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If Thackeray did not write anything other than the novel "Fair of Vanity", he would have made his name famous in the history of world literature with this only thing. "Vanity Fair. A novel without a hero "(1847) – a social and philosophical and allegorical novel.
Thackeray is one of England's greatest satirists. The peculiarity and strength of his talent manifested itself in the satirical denunciation of a bourgeois-aristocratic society. His contribution to the development of the novel is connected with the development of the specific form of the novel – a family chronicle that reveals the private life of the heroes in an organic connection with social life. Satire of the author is folklore in its core.
The author himself called his work a novel without a hero, arguing that there is only one hero in the modern world – money.
The genre of Thackeray's novel can be defined as a novel-chronicle. The life of the heroes is shown for several decades – from youth to old age. Thackeray’s novels are an important achievement of English realism in the composition relation. Ability to transfer life in its development, to reveal the process of character formation and to show the conditioning of its social environment – all this testifies to the great power of the writer's talent.
Composition of the Story
The book has a two-track composition: the story is related to the fate of two girls – Amelia Sedley, the daughter of a stockbroker, and Rebecca Sharp, the daughter of an artist and a French dancer.
These heroines met at the boarding school, where they studied for several years. Leaving this institution, good Emilia, the daughter of wealthy parents, invites Becky, who will soon have to go as governess to the house of Sir Crowley. The novel begins from the moment of the departure of the graduates from the boarding house.
Further, the work alternately describes the life of Amelia and Becky for several decades. Their paths diverge after the famous Battle of Waterloo (1815) and then again intersect. We observe the ups and downs of both. But if Emilia is not adapted to life since the welfare of her father was supposed to provide her with a safe place in society, the orphan Rebecca is paving her way in life herself.
The moment of leaving the boarding house is the beginning of her difficult struggle for her place in life. And she is armed with the necessary weapons for this struggle. She does not stop at intrigues or dishonest actions, she wants to achieve the desired goal: to be rich, to shine in society, enjoy luxury.
Becky is selfish and cruel, heartless and vain. Thackeray is merciless in depicting the history of this clever adventurer, but at the same time, he convincingly proves with the whole logic of his work that the people around her are not better. Unlike many others, Becky is devoid of hypocrisy. Soberly judging about the people around her, she does not turn a blind eye to her own actions. She perfectly understands that only money will help her take the desired place in society and she is ready for anything for the sake of money.
In contrast to Rebecca Sharpe Amelia Sedley is a virtuous and good-natured being. However, there is unconcealed irony in the descriptions of the angelic Emmy. She is limited and insignificant, besides she is no less selfish than any of the participants of the fairground show.
Deploying two parallel chronicles, Thackeray did not oppose, but rather compared them, seeking a sense of inner communication – the unity of forces that drive all people, regardless of their belonging to one social environment or another. He wants to emphasize: forms of behavior can be different, but the essence is one everywhere.
The novel for Thackeray is a history of the customs of a certain era. He is interested in the problem of the impact of historical events on the social, political and private life. As a realist, he uses the principle of historical and social determinism in depicting manners and characters. The author considered such works as truly historical that correspond to the "spirit of the era", reveal its uniqueness, contain truthful pictures of the life of society, give a true and vivid idea of the customs and morals of his time. It is in this sense that he considers the historical novels of Fielding, Smalllet and Dickens to be historical. In such a plan, the novel "Vanity Fair" can also be called historical.
The two-track nature of the composition of the novel – the line of Amelia belonging to bourgeois circles, and the Rebecca line, striving to join the aristocratic spheres – opened before Thackeray the opportunity to create a wide panorama of English life.
The author is interested in the task of studying a human in the connections with society and history. However, the story loses its heroic character in his interpretation, which, on the one hand, results from the refusal peculiar to him to understand history as the act of "heroes", and on the other hand, from the desire to avoid the image of popular movements.
The theme of the nation is absent in his novels, and he is inferior to Walter Scott in this respect. In Thackeray's eyes, private life events are no less important than major military battles, and the fate of not outstanding person can say more about the time than the verbose description of the actions of the great commander.
Thackeray refuses any kind of romanization of the war. He is interested not so much in the battle scenes as in what is happening behind the scenes. That is why he defines his position in the novel as "a place among non-combatants". The attention of the "chronicler" tends to be given first and foremost to people who are not direct participants in the great events, although the consequences of what is happening determine their fate.
The author considers it impossible to find a positive hero. However, unlike Dickens, he does not introduce commoners and does not oppose the self-interested world of the bourgeois to the simple man. At the same time, he does not refuse to fully confirm the principles of moral purity and honesty in the quality of positive principles. Captain Dobbin is their transmitter. He is the only one who preserves kindness and sympathy, dedication and modesty in the round-collar of the Vanity Fair.
The problem of a positive hero was an insoluble difficulty for Thackeray. He sees his main task in being able to accurately reproduce the sense of truth. He does not seek to exaggerate, and avoids the acceptance of exaggeration.
He is not inclined to portray a human as an outright villain, nor an ideal being. It is important for him to disclose the complexity of the interaction of various principles in the character of a person, to understand the reasons that make him or her commit this act or another. And, evidently, precisely because each person has drawbacks along with advantages, Thackeray avoids any people to be called a "hero" in his novel, a human ideal in all respects.
End of the Novel
The happy ending of the novel, according to the author, only deceives the reader. His conclusions about life are much more hopeless. He used an innovative method of including the image of the author in the image system of the book, observing what is happening and commenting on the event, acts, judgments of characters. The author's comment helps reveal all the ridiculous, ugly and pathetic things that happen on the stage of the puppet theater, reinforces the satirical sound of the novel. Authors' digressions, which are so many in the novel, serve the task of exposure of social and moral vices.