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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair


by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair Society and Class Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #7

Rebecca had never seen a Baronet, as far as she knew, and [...] she began to depict in her own mind what a Baronet must be. "I wonder, does he wear a star?" thought she, "or is it only lords that wear stars? But he will be very handsomely dressed in a court suit, with ruffles, and his hair a little powdered, like Mr. Wroughton at Covent Garden. I suppose he will be awfully proud, and that I shall be treated most contemptuously. Still I must bear my hard lot as well as I can--at least, I shall be amongst GENTLEFOLKS, and not with vulgar city people" [...] When the bell was rung [at the Crawley mansion in London], a head appeared between the interstices of the dining-room shutters, and the door was opened by a man in drab breeches and gaiters, with a dirty old coat, a foul old neckcloth lashed round his bristly neck, a shining bald head, a leering red face, a pair of twinkling grey eyes, and a mouth perpetually on the grin. (7.8-10)

So it's obviously hilarious that this gross old man whom Becky takes to be some kind of under-servant turns out to actually be Sir Pitt himself. It's interesting that although often the reader is looking at the characters from above and laughing at them along with the narrator, in this passage we are right there with Becky wondering about the extremely grand personage we're about to meet. It's a clever shift of point of view that makes the final joke funnier and also gets at the reader's own fascination with and awe of the aristocracy. (We have to be able to think like Becky to go along with her here).

Quote #8

"Is he a presentable sort of a person?" the aunt [Miss Crawley] inquired.

"Presentable?--oh, very well. You wouldn't see any difference," (14.77-78)

An excellent summary of the "looks and manners" style of being a gentleman that George Osborne represents. He can pass for genteel without a hitch.

Quote #9

"Do you suppose a man of my habits can live on his pay and a hundred a year?" George cried out in great anger. "You must be a fool to talk so, Dobbin. How the deuce am I to keep up my position in the world upon such a pitiful pittance? I can't change my habits. I must have my comforts. I wasn't brought up on porridge, like MacWhirter, or on potatoes, like old O'Dowd. Do you expect my wife to take in soldiers' washing, or ride after the regiment in a baggage waggon?" (25.15)

Just so we're clear, Amelia, her mother, her father, and George Jr. end up living on about 100 pounds a year, and it's clearly a pretty poor existence for people used to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Still, this is meant to be an obnoxious statement that indicts George as a petty, entitled jerk.

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