Study Guide

Rawdon Crawley in Vanity Fair

By William Makepeace Thackeray

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Rawdon Crawley

A large, imposing army dragoon, Rawdon Crawley sows enough wild oats for about ten men, but then he falls in love with and marries Becky Sharp. Marriage, and especially fatherhood, reforms this dim-witted but ultimately kind man. Unfortunately, he is betrayed by his wife and dies stationed at a horrible island post trying to provide financially for his son.

Macho, Macho Man: Masculinity, Domesticity, and Fatherhood

Rawdon makes for a pretty good counterpoint to George Osborne. He actually does have aristocratic blood: his father is a baronet, a titled nobleman, and his family can trace themselves and their estate quite a long way back in history. Because of this, Rawdon is automatically a gentleman and doesn't need the finer qualities that would allow him to pass for one, like George does. He has reasonably good looks but doesn't need to cultivate them. He has no manners whatsoever and prefers low-bred company. Mostly he hangs out with his officer drinking buddies and women who are half a step up from prostitutes.

And as for the kind of internal honor and trustworthiness that are the traditional qualities of a gentleman? Forget it. Rawdon is a pool hustler, a card shark, and a guy who tries to skip out of paying his bills as much as possible. The kind of honor he does have is mostly predicated on violence; he has a reputation as a guy who's always up for a duel.

So what happens to this gentleman? Intriguingly enough, after he marries Becky he becomes totally domesticated. He loves her, he loves his son, and he deeply cares for his sister-in-law Jane (without any ulterior motives or shenanigans) because she is such a wonderful mother. He spends his days being a very hands-on, involved dad and gladly gives up his wild-oats-sowing lifestyle for the sake of his family.

What are we supposed to make of that? How does this domesticated kind of honor compare with more standard ideas about masculinity – prowess in battle, for instance, or luck with the ladies? Is Rawdon emasculated by his home-dad life? Are we meant to admire him or pity him?

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