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ENL 4122
English Novel

Spring 2006
Time: Monday and Wednesday
11:00-12:15 pm

Class 24

Reading Assignment:

Apr. 10 Vanity Fair: ch XII- XXIV (pp 115-240)
    Post #12 (Group A)
    Historical Annotation: Sara Lollar's presentation


Class Objectives:

  • To discuss class and money -- Miss Crawley's idea of equality
  • To discuss Becky's marriage (and rejected proposal)
  • To discuss Amelia's marriage and George's fate


Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Class and Money

In this section of the novel, the fates of our two female protagonists seem to be more parallel. What happens to Amelia's father? Why? How does this affect Amelia's engagement to George Osborne?

How do people respond to the Sedley's ruin (chapter XVII)? Becky and Rawdon? Dobbin? Jane and Maria Osborne? Mr. Osborne? George Osborne? Amelia? Jos Sedley?

What role does wealth play in the profession of friendship? How does fluctation in wealth affect friendship: for example, Miss Crawley's friendship for Becky? Osborne's friendship for Sedley? Rawdon's friendship for George Osborne? Jane and Maria Osborne's friendship for Miss Schwartz? What parallels or patterns can you discern in the novel?

In what sense is marriage like the stock market?


2. Becky's marriage

Thackeray is quite coy about announcing Becky's marriage. How does he do it and what is the effect of this narrative strategy? (See Chapter XV.)

Evaluate the narrator's plea for sympathy for Becky:

    Well then, in the first place, Rebecca gave way to some very sincere and touching regrets that a piece of marvellous good fortune should have been so near her, and she actually obliged to decline it. In this natural emotion every properly regulated mind will certainly share. What good mother is there that would not commiserate a penniless spinster, who might have been my lady, and have shared four thousand a year? What well-bred young person is there in all Vanity Fair, who will not feel for a hard-working, ingenious, meritorious girl, who gets such an honourable, advantageous, provoking offer, just at the very moment when it is out of her power to accept it? I am sure our friend Becky's disappointent deserves and will command every sympathy. (158)

Why does Becky regret not being able to accept Sir Pitt's offer of marriage? What is ironic about her situation?

As we have had occasion to ask of another eloping couple, not unlike Becky and her Captain, what are Becky's prospects for happiness in marriage? What about the narrative Vanity Fair allows us to make a different assessment than we might have for Lydia and Wickham?

"If people only made prudent marriages, what a stop to population there would be!" (161).


3. Amelia's marriage and George's Fate

What do we learn about George's character in this section? What kind of "gentleman" is he? How does he compare with Dobbin, for instance? With Rawdon Crawley?

Why is Dobbin so determined to have Amelia and George married, and what does he do to promote it?

Why is Mr. Osborne so set against George's marriage to Amelia? What prompts Mr. Sedley's tacit approval of the match? How are the policies and practices of these family any different from that of Miss Sharp?

What does it mean for Mr. Osborne to cancel George's name in the family Bible? What does this suggest about George's fate? How does this compare with the news that George's regiment will be heading to the continent to fight Bonapart?

In what sense are the two married couples who meet in Brighton in similar situations? What is the significance of this parallel given how vastly different the futures of Becky and Amelia seemed at the start of this novel?


4. Ideas for Historical Annotation

Duke of Wellington

bankruptcy and public auction



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