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GirlGenius Suggests -- Vanity Fair (the novel!)

Updated on November 30, 2008

There are 2 Types of Women...

The novel VANITY FAIR, written in 1847, has inspired 7 movies and 3 TV series and even a magazine by the same name.

Why all the fuss? Well, William Makepeace Thackeray has given us a fabulous piece of literature!

The center of this story revolves around 2 very different women, Becky and Amelia. As schoolgirls, they became friends despite the fact that Becky is very poor and Ameila is very wealthy. Becky teaches French at the school to help earn her keep, and her being treated badly by nearly everyone gives her something of a bad attitude.

Amelia is the exact opposite, and seems to be the "perfect example" of how women and girls should behave. Well-mannered, compassionate, and kind, she is loved by everyone.

Upon graduation, Becky is ready to accept the lowly job of "governess". She has no family to help her and no marriage proposals on the table. This means she will become a servant and any hopes she may have of the good life are over.

Or are they? Compassionate Amelia invites Becky to stay with her (and her parents) for 2 weeks, and for the first time in her life Becky sees how love and prosperity make a peaceful, pleasant home. Fast-thinking Becky sets her eyes on Amelia's brother (Jos), hoping he will propose to her before the 2 weeks are over.

Jos has recently come back to England from India, where he became very wealthy. This makes him an attractive husband for Becky! He is also very fat and shy, so most ladies of "quality" will not bother with him.

But many factors come into play. Can we really blame Becky for trying to secure a decent marriage for herself, when the only other choice is to become a servant? Or should we blame Amelia's proud fiance, who encourages Jos to avoid Becky due to her lack of social standing?

Let's remember that back then, being a servant was very different from simply having a day-job. Servants were often treated like dirt, made very little money, and had to obey the whims of their masters and mistresses.

As the book progresses, the contrast between Amelia and Becky becomes stronger. Amelia is devoted beyond all measure, while Becky cannot even love her own child. But who has ever loved Becky or shown her how to care for someone? Who cared for her while her parents were poor and hungry?

This book fascinates me since it is the first portrayal of a "bad mother" that I have ever read. Becky is not violent, she simply ignores her child. But when she thinks she can win some sympathy, she will whine and wail about how much she misses her "little darling".

VANITY FAIR is many things to many people. To me, it is a fascinating study of two extreme examples women. One is cunning and always seeking to get her own way, and the other is blindly devoted to the "ideal" love of her (dead) husband. The happy medium is somewhere in between. Amelia grows and changes by the novel's end, but Becky seems destined to keep to the same path. If only someone had shown her kindness sooner, when she was young, maybe she would have become a better person...

Do you believe in "maternal instinct"?

Do you believe all women should become mothers, that it's part of the life-cycle?

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William Makepeace Thackeray, the author

Smart and handsome!
Smart and handsome!

Vanity Fair Magazine, December 2007

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This is the book that inspired the magazine!
This is the book that inspired the magazine!
This is the book that inspired the magazine!


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    • guidebaba profile image

      guidebaba 9 years ago from India

      Hi girlgenius . I have gone through most of your hubs. I get the feeling that you are choosing the wrong Title. I wonder how many people on earth would understand the term " girlgenius". You should use the Google Keyword Tool to research for some Keywords and then form a Title for your Articles. No doubt your articles are GREAT. You can enhance them with some pictures and relevant videos.

      Keep it up. Do let me know if you need any help.

      Keep smiling.Love and Best Wishes from India.