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ENL 4122
English Novel

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

Class 27

Reading Assignment:

Apr. 19 Vanity Fair: ch XLIX-LIX (pp. 484-597)
    Post #13 (Group B)
    Historical Annotation: Marie Philemon's presentation


Class Objectives:

  • To compare the departure of y. George and y. Rawdon
  • To analyze Becky's downfall
  • To analyze Amelia's rising fortune


Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Departing sons

Both sons depart from their mothers in this section. How do these departures differ? In what sense are the similar? Where do the boys go? Who pays for their education?

Compare Amelia's farewell pp. 494-495 with Rawdon's farewell 520-21. What is the effect of these different scenes?

What type of child has young George become? Examine the symbolism and exquisite irony of Amelia's attachment to her son's "theme" on Selfishness p. 585.


2. Becky's downfall

Becky reaches the pinnacle of success in Vanity Fair in this section. Evaluate the narrator's claim that his purpose in writing this novel is to allow a peek into the workings to outsiders at Vanity Fair: "It is to console some of these dissatisfied beings, that we are narrating our dear Becky's struggles, and triumphs, and disappointments, of all of which, indeed, as is the case with all persons of merit, she had her share" (508). What is the moral purpose assumed?

In what sense do the charades epitomize both the fascination and the immorality of success in Vanity Fair?

Shortly thereafter Becky begins her inevitable fall. How does this happen?

Why is Rawdon arrested immediately following the charades?

What is Becky's response to Rawdon's arrest and the letter he writes?

Who releases Rawdon and why?

What does he discover upon his return to his home?

How does Becky respond to Rawdon's arrival?

Explain Lord Steyne's retort: "I have given you thousands of pounds which this fellow has spent, and for which he has sold you" (533).

Examine Rawdon's response to his wife's betrayal (pp. 533-534). What inspires his rage? What does he assume and why? What role does the 1000 pound note play?

In what sense is Becky "innocent"? Note her protestation p. 533, Pitt's claims on p. 549 and 555, Wenham's claim p. 553 and Macmurdon's claim 554.

What do you make of her appeal (and its success) to Sir Pitt?

What is it that prevents Rawdon's duel with Lord Steyne?


3. Amelia

In what sense is the "lottery of life" image (p. 568-9) appropriate for this story? for Amelia?

Evaluate the narrator's expressed sympathy for the female martyrs of domestic suffering pp. 570-1.

How do things change for Amelia when Dobbin arrives home bringing Jos in tow?

What role does the piano play in bringing about Dobbin's declaration? What is the effect?


4. Ideas for Historical Annotation




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