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William Makepeace Thackeray
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Vanity Fair Themes
Little Words, Big Ideas
Society and Class
Vanity Fair presents a world in which people are almost entirely defined by the socioeconomic rank within which they find themselves. Some try to claw their way up and end up crashing down; some a...
The desire to constantly rise higher in the social sphere is the only motivation for action or movement in Vanity Fair. No character exerts effort unless it's in the service of finding a better-pl...
Men and Masculinity
Even though the two protagonists of Vanity Fair are women, the question of what it means to be a man – particularly the masculine ideal of a gentleman – is central to the novel. Each male char...
Women and Femininity
Even within the relatively narrow confines of the roles available to middle- and upper-class women near the beginning of the 19th century, Vanity Fair presents a wide variety of ways to be a woman....
Vanity Fair takes a knowing and mature look at adult sexuality. Thackeray does not shy away from describing the sexual appeal of his characters and the way they carry out their intimate relationsh...
Morality and Ethics
Because Vanity Fair is a satire, it is by definition an exploration of the moral and ethical questions of its time. At the same time, satire is a conservative genre, in the most basic sense of that...
Cunning and Cleverness
Vanity Fair does not have much to say about intellectual achievement. Instead its main demonstration of intelligence lies in its characters' ability to plan, scheme, and maneuver strategically aro...
Philosophical Viewpoints: Life as a Theater
If the world is a fair where vanities are sold, and if external appearance and manners are valued more highly than good character and ethical conduct, then it makes sense that those who can put on...
It makes perfect sense that if everyone is jockeying for position at the top of the heap, the achievements of neighbors, friends, and even family members will occasion jealousy. No holds are barre...
Language and Communications
In Vanity Fair, there are masters of one language, masters of many languages, and those whose lack of education puts them perilously close to illiteracy. Individuals who are able to find many diff...
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