| Quote #1
His bulk caused Joseph much anxious thought and alarm; now and then he would make a desperate attempt to get rid of his superabundant fat; but his indolence and love of good living speedily got the better of these endeavours at reform, and he found himself again at his three meals a day. He never was well dressed; but he took the hugest pains to adorn his big person, and passed many hours daily in that occupation. His valet made a fortune out of his wardrobe: his toilet-table was covered with as many pomatums and essences as ever were employed by an old beauty: he had tried, in order to give himself a waist, every girth, stay, and waistband then invented. Like most fat men, he would have his clothes made too tight, and took care they should be of the most brilliant colours and youthful cut. When dressed at length, in the afternoon, he would issue forth to take a drive with nobody in the Park; and then would come back in order to dress again and go and dine with nobody at the Piazza Coffee-House. He was as vain as a girl; and perhaps his extreme shyness was one of the results of his extreme vanity.
We have talked of Joseph Sedley being as vain as a girl. Heaven help us! the girls have only to turn the tables, and say of one of their own sex, "She is as vain as a man," and they will have perfect reason. The bearded creatures are quite as eager for praise, quite as finicky over their toilettes, quite as proud of their personal advantages, quite as conscious of their powers of fascination, as any coquette in the world. (3.30-31)
Whoa, gender bender! There's a whole line of criticism out there wondering about Jos's sexual orientation, and passages like this explain why.
| Quote #2
There is no need of giving a special report of the conversation which now took place between Mr. Sedley [Jos] and the young lady [Becky]; for the conversation, as may be judged from the foregoing specimen, was not especially witty or eloquent; it seldom is in private societies, or anywhere except in very high-flown and ingenious novels [...] Almost for the first time in his life, Mr. Sedley found himself talking, without the least timidity or hesitation, to a person of the other sex. Miss Rebecca asked him a great number of questions about India, which gave him an opportunity of narrating many interesting anecdotes about that country and himself. (4.61-62)
Most of the men in the novel need to be managed or handled by women who know how to do it. Here Becky is practicing the art of sealing the deal. She is not in the usual feminine mold, to be sure, but it's interesting how often she is shown to be the aggressor and the men she deals with her victims.
| Quote #3
Dobbin was much too modest a young fellow to suppose that this happy change in all his circumstances arose from his own generous and manly disposition: he chose, from some perverseness, to attribute his good fortune to the sole agency and benevolence of little George Osborne, to whom henceforth he vowed such a love and affection as is only felt by children--such an affection, as we read in the charming fairy-book, uncouth Orson had for splendid young Valentine his conqueror. He flung himself down at little Osborne's feet, and loved him. Even before they were acquainted, he had admired Osborne in secret. Now he was his valet, his dog, his man Friday. He believed Osborne to be the possessor of every perfection, to be the handsomest, the bravest, the most active, the cleverest, the most generous of created boys.(5.44)
This is a pretty creepy passage and might also speak to the culture of all-male private schools, which Thackeray was not a fan of. What do we make of this passage? Man crush? An obsession that then leads Dobbin to fall in love with Amelia and try to "become" George by marrying her?