William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 – 1863)


“The Paris Sketch Book” (1840)

“Fitz-Bood’s confessions & professions” “Irish Sketch Book” (1843)

“Memoirs of Barry Lyndon” (1844)

“Snob papers’ (1846)

“Vanity Fair” (1848)

“Pendennis” (1850)

“The History of Henry Esmond” (1852)

“The Newcomers” (1854)

“The Virginians” (1857)

Thackeray’s success as a novelist was inseparable from his explorations of certain effect of England’s expanding economy. He is not the first novelist of his age to fix the way in which the middle class translated superior animal cunning & luck speculation into success confirmed by religion.

Thackeray’s legacy is divided into 2 parts – before “Vanity Fair” & after it. It was a fashion to compare Dickens & Thackeray. These two authors belong not only to the English literature, but to the literature of the world, because they both added a lot to the development of human comedy that is the world literature. It’s natural to consider Thackeray as rash & wild, but in fact he was neither – he was very vulnerable & it was impossible for him to realize how to deal with evil. In fact he could not think away evil; he could not even grapple with it; but he was hurt by evil & started his creative life by reporting evil to people. The words of the preacher characterize his attitude to world & people & he repeated them as “vanity of vanities”. It was this rare case when the comedy got different name & it was addressed to not. He called it “Vanity Fair” trying to show the essence of it.

Thackeray portrays the world he knows best. The evil of self-interest, of parasitism, of snobbery released in him a detached ferocity. In the world as portrayed by Thackeray there is no place for intelligent will & performance. Individuals appear to be swept up & carried along. The cunning & the unprincipled winning of the weak are helpless & they get no sympathy from Thackeray because they are always affectual.

Thackeray’s preparation for “Vanity Fair”, his undoubted success was “Book of snobs” (1846). A snob – is a person who greatly respects social status & wealth & who looks down on people of a lower class. “I have (and for this gift I congratulate myself with a Deep and Abiding Thankfulness) an eye for a Snob. If the Truthful is the Beautiful, it is Beautiful to study even the Snobbish; to track Snobs through history, as certain little dogs in Hampshire hunt out truffles; to sink shafts in society and come upon rich veins of Snob-ore. Snobbishness is like Death in a quotation from Horace, which I hope you never have heard, »beating with equal foot at poor men's doors, and kicking at the gates of Emperors.« It is a great mistake to judge of Snobs lightly, and think they exist among the lower classes merely.”

“Vanity Fair” is the best creation of Thackeray. Its subtitle is “A novel without a hero”. There Thackeray gives us a panorama of English life & he shows us the world as it really is evolving around all sorts of hunting – money, husband, fame etc. the novel has a multitude of characters & these characters are haunted by a strong desire to prosper & all these characters try very hard to find a place where it would be easier to use the others. It’s like a puppet-shoe & Thackeray himself seems to be a puppet-master. Thackeray is above; his hands are full of strings & all sorts of people go round & round & he manipulates them. The pole is Becky Sharp – an embodiment of Thackeray’s major strategy for total organization of “Vanity Fair”. He uses Becky as a pivotal figure & for his minor strategy too. This is the opposition of 2 fates – the fate of Becky Sharp & Amelia Sedley

Becky is very credible. About matter how critics try to praise or run down Thackeray, these people always accept this fact. Becky enables Thackeray to show the whole society in motion, because his whole society gravitates around her. Characters gain their vitality from Becky. Thackeray creates Becky cumulatively. She begins with her departure with Amelia from Pinkerton’s school & Thackeray shows in dramatic particularity from the very beginning that Becky goes on challenging people.

Thackeray takes us step by step through the graded challenges of Jos Sedley, sir Pitt Rawdon & Styne, through the challenges of George Osborne. The challenges of Crawley family promote Becky’s social extension.

Thackeray gives us balance in Becky. Thackeray uses all sorts of technical recourses to show that Becky does what she wants to because she likes it. He gives her an elbow room in surveying & planning the energy in the social game that is played. She is not an exaggerated figure. All the others seem to be exaggerated as they deal with Becky. Becky begins with nothing & this gives her an opportunity to try her hand on practically everything. She has good humor in defeat. She possesses practically no ill-humor; she does not expose any savage intensity, meanness in her self-interest. Becky is at her best when she miscalculates, but she is able to laugh at disastrous miscalculation.

Thackeray has almost affection for his Becky puppet. He shows no hatred for Becky. Her sins are terrible: she is incapable of affection & love, loyalty is alien to her; but Thackeray does not make Becky suffer deeply. On the other hand his characters suffer for the most part: he visits Mr. Osborne with the death of his own son; he pursues all Sedley in his wife through the ruined, broken & merciless beggary; in the end he reduces sir Pitt to a hopeless maniacal infant. Every character but Becky is given his or her due.

Thackeray achieves in good measure the very intention of “Vanity Fair”. He makes Amelia & Dobbin ineffectual creatures. For him Amelia is a silly thing who would cry over a dead canary or a mouse & all of a sudden we come to realize that Thackeray gave Amelia certain selfishness. She possesses selfishness of a deeply-rooted parasite vine. She uses Dobbin, who is absolutely helpless & ineffectual. All of a sudden we come to realize that she uses his passive helplessness as a weapon. But she is coward; she is stupid to organize anything more affectual.

Thackeray “combines a wide band of comic vision of the social scene with a few moments of drama; he lights up half a hundred characters for us & keeps them all in motion; he bathes everything in this atmosphere & never sacrifices the effect of ordinary reality; he can always keep time ticking, flowing on, unlike most novelists, who must either get inside altogether or can only move it forward, in big jerks…” (J. B. Priestley)

Thackeray owes a lot to Fielding. It’s the same strategy to make the novel move around one character, the same strategy to address the reader directly, coming to the proscenium & talking to the reader, giving us a human comedy in a chaotic movement, making the characters create situations that are as versatile as life itself. But what is good humor. Fielding is bitter satire in Thackeray. Bothe writers are absolutely realistic & make the reader believe & more over participate in every episode & situation.



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