Portrayal of Jane Osborne in Vanity Fair

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The Redundant Woman Thackeray’s portrayal of Jane Osborne in Vanity Fair is very troubling to the reader of the twentieth century. Grown to be a woman who is stuck under her tyrannical father’s roof, her life appears to be very confining and menial. Her sister snubs her, her nephew mocks her behind her back, her father mocks her to her face, and her main role in life seems to be as her father’s housekeeper. However, Thackeray’s portrayal would have had a very different effect on the Victorian reader. While all of these things which affronted us would have been equally awful to them, Thackeray uses another key phrase which has lost its effect on our modern minds: "that unfortunate and now middle-aged young lady" (448). Jane Osborne’s future has progressed from being uncertain, waiting somewhat impatiently for a suitor’s attentions, to a dreadful certainty; she is quickly becoming what the Victorians referred to as a “redundant woman.” Destiny A Victorian woman was bred up with the honored ideals of someday being “wives, daughters, and guardians of the home” (Parkinson). A model young woman was designed as a bargaining tool; her person, characteristics, skills, and, for those who were fortunate, dowry were key chips to be laid in a game of houses which defined the noblest aspirations of Victorian society. The very “spheres of influence” written about by so many authors of the time, both male and female, dictated that “what the woman is to be within her fates, as the centre of order, the balm of distress, and the mirror of beauty: that she is also to be without her fates, where order is more difficult, distress more imminent, loveliness more rare” (Ruskin). However, being bred for marriage produces a number of problems; hundre... ... middle of paper ... ...n” has become very antiquated, and purposeless in a world where women have more and more opportunities for equal advancement, affirmative action, etc. It is interesting, however, to note that the ideas of “spheres of influence” still persist, though somewhat altered. Works Cited Greg, W. R. “Why Are Women Redundant?” (excerpt). Phoebe Junior. Elizabeth Langland. Broadview Literary Text. Toronto: Broadview Press Ltd., 2002. Pages 449-450. Ruskin, John. “Of Queen’s Gardens” (excerpt). Phoebe Junior. Elizabeth Langland. Broadview Literary Text. Toronto: Broadview Press Ltd., 2002. Pages 446-449. Parkinson, Allison. “Sphere Switching Polly, Work/Life Choices and the ‘redundant woman’ in 19th Century London.” November 9, 2004. Thackeray, William M. Vanity Fair. New York: Random House, Inc., 2001.

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