Study Guide

Miss Crawley in Vanity Fair

By William Makepeace Thackeray

Miss Crawley

A very rich, very high-maintenance, extremely worldly old woman, Miss Crawley holds the purse strings of the Crawley family fortune. Though she seems likely to leave it all to Rawdon, his marriage to Becky causes her to leave it to his older brother, Pitt Crawley, instead.

There are a few characters in the novel like Miss Crawley. Not only do they advance the plot (in this case with the inheritance that Rawdon and Becky hope to get), but they are pretty stern warnings about a particular kind of behavior. So what does Miss Crawley warn us readers about? Mostly about the way money can be an isolating cocoon. Surrounded by sycophants and toadies, Miss Crawley dies in a state of paranoia about her family's designs on her money. And she's right – no one mourns her, no one cares about remembering her. What's there to remember, after all – a vain, obnoxious, picky woman who prided herself on being a progressively democratic thinker and yet was obsessed with her own superior status.

Still, what is striking – and where we can really see Thackeray's master hand at play – is the fact that even this old gasbag gets a humanizing touch. No one can say they don't feel bad for Miss Crawley when she is being dominated and terrorized by Mrs. Bute. Shmoop is going to go out on a limb and guess that Thackeray's gift for making readers feel empathetic toward even the most unpleasant characters is why his satire works so well. After all, the more you can put yourself in Miss Crawley's shoes one minute, the more you'll feel reprimanded for being demanding and difficult the next.

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