by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Men and Masculinity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"There's not a finer fellow in the service," Osborne said, "nor a better officer, though [Dobbin] is not an Adonis, certainly." And he looked towards the glass himself with much naiveté; and in so doing, caught Miss Sharp's eye fixed keenly upon him, at which he blushed a little, and Rebecca thought in her heart, "Ah, mon beau Monsieur! I think I have YOUR gauge"--the little artful minx! (5.53)
Not that Jos is the only guy who is vain, of course. We love that George is unable to give a compliment to another man without reassuring himself about his own continuing awesomeness in a nearby mirror. Check out Becky's knowing look at him – that's another nice bit of gender bending as well.
A perfect and celebrated "blood," or dandy about town, was this young officer [Rawdon]. Boxing, rat-hunting, the fives court, and four-in-hand driving were then the fashion of our British aristocracy; and he was an adept in all these noble sciences. And though he belonged to the household troops, who, as it was their duty to rally round the Prince Regent, had not shown their valour in foreign service yet, Rawdon Crawley had already (apropos of play, of which he was immoderately fond) fought three bloody duels, in which he gave ample proofs of his contempt for death [...] Silly, romantic Miss Crawley, far from being horrified at the courage of her favourite, always used to pay his debts after his duels; and would not listen to a word that was whispered against his morality. "He will sow his wild oats," she would say, "and is worth far more than that puling hypocrite of a brother of his." (10.21-23)
Rawdon is half jock, half born at the right place at the right time. His straightforward masculinity is a nice counterpoint to the "gentleman show" that Jos and George laboriously put on every day.
Stubble and Spooney thought that to be a "regular Don Giovanni, by Jove" was one of the finest qualities a man could possess, and Osborne's reputation was prodigious amongst the young men of the regiment. He was famous in field-sports, famous at a song, famous on parade; free with his money, which was bountifully supplied by his father. His coats were better made than any man's in the regiment, and he had more of them. He was adored by the men. He could drink more than any officer of the whole mess, including old Heavytop, the colonel. He could spar better than Knuckles, the private (who would have been a corporal but for his drunkenness, and who had been in the prize-ring); and was the best batter and bowler, out and out, of the regimental club. He rode his own horse, Greased Lightning, and won the Garrison cup at Quebec races. There were other people besides Amelia who worshipped him. Stubble and Spooney thought him a sort of Apollo; Dobbin took him to be an Admirable Crichton; and Mrs. Major O'Dowd acknowledged he was an elegant young fellow, and put her in mind of Fitzjurld Fogarty, Lord Castlefogarty's second son. (13.3)
Here George tries to display the kind of masculinity that comes naturally to Rawdon. He's pretty good, but only manages to fool basically the most naïve and youngest of the soldiers (Stubble's name implies that he's not shaving yet, and a Spooney is a slang word for a weakling or softy). We get the sense that George is putting on an act from the fact that his behavior is compared to a literary figure ("Don Giovanni," the famous seducer), and the mythological Apollo. He isn't himself, he just reminds people of other, more authentic people. (To Dobbin he is "Admirable" James Crichton, a 16th century intellectual, and he reminds Mrs. O'Dowd of a relative.) On the other hand, Rawdon's more animalistic activities are just described as "wild oats" – he is always simply himself.