Essay on Heroes as Monsters in Vanity Fair

Essay on Heroes as Monsters in Vanity Fair

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“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).”

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