Vanity Fair Summary
Vanity Fair seems like it's going to be one of those blonde girl/brunette girl parallel lives stories, but the plot takes so many twists and turns that this formula ends up cast aside.
Two girls graduate from a finishing school. One, Becky Sharp, is the daughter of an alcoholic, broke art teacher. The other, Amelia Sedley, is the daughter of a very well-to-do middle class investor. Because of their very different childhoods, they have already learned different lessons about the world. Becky has learned that she needs to be totally self-reliant to get anywhere in life, while Amelia has learned that she will always be protected and so can remain a totally passive person.
Becky is destined for being a governess, but Amelia takes her home to spend a few days with the Sedleys before Becky's job starts. When Becky finds out that Amelia has an older brother who has an excellent post in India, she decides to try to charm him into marrying her. However, Jos Sedley turns out to be a whole other kettle of fish: fat, vain, super shy around girls, and in general quite a character.
After much flirting, singing, and intimate conversation, Becky still hasn't gotten her proposal. Finally, Jos, Amelia, and Becky decide to go to Vauxhall, a garden concert hall, nearby. With them also comes George Osborne, Amelia's almost-fiancé, and William Dobbin, George's close army friend, who takes one look at Amelia and falls head over heels. George is about as vain as Jos, but also handsome. He has no desire to have Becky as his sister-in-law, and he mocks Jos for being attracted to her, thus spoiling any chance Becky might have at the marriage.
Becky leaves the Sedleys and goes to the Queen's Crawley estate to be a governess. She makes the best of her situation there. In addition to teaching the Crawley children, Becky becomes the secretary and informal estate manager to Sir Pitt Crawley, the Baronet, who is a nasty, vicious, cheap, litigious old man. Becky mostly leaves her pupils alone and they love her for that. She pretends to be pious and awed by the intellectual abilities of the prissy and dainty Pitt Crawley, Sir Pitt's oldest son. She gives a flirty cold shoulder to Rawdon Crawley, Sir Pitt's youngest son, who is a very macho army guy.
Sir Pitt has a younger brother, Bute Crawley, who together with his wife is very jealous of Becky's sudden popularity. Sir Pitt also has a half-sister, Miss Matilda Crawley, who is a single, very rich, fat, gross, highly obnoxious old lady. Miss Crawley loves her nephew Rawdon, and everyone expects that when she dies, she will leave him all her money. When she comes to visit, everyone kisses up to her, but Miss Crawley becomes obsessed with Becky and takes her back to London. There, Miss Crawley falls ill, and Becky takes excellent care of her. After a few months, Sir Pitt comes to make Miss Crawley send Becky back to his estate. When Becky seems hesitant, Sir Pitt proposes to her. Becky is shocked, then shockingly reveals that she is married already.
Becky runs away from Miss Crawley's house, leaving a note that reveals that she is married to Rawdon. Miss Crawley is furious and changes her will. She decides to never see Rawdon or Becky again.
Meanwhile, Amelia's father's business starts to fail. Napoleon has escaped his exile in Elba and is massing another attack on Europe. This causes the stock market to go nuts, and Mr. Sedley loses his investments. The more the Sedleys are ruined, the more Mr. Osborne, George's father, is unhappy at the idea of his son marrying Amelia. He orders his son to break off the relationship, which George says is not honorable.
Finally, Mr. Sedley goes totally bankrupt. There is an auction held to sell off all the Sedley belongings, and the family moves to a tiny house in a poor neighborhood. Mr. Sedley is angry that Mr. Osborne has suddenly cut off contact, and orders Amelia to send back George's letters and presents and to break off the relationship. Amelia does, then becomes very ill. She's got brokenheartitis.
Mr. Osborne threatens to cut off George's allowance if he doesn't sever all ties with Amelia and tries to get him to propose to a rich and vulgar heiress. George refuses and is very happy with himself. But he also starts to neglect Amelia and doesn't even bother to figure out where she and the family have moved.
