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ENL 4122
English Novel


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


Class 26

Reading Assignment:

Apr. 17 Vanity Fair: ch XXXVI-XLVIII (pp 361-483)
    Post #13 (Group A)
    Historical Annotation: Priscilla Lovett's presentation

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Class Objectives:

  • To compare and contrast the mothers of our non-heroes' heirs
  • To discuss the role of money in goodness or virtue
  • To analyze Becky's reputation (with Lord Steyne)

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Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Mothers

How does Becky respond to young Rawdon and how does this contrast with Rawdon's treatment of his son? Why is he ashamed of his "paternal softness" (380)?

Why does Amelia fight with her mother over caring for young George? Does she really think her mother is trying to poison the child? Why is it difficult (impossible) for Mrs. Sedley to forgive Amelia for this accusation? (388)

Why does Amelia refuse the offer of marriage from Rev. Mr. Binny (391)?

How does young Rawdon develop as a child? What type of child is he? How does young George develop and what type of child is he? What impact do the children have in their respective paternal families?

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2. Money and goodness

Compare and contrast the older Sir Pitt in his final years and the younger Sir Pitt when he takes over Queen's Crawley. In what ways do they differ in their management of the estate? In their management of money, of home? To what extent is Becky successful with the younger Sir Pitt? Why?

When Rebecca ingratiates herself and Rawdon back into Queen's Crawley, she muses on the power of money to make people good: "I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year" (422). The narrator coyly suggests that she might be right. "And who knows but Rebecca was right in her speculations -- and that it was only a question of money and fortune which made the difference between her and an honest woman? If you take temptations into account, who is to say that he is better than his neighbour" (422). To what extent are we to believe Thackeray here? Why is he so ambiguous?

Evaluate the importance of Becky's presentation at court. What is the significance to the various characters?

Where does she get the jewels that she wears to court?

What does Becky keep in her desk (p. 477)? Note Thackeray's comment on the secrets that wives keep from their husbands. What does Becky's desk represent?

Finally, what does Becky do when she gets a large sum of money (we do not yet know how much) from Lombard street? To what extent does this suggest how "good" she is?

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3. Lord Steyne

What does it mean to be an "adventuress"? Why do the ladies of good society shun Becky? What is her response?

The important character Lord Steyne is introduced in this section. Who is he? What kind of character does he have? What is his relationship to Becky?

Note how Thackeray relates the story of their relationship. What does he tell us? What doesn't he tell us? What is the significance of adopting the perspective of the servants on pp. 444-445? What is the significance of Thackeray's ambiguity?

Why do YOU think Lord Steyne gives Becky such a vast sum of money?

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4. Ideas for Historical Annotation

paid companions

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