon and holds him in greater contempt, I think the combination of Becky's diminishing affection toward her husband, and her lack of care for family, allows Rawdon more and more to see in her what others see and opens him more to suspicion of her, so that when the moment with Steyne occurs, which is the final breaking point, Rawdon is able to break finally from her.


message 4: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Silver wrote: "I find the dynamic between Becky, Rawdon and the child to be quite interesting, and in some ways surprising for a Victorian novel. It would normally be unheard of at this period of time for the man of the house to take on a more "domestic" or "maternal" role toward the children, something which is becoming ever more acceptable and popular in today's world. "

I think that you are quite right Silver, and I think that the role reversals are very intentional on Thackeray's part. If Rawdon was the one who manipulated businessmen and Becky were to dote on her son, there would be nothing disturbing about their roles. However, by making Becky the manipulator who is hungry for power and wealth; and Rawdon the quieter, caring father; Thackeray challenges the reader and his/her assumptions about male/female roles. Great stuff!


message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver 5. What similarities are there in the relationships between Amelia and George, and Amelia and Georgy?

For Amelia, George lives on in a way through thier son Georgy, and in the same way that when George died,she suddenly forgot all of his negative points, of the misery he put her through, of the way he treated her, and of his bad habits, and through his death he became almost sainted to he, in which she only over exaggerated his positive points.

When it comes to her son, Amelia is blind to any flaws within Georgy, and she sees him as being just like his father, and to her eye, she sees that as a positive mark upon his character. She is unable to see any flaws in the nature of either her son or George.

She spoils Georgy and sacrifices herself for him, in the very same way that she sacrificed herself for George.


message 6: by Silver (new)

Silver 6. What is the significance of the pair of charades that are acted in Chapter 51?

I think that the charades in a way are a jest upon Becky's character, they are indicator that she is an actor, not only within the charades but within life as well, they spotlight the fact that her entire life is but a charade of her own design and making and serve as a warning as to the nature of her character.

As well they can be seen as a bit of foreboding. I think the charade in which she portrays the scene of the woman (I cannot recall her name now) who slays her own husband as this symbolically is reflective of what Becky ends up doing to Rawodon. When she leaves him sitting within prison and he finds her with Lord Styene it devastates him as well as severs forever the connection between them.


message 7: by Paul (new)

Paul Dinger | 76 comments I think it is a seduction of Lord Styene so I agree with Sliver. Becky is an actor, giving one face to the world and another at home, counting out her money. I wonder if Frank Norris read this and it inspired McTeague's wife who just kept saving and saving money though apparent poverty was all around her.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 604 comments I wonder if Norris read Vanity Fair as well; though he might have been inspired in part by Hetty Green, a notorious penny-pincher of his own era. Nicknamed "The Witch of Wall Street," she both inherited a fortune (about 7 million in the 1860s), and made one herself, and she was famously stingy with money. There were stories told about how she made her maidservant only wash the hem of her dress, to save soap!


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