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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair


by William Makepeace Thackeray

Becky Sharp Timeline and Summary

  • Becky is born to an opera dancer mother and an art teacher father. They are poor, and her father is a sometimes abusive alcoholic. Becky learns from an early age to entertain men (at this point, her father's friends). It's unclear exactly what this means, but a few times Becky mentions cryptically that she hasn't been a child since she was eight.
  • Becky is enrolled at Miss Pinkerton's academy. She will pay for her schooling by teaching French. When Miss Pinkerton tries to get her to also teach music, Becky rebels and demands that Miss Pinkerton find her a position as a governess.
  • Becky leaves school at the same time as her friend Amelia Sedley. At the Sedleys' house, Becky meets Amelia's brother Jos.
  • She tries to get Jos to ask her to marry him, but he is too shy and awkward. After a particularly disastrous party at Vauxhall, he flees the country.
  • Becky is installed as governess at Queen's Crawley.
  • She ingratiates herself with the Baronet Sir Pitt Crawley and everyone else who lives there.
  • When Miss Crawley, the rich half-sister of Sir Pitt, comes to visit, Becky charms her. Miss Crawley takes Becky with her to London to nurse her in her illness.
  • Sir Pitt comes to London to take Becky back and proposes to her. Becky reveals that she is already married.
  • She leaves Miss Crawley's house to be with her husband, Rawdon Crawley, Sir Pitt's youngest son and Miss Crawley's favorite.
  • Miss Crawley is furious and refuses to see them, but they follow her to Bath to try to win her over.
  • When Rawdon is called abroad to fight Napoleon, Becky goes with him. He serves as the aide-de-camp to the old General Tufto, who is very attracted to Becky. She makes a fool out of him.
  • In Brussels, as Rawdon leaves for the front lines, Becky calculates how much wealth she has.
  • Panic sets in about the course of the war, and Becky is able to use the law of supply and demand to her vast advantage by selling two horses at an exorbitant sum to Jos.
  • After Waterloo Becky and Rawdon go to Paris, where she is a hit in society and gives birth to a son.
  • Rawdon's brother Pitt inherits Miss Crawley's money and Sir Pitt's estate. Becky sends a congratulatory letter and is welcomed back into the family.
  • Becky enchants Pitt, but his wife is unhappy to hear that Becky mistreats her son.
  • In London, Becky befriends Lord Steyne, a wealthy and connected aristocrat, who is very attracted to her.
  • She scales the heights of society and is presented to the king.
  • Lord Steyne organizes a charade party, where Becky plays Clytemnestra to great acclaim.
  • After the party Rawdon is arrested, and Becky spends the next day entertaining Lord Steyne. Maybe she sleeps with him. Maybe not.
  • When Rawdon finds them together, he tears through Becky's belongings and finds money and jewelry hidden away. He leaves in a rage.
  • Becky is catatonic for a while, then wakes to find the servants being obnoxious and disrespectful to her.
  • She escapes to Europe and travels from country to country, repeating the same cycle of building up a little cadre of friends only to have it fall apart when they learn about her past.
  • In Rome Becky runs into Lord Steyne again, and he threatens to kill her if she stays there. She flees.
  • In Pumpernickel (a fictitious German town), Becky is at her low point, drinking and living a Bohemian lifestyle.
  • She runs into Amelia and Jos again and immediately ensnares Jos.
  • The couple spend some months on the continent. She makes him take out a life insurance policy. Then she, maybe, kills him. Or maybe not.
  • She collects the insurance money and retires to live in Bath among a group of loyal friends.