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ENL 4122
English Novel

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

Class 25

Reading Assignment:

Apr. 12 Vanity Fair: ch XXV-XXXV (pp. 240-360)
    Post #12 (Group B)
    Historical Annotation: Charlene Constantine's presentation
    Paper 2 Due


Class Objectives:

  • To compare the effects of marriage on our two couples
  • To discuss the impact of motherhood on our heroines


Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Comparison of the effects of marriage

The section under consideration today begins with George's disinheritance and Amelia's immediate regrets. What is the relationship between these two developments? What role does George's spending play?

Note on page 260 the narrator's reflection on conventions in novels:

    "As his hero and heroine pass the matrimonial barrier, the novelist generally drops the curtain, as if the drama were over then: the doubts and struggles of life ended: as if, once landed in the marriage country, all were green and pleasant there: and wife and husband had nothing but to link each other's arms together, and wander gently downwards towards old age in happy perfect fruition. But our little Amelia was just on the bank of her new country, and was already looking anxiously back towards the sad friendly figures waving farewell to her across the stream, from the other distant shore" (260-1).

How is this novel different in its representation of marriage? What are the implications of this different plot?

Why does Amelia regret marrying? Why is it such a frightening change for her?

What happens to George in the presence of Becky? What does Becky do to enhance this behavior?

How does the environment change when the military "family" moves to Brussels? How is Becky successful? (Are we to suppose that she is carrying on an affair with General Tufto?)

In what sense is Amelia unfit to be a military man's wife and in what sense is Becky better qualified? (How does Mrs. O'Dowd compare in this respect?)

What happens at the major ball in Brussels between Becky and George and Amelia? In what sense does the narrator mean "Women only know how to wound so" (289). How does Becky wound Amelia?

When the narrator says, "It was not the loss of the money that grieved her," what is the implication? What loss grieves her? To what extent is Amelia's lack of concern (or even awareness) of money matters a real disservice to herself?

In chapter XXX the narrator takes us through the various scenes of departure among the military couples. He provides insight on Captain Rawdon's happiness with his wife: "In all his life he had never been so happy, as, during the past few months, his wife had made him" (295). How does his response to marriage compare with George's response? How does Captain Rawdon change with respect to his personal economy and sense of responsibility?

What was your response to George's death? How does Thackeray's narrative style contribute to this effect?

What is Amelia's response to George's death? How is it different from the reader's and why?


2. The impact of motherhood

Both Becky and Amelia become first-time mothers in this section. Compare the way Thackeray presents the information for the respective mothers. Becky on page 350 (Chapter xxxiv) and Amelia p. 358 (XXXV). What is the significance of the two methods of telling?

What is the significance of the two events? For whom is the birth of an heir most significant and why?

How do the respective families respond to the births?


3. Ideas for Historical Annotation



Corn laws


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