by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Becky] had not been much of a dissembler, until now her loneliness taught her to feign. She had never mingled in the society of women: her father, reprobate as he was, was a man of talent; his conversation was a thousand times more agreeable to her than the talk of such of her own sex as she now encountered. The pompous vanity of the old schoolmistress, the foolish good-humour of her sister, the silly chat and scandal of the elder girls, and the frigid correctness of the governesses equally annoyed her; and she had no soft maternal heart, this unlucky girl, otherwise the prattle and talk of the younger children, with whose care she was chiefly intrusted, might have soothed and interested her; but she lived among them two years, and not one was sorry that she went away. (2.18)
In other words, stinks not to have a mom around. The novel is actually pretty astute (if totally cynical) about what parents teach and don't teach their kids – especially mothers and daughters. Most of Becky's behavior seems to come from the fact that she doesn't have a mom around to set up her engagement, like the other young women around her. Also, check out how Becky's own non-maternal nature is set up from the get-go – it will be what makes the narrator and reader turn on her midway through the novel.
If Miss Rebecca Sharp had determined in her heart upon making the conquest of this big beau [Jos], I don't think, ladies, we have any right to blame her; for though the task of husband-hunting is generally, and with becoming modesty, entrusted by young persons to their mammas. [...] honest Mrs. Sedley has, in the depths of her kind heart, already arranged a score of little schemes for the settlement of her Amelia. (3.26)
More details about the crucial role of a mother in the marriage market. Does Becky refuse to be a mother to Rawdon Jr. because she has already had to mother herself? Has there been something distasteful in having to raise herself?
[Amelia] had, too, in the course of this few days' constant intercourse, warmed into a most tender friendship for Rebecca, and discovered a million of virtues and amiable qualities in her which she had not perceived when they were at Chiswick together. For the affection of young ladies is of as rapid growth as Jack's bean-stalk, and reaches up to the sky in a night. It is no blame to them that after marriage this Sehnsucht nach der Liebe subsides. It is what sentimentalists, who deal in very big words, call a yearning after the Ideal, and simply means that women are commonly not satisfied until they have husbands and children on whom they may centre affections, which are spent elsewhere, as it were, in small change. (4.66)
So, how about a little casual misogyny? Yes, this is the standard Victorian line about women being all about feelings and irrationality (which here combines into immediate BFF status between Amelia and Becky). Although, does the novel really endorse this view of "young ladies" when we have such a clear counter-example as the anti-heroine? Or is Becky so far the extreme that she doesn't seem like a realistic possibility and so we're back to square one with women being silly creatures who just want babies?