Heroes as Monsters in Vanity Fair

analytical Essay
1327 words
1327 words

“Yes, this is Vanity Fair, not a moral place certainly, nor a merry one, though very noisy.” (Thackeray xviii) It is here, in Vanity Fair that its most insidious resident, selfishness,-veiled with alluring guises-has shrewdly thrived among its citizens, invading, without exception, even the most heroic characters and living so unheeded that it has managed to breed monsters of them. There are those in Vanity Fair, however, who have heeded the vicious selfishness, and, though not having lived unaffected by it, were still able to point out its many evils. One such man is William Makepeace Thackeray who exposed this truth in his novel Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero which was published in 1848. Thackeray draws upon the work of a fellow author, John Bunyan, in creating a setting for his story that allows him to starkly portray human egocentric inclinations the way he saw them, as he did with his character Becky Sharp. According to biographical accounts, Thackeray’s personal life may have been the basis for some of the elements in his story, particularly the love affair of one of his main characters, Captain Dobbin.

Thackeray, a gentleman by birth and education, would have had the opportunity to observe many different circles of society (Melani). As one critic, John Forster, wrote,

"Vanity Fair is the work of a mind, at once accomplished and subtle, which has enjoyed opportunities of observing many and varied circles of society. . . his genteel characters... have a reality about them... They are drawn from actual life, not from books and fancy, and they are presented by means of brief, decisive yet always most discriminative touches (Melani).” This may easily have been the reason why he was able to, with such knowledgeable dark ...

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...e all the same. All governed by selfishness, all looking out for ourselves, all, inevitably, monsters.

And who would say it? Only someone like Thackeray, who had been fooled by selfishness himself and yet scorned the folly of not admitting to its terrible power. Power, that would, if ignored, create monsters of even heroes. Such was the case of the citizens of Vanity Fair which Thackeray wrote about in his novel Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero. In sharp contrast to the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, whose main character unveiled selfishness’s disguise, Thackeray’s character, Becky Sharp, played right into its snare and did not realize it until it was too late. Thackeray sums up his novel with this last statement,

“Ah! Vanitus Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? (Thackeray 678).”

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how william makepeace thackeray exposed the vicious selfishness in his novel vanity fair: a novel without a hero.
  • Analyzes how thackeray, a gentleman by birth and education, would have had the opportunity to observe many different circles of society. his title choice is an interesting one and its background proves it to be quite appropriate.
  • Analyzes how thackeray understood bunyan's purpose with the vanity fair in pilgrim’s progress and took it to a higher level by using specific examples of his time.
  • Analyzes how autotheism, the worship of oneself, has come about in vanity fair as a result of selfishness-the fair’s residing monster.
  • Analyzes how thackeray foreshadows this cleverly in his novel. becky abuses her clever-mindedness and physical charm to gain money and recognition, but her hatred and disregard for her son ultimately brings her downfall.
  • Analyzes how thackeray's outwardly noble character, captain dobbin, is in contrast to becky.
  • Analyzes how dobbin's character did not place the same value on the morals of vanity fair as the other characters in the story. though his actions may seem noble, they stem from the root of selfishness.
  • Analyzes how thackeray's character, becky sharp, played right into selfishness' snare and didn't realize it until too late.
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