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ENL 4122
English Novel

Spring 2006
Time: Monday and Wednesday

Class 28

Reading Assignment:

Apr. 24 Vanity Fair: ch LX-LXVII (pp 597-689) ending
    Post #14 (Group A)
    Historical Annotation: Sara Slaughter's presentation


Class Objectives:

  • To discuss Dobbin and Amelia's relationship
  • To analyze Thackeray's representation of Becky
  • To discuss conclusion and marriage


Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Dobbin and Amelia

What happens to Dobbin and Amelia when Becky shows up in Pumpernickel?

Why do they fight and why does he finally leave Amelia? (669-70)

What role does Becky play in reuniting them? Why?


2. Thackeray on Becky

What happens to Becky between her dismissal from Rawdon in London and her arrival in Pumpernickel?

Thackeray explains in Chapter LXIV: "We must pass over a part of Mrs. Rebecca Crawley's biography with that lightness and delicacy which the world demands -- the moral world, that has, perhaps, no particular objection to vice but an insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name" (637) He goes on to say that "it has been the wish of the present writer, all through this story, deferentially to submit to the fashion at present prevailing, and only to hint at the existence of wickedness in light, easy, and agreeable manner, so that nobody's fine feelings may be offended" (637).

To what extent does this describe Thackeray's practice? In what sense is this an ethical or moral choice and in what sense is this a literary or aesthetic choice? What is more important? If the former is hypocritical then what does that suggest about literature?

What happens to Becky and Lord Steyne?

What role does Becky play in Jos' demise? How is this appropriate?


3. Marriage and conclusion

How does Thackeray end the novel -- what happens to our main characters?

In what sense does this recapitulate the standard romance ending? In what sense does he withdraw sentimental satisfaction?

Evaluate the concluding passage: "Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?" (689).

With respect to our class theme, what does this exhortation suggest about the role of marriage and / or money in attaining happiness?


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