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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair Chapter 38 Summary

A Family in a very Small Way

  • So, speaking of George Jr., how is that Sedley family doing these days?
  • Well, let's see. Jos has gone back to India and has been promoted a few times in his post there. All he ever talks about is how he was at Waterloo, and at this point his stories make it seem like he was actually with Wellington during the battle.
  • He sends an annual stipend to his parents, which is pretty much their only income.
  • Mrs. Sedley is doing OK and has adjusted to caring about the gossip of her new neighborhood rather than her old one.
  • Mr. Sedley keeps trying to be a merchant again, constantly switching from one company to another, but always failing. Every Sunday he takes George Jr. out to the park and loves running into soldiers he can talk to about George.
  • Amelia obsessively, head-over-heels, protectively loves her son. All she does is take care of him, tell him stories about his dead father, make him clothes, and just live vicariously through him.
  • Because she won't let anyone else take care of him in any way, she and her mother are having some issues. Mrs. Sedley is pretty passive-aggressive about it.
  • Still, Amelia's hyper-maternal feelings seem to make her really attractive to the men around her. George Jr.'s doctor is half in love with her and his wife is jealous. Amelia even gets a marriage proposal from the curate of the neighborhood chapel (she says no thank you and tells him that she will never get over her dead husband).
  • On the anniversaries of her marriage and of George's death, she locks herself in her room.
  • Financially, Mr. Sedley is slowly making the family bankrupt once again. He keeps investing in failing businesses. Amelia has an army pension of 50 pounds a year, and Dobbin tells her that George left 500 pounds invested in Indian funds at 8% per year.
  • Mr. Sedley is suspicious about these funds and accuses Dobbin of trying to cheat Amelia out of her rightful inheritance. This is obviously crazy, since there is nobody more honest than Dobbin in this novel.
  • Poverty really hasn't improved Mr. or Mrs. Sedley – they have both become way more proud and obnoxious and are living with a victim mentality.
  • In any case, Dobbin finally explains to Mr. Sedley that George was way in debt when he died and that he and a few other soldiers scraped together this 500 pounds for Amelia. Even this is a lie, as all the money comes from Dobbin.
  • When George turns 6, Major Dobbin starts to write him letters and offers to pay for some of his school costs. He also asks his sisters to visit Amelia every now and then.
  • One day Dobbin's sisters tell Amelia the very exciting news that he is going to be married...to Mrs. O'Dowd's sister! Amelia is so very happy for him. Oh good, yay!
  • Um, yeah, she's faking it.

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