by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"It isn't difficult to be a country gentleman's wife," Rebecca thought. "I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year." [...] And who knows but Rebecca was right in her speculations--and that it was only a question of money and fortune which made the difference between her and an honest woman? If you take temptations into account, who is to say that he is better than his neighbour? A comfortable career of prosperity, if it does not make people honest, at least keeps them so. An alderman coming from a turtle feast will not step out of his carnage to steal a leg of mutton; but put him to starve, and see if he will not purloin a loaf. Becky consoled herself by so balancing the chances and equalizing the distribution of good and evil in the world. (41.38)
This is probably the single biggest philosophical question of the novel. Is immoral behavior a matter of circumstance (so, poor people steal while rich ones don't, for instance)? Or is it something that innate in a person's character (so a bad poor person might steal while that same person made rich would still commit immoral actions)?