Dobbin does keep track of all of this, goes to visit, sees the super-pale Amelia, and tells George that she is dying. George freaks out, goes to find her, and marries her. He doesn't tell his father, and Mr. Osborne still thinks George will come back with his tail between his legs as soon as his money runs out.
Amelia and George, along with Jos, go to Brighton for their honeymoon. There they run into Becky and Rawdon, who are in Bath because that's where Miss Crawley is, and they are hoping to get her to forgive them. Dobbin stays behind in London to tell Mr. Osborne that George is married. The two couples hang out together, and George loses a ton of money to Rawdon at cards and billiards. Amelia is sad that George is clearly already bored with her just two weeks into their marriage.
Miss Crawley, meanwhile, is being taken care of in her illness by Mrs. Bute Crawley, who is a tiny powerhouse of a control freak. Miss Crawley can't stand her. Finally, Mrs. Bute Crawley goes away, and Becky has a small opening. Miss Crawley decides to communicate a little bit with Rawdon, but still won't forgive Becky. In London, Dobbin tells the Osbornes about George and Amelia's marriage, and Mr. Osborne disowns his son completely.
Suddenly, Napoleon's invasion is imminent! Everyone who is army-affiliated (George, Rawdon, and Dobbin) is ordered to Belgium. Becky, Amelia, and Jos also decide to go. George and Dobbin serve in the same regiment, under Major O'Dowd and his proud Irish wife. In Brussels, Mrs. O'Dowd takes Amelia under her wing and everything is hunky-dory until the arrival of Becky and Rawdon, who is the aide-de-camp to an important General.
Becky is the toast of Brussels and immediately makes it into the highest society. George is totally captivated by her and completely neglects his wife. On the day of a grand ball, George gives Becky a note asking her to run off with him. That very night, the army gets its marching orders. George feels bad, kind of makes up with Amelia, then goes off to the front with Dobbin. Rawdon also goes off, while Becky calculates how much money she'll be left with if he dies.
No one back in Brussels has any way of getting any news about the war. At one point there's a panic, and everyone tries to flee. Jos is terrified and wants to run away as fast as possible – as do most others. Because of the sudden rush, there's a huge demand for horses, which are in low supply. Becky has two horses and sells them to Jos at a crazy price. As soon as he buys them, news comes that the allies have defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Dobbin is OK, Rawdon is OK, but George has been shot dead.
Becky and Rawdon go off to Paris, where she gives birth to a son. She doesn't really care about the baby and mostly ignores him. Rawdon, however, totally loves his boy and becomes kind of a changed man because of him. Miss Crawley is still angry at them. Pitt Crawley marries the lovely, gentle, happy Lady Jane, and Miss Crawley is enchanted with her. Pitt and Lady Jane have a son and a daughter, and when Miss Crawley dies, she leaves all her money to Pitt. Then Sir Pitt dies, and Pitt Crawley inherits the mansion and estate at Queen's Crawley as well. Rawdon is furious, but Becky is a lot more clever than her husband. She acts like a very gracious loser, impressing both Pitt and Lady Jane with her good wishes for their prosperity.
Amelia goes totally bonkers over George's death. It doesn't help that she is pregnant and now has no means of supporting herself financially. Jos and Mrs. O'Dowd take care of her, then she goes to live in the tiny house of her parents. When her son is born, she recovers and transfers all the love she's ever felt for anyone onto him. That's kind of a tough gig for a little kid. Amelia scrimps and saves to make sure he is dressed in the latest clothes. Dobbin becomes his godfather. Mr. Osborne is still angry about the marriage and refuses to acknowledge the existence of either Amelia or her son.
Becky and Rawdon come back to England and make nice with the new Sir Pitt and Lady Jane. Becky is her usual superficially charming self. Sir Pitt likes her a lot and puts her in charge of fixing up the Crawley mansion in London. But she is unmasked faster than usual because her young son makes some innocently revealing comments (like, "I've never eaten with my mommy