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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

by William Makepeace Thackeray

Women and Femininity Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

But if a fault may be found with [Mrs. Bute's] arrangements, it is this, that she was too eager: she managed rather too well; undoubtedly she made Miss Crawley more ill than was necessary; and though the old invalid succumbed to her authority, it was so harassing and severe, that the victim would be inclined to escape at the very first chance which fell in her way. Managing women, the ornaments of their sex--women who order everything for everybody, and know so much better than any person concerned what is good for their neighbours, don't sometimes speculate upon the possibility of a domestic revolt, or upon other extreme consequences resulting from their overstrained authority. (19.15)

Is Mrs. Bute just an unsexy version of Becky? She does a lot of the same kind of scheming and is almost as cunning. (She's the only one who sees that Sir Pitt wants to marry Becky, for instance.) She is probably the second most ambitious woman in the novel. What does ambition look like when it's in an unappealing package?

Quote #8

"My sisters say [Miss Swartz] has diamonds as big as pigeons' eggs," George said, laughing. "How they must set off her complexion! A perfect illumination it must be when her jewels are on her neck. Her jet-black hair is as curly as Sambo's. I dare say she wore a nose ring when she went to court; and with a plume of feathers in her top-knot she would look a perfect Belle Sauvage." (20.27)

George is quite the racist, isn't he? What a delightful fellow. By the way, in reference to Miss Swartz, he name-checks La Belle Sauvage (a play about Pocahontas) and the Hottentot Venus (the stage name for Saartjie Baartman, an African woman who became a Dutch slave and was exhibited as a freak show all over Europe because of her supposedly unusual proportions). Meanwhile, what exactly is the narrator's stance? Clearly we're meant to see that George is way out of line with the horrible things he says. But it's just as clear that we are meant to find Miss Swartz's unsuitability to fancy London life funny. Then again, she ends up married to a Scottish nobleman.

Quote #9

How the floodgates were opened, and mother [Mrs. Sedley] and daughter [Amelia] wept, when they were together embracing each other in this sanctuary, may readily be imagined by every reader who possesses the least sentimental turn. When don't ladies weep? At what occasion of joy, sorrow, or other business of life, and, after such an event as a marriage, mother and daughter were surely at liberty to give way to a sensibility which is as tender as it is refreshing. About a question of marriage I have seen women who hate each other kiss and cry together quite fondly. How much more do they feel when they love! Good mothers are married over again at their daughters' weddings: and as for subsequent events, who does not know how ultra-maternal grandmothers are?--in fact a woman, until she is a grandmother, does not often really know what to be a mother is. Let us respect Amelia and her mamma whispering and whimpering and laughing and crying in the parlour and the twilight. (26.7)

Why do girls in Victorian novels cry so much? Oh the other hand, it's pretty clear that Amelia's short burst of married life has come with sexual as well as emotional disappointments. Her mom doesn't seem to be able to help with any of that – and really, from what we see of Mrs. Sedley, she's kind of a dopey, romantic, selfish woman. What else is there to do, really, except cry?

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