August 26, 2021

#08-127: Vanity Fair - Part II

older man with gray hair and glasses in a formal 19th-century photo
William Makepeace Thackeray

Note: Becky Sharp continues to depend on the kindness of friends until at last she attains a measure of respectability--but ends up friendless.

Get Ready: How far can we expect friends to help us, and how much should we be self-sufficient? Give examples.

In Lesson #08-126, we began the story of the schemer Becky Sharp in Thackeray's Vanity Fair. At this point, we've met Becky and her best friend Emmy; Becky's husband Rawdon; and Emmy's husband George and brother Jos.

The three soldiers--Rawdon, George, and Dobbin--are deployed to Belgium to fight Napoleon. Becky, Emmy, and Jos go along. Tired of Emmy, George becomes attracted to Becky. He plans to run away with her, but instead the army sends him to Waterloo, where he is killed in battle. Rawdon and Dobbin survive. Emmy returns to her parents' home to raise her son, named George after his father. Dobbin goes off to India in the service.

Becky, still married to Rawdon, now takes up with another rich man, the Marquis of Steyne. Things are going well when Rawdon is arrested for debt, perhaps as a result of Becky's scheming to get him out of the way. When he is released, Rawdon returns home and, seeing Becky with Steyne, strikes him. He then finds the money Becky has hidden away, and leaves her. Steyne gets Rawdon a position as governor of an undesirable location--a sort of exile--and Becky wanders the continent, having left her son in the care of Rawdon's older brother Pitt.

Years pass. Emmy's son George grows up and is taken in by his grandfather--George's father, Mr. Osborne--who has remained distant from Emmy. Dobbin returns to profess his love for Emmy, but she gently rejects him, clinging to her memories of George. When Mr. Osborne dies, he leaves half of his fortune to young George, and, at Dobbin's urging, gives Emmy a generous allowance.

After Osborne's death, Emmy, Jos, George, and Dobbin go to Germany, where they find Becky a "fallen woman." Becky works her wiles on Jos, ingratiating herself to the group, and Emmy agrees to let Becky join them--but Dobbin forbids it. When Emmy insists, Dobbin leaves and rejoins the army.

But Becky wants Emmy to marry Dobbin, so she shows Emmy a note that George Sr. gave her the night before Waterloo, asking her to run away with him. Emmy realizes that George was not the man she remembered, and, reunited with Dobbin, returns to England. Jos dies--perhaps suspiciously--having left a good deal of his money to Becky. She, too, returns to England and lives respectably, but none of her old friends will have anything to do with her.


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Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. allowance
  2. clinging to
  3. deployed
  4. exile
  5. forbids
  6. rejects
  7. suspiciously
  8. undesirable
  9. urging
  10. vanity

  1. hanging on to; not letting go of
  2. support money paid regularly
  3. doesn't allow
  4. banishment; being sent away
  5. doesn't accept
  6. assigned; sent to
  7. insistence; strongly advising
  8. not wanted; unattractive
  9. worthlessness; lack of real value
  10. in a questionable way

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 26, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. b; 2. a; 3. f; 4. d; 5. c; 6. e; 7. j; 8. h; 9. g; 10. i