BOOK: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray


SYNOPSIS: Vanity Fair is a satire on the society of 19th century Britain. That's all there is to the whole plot. Everything going on in the story is supposed to emphasize the never-ending vanity of the society. It is considered a classic of English Literature. 


I've been reading my way through classics, and I rarely find any of them bulky, but it took me quite a while to finish this book, and I attribute that to the many pages dedicated to details that in no way mattered to the plot, and that’s also the reason why I’m giving this otherwise masterpiece of Thackeray a star less.

Nonetheless, I really liked it. It’s a brilliant satire, and the fact that the reader does not often enter the minds of the characters, but only watches what they do, and hears what the author tells about them, and then with some direct prompting from the author, judges them, puts the point of the satire across very effectively.

I quite liked the characters employed in the creation of this satire. If I have to choose a favorite character, it’ll have to be Rawdon. His sensitivity with his son despite being made fun of because of it by his wife just did it for me. He’s the kind of man Victorian novels do not really portray, and I loved that this one did. I quite liked Dobbin for the most part of the novel, but when he declares in the end that Amelia wasn’t worthy of his love just because she couldn’t return it, it just made me think of the whole ‘friendzone’ thing we have going on in this present time, and I’m sorry, but since when did it become necessary that you loving someone so deeply and doing all you can for them would warrant you their love in return? I could completely understand if he had just stated that he needed to move on, but him considering himself entitled I just couldn’t.

Other than that, the best aspect of Vanity Fair, for me, was definitely the difference between Amelia and Rebecca, which so accurately defines how women were perceived in Victorian England. Either the women had to be perfect angels, meek and submissive, like Amelia, or they had to be artful minxes, to borrow Dobbin’s words, like Rebecca. There could not be something in between these two extremes. If it were not for how she treated her husband and her son, Rebecca could have been the powerful woman that threatens the patriarchal set up of society (she knew she didn’t really want a child, I suppose, and she definitely knew she deserved better than Rawdon, but only if she hadn’t treated Rawdon Junior like she did), but alas, she had to be at the end of one extreme, and although she’s not as trapped within patriarchal constructs as other Victorian women, she remained but an insensitive and indifferent woman.

Thackeray impeccably impress on the reader the futility of Vanity Fair but he does not underestimate its values either. He admits that roast beef is good, although it vanishes like all pleasures of Vanity Fair. It’s all about money and false values. But the theme of poverty and old age was what made me feel touched by the story. I probably wouldn’t have felt so strongly about it if it were not for the cruelty of these that was perfectly put in words by Thackeray.

To conclude, it was indeed a masterpiece, and I loved it.

Published by Mahima Kapoor