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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair


by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Why don't we find out whether Becky actually slept with Lord Steyne or killed Jos? How would the novel be different if one or the other were true? What if both were true? What if both were false? Does it matter what the truth actually is? Why or why not?
  2. Who is the most sympathetic character? Who is the least sympathetic? Are there any characters that don't get some kind of back-story or humanizing moment to explain why they've become the people they are? (Check out how even Lord Steyne's hatefulness is put into context when we find out that he's living with the tragedy of his son's schizophrenia.) Why doesn't Thackeray set up clear heroes and villains for us? Why does he muddy the waters by insisting that everyone have some emotional depth?
  3. Cast the movie version of Vanity Fair. Yes, yes, we know all about that terrible Reese Witherspoon adaptation – you can do better. Recast the novel, making sure to get the minor characters too. Who would play Rawdon or Amelia? Who could make Miss Crawley and Briggs come alive? Can you think of a good Sir Pitt or Wenham the lawyer?
  4. If the novel were set today, which parts of the plot would stay the same? Which would have to change? Which characters could you imagine just needing to change from Victorian clothes to jeans? Which ones would need far greater alterations? Why?
  5. How would the novel be different if it were written in the first person instead of the third person? Whose point of view would be most interesting to read? Lord Steyne's? Amelia's? Would it better to read it from the point of view of someone likeable or one of the less-pleasant characters? Are there misunderstandings you can predict occurring if one character were forced to figure out the motivations behind the actions of another? Who would have the most trouble understanding whom?
  6. Imagine you had to create portraits of all the major players. What medium would work best for what character? Who would be in watercolors? Whom would you sculpt? Who would be represented by abstract art and who would need a realistic approach? Who would get some kind of multimedia installation? Performance art piece? Poem?

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