by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Men and Masculinity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Mr. Rawdon's marriage was one of the honestest actions which we shall have to record in any portion of that gentleman's biography which has to do with the present history. No one will say it is unmanly to be captivated by a woman, or, being captivated, to marry her; and the admiration, the delight, the passion, the wonder, the unbounded confidence, and frantic adoration with which, by degrees, this big warrior got to regard the little Rebecca, were feelings which the ladies at least will pronounce were not altogether discreditable to him. When she sang, every note thrilled in his dull soul, and tingled through his huge frame. When she spoke, he brought all the force of his brains to listen and wonder. If she was jocular, he used to revolve her jokes in his mind, and explode over them half an hour afterwards in the street, to the surprise of the groom in the tilbury by his side, or the comrade riding with him in Rotten Row. Her words were oracles to him, her smallest actions marked by an infallible grace and wisdom. "How she sings,--how she paints," thought he. "How she rode that kicking mare at Queen's Crawley!" And he would say to her in confidential moments, "By Jove, Beck, you're fit to be Commander-in-Chief, or Archbishop of Canterbury, by Jove." Is his case a rare one? and don't we see every day in the world many an honest Hercules at the apron-strings of Omphale, and great whiskered Samsons prostrate in Delilah's lap? (16.3)
Rawdon is tamed and housebroken by his marriage, which turns him into a respectable and exemplary man. The novel is pretty consistent in thinking well of people who can be satisfied by a faithful and loving family life. Too bad we've got a severe warning for what's about to happen in that comparison to Samson and Delilah.
[Ensign Stubble]--such was his military ardour--went off instantly to purchase a new sword at the accoutrement-maker's. Here this young fellow [...] had an undoubted courage and a lion's heart, poised, tried, bent, and balanced a weapon such as he thought would do execution amongst Frenchmen. Shouting "Ha, ha!" and stamping his little feet with tremendous energy, he delivered the point twice or thrice at Captain Dobbin. [Then, he and Ensign Spooney] sate down and wrote off letters to the kind anxious parents at home--letters full of love and heartiness, and pluck and bad spelling [...] Seeing young Stubble engaged in composition at one of the coffee-room tables at the Slaughters', and the tears trickling down his nose on to the paper (for the youngster was thinking of his mamma, and that he might never see her again), Dobbin [...] went up and laid his big hand on young Stubble's shoulder, and backed up that young champion, and told him if he would leave off brandy and water he would be a good soldier, as he always was a gentlemanly good-hearted fellow. Young Stubble's eyes brightened up at this, for Dobbin was greatly respected in the regiment, as the best officer and the cleverest man in it. "Thank you, Dobbin," he said, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles, "I was just--just telling her I would. And, O Sir, she's so dam kind to me." (24.45-49)
It's always a little jarring in this caustic and cynical novel to come across a gentle, emotional moment like this one. Check out how Stubble is still trying to figure out how to be a man. He plays with weapons (and has enlisted in the army), but he uses his sword like a toy. At the thought of war, his first reaction is to write a letter to his mom, the thought of whom makes him cry. But even through the tears, he is using adult-sounding swear words like "dam."
And herewith honest James's career as a candidate for his aunt's favour ended. He had in fact, and without knowing it, done what he menaced to do. He had fought his cousin Pitt with the gloves. (34.71)
Like Jos, Pitt is always showing us a different way to be a man. Unlike Rawdon, he is all brains and no brawn, and unlike George, he is all strategy without any outward display. But clearly, his style really works for him, as he easily gets rid of Jim Crawley, a kind of George/Rawdon mix in the making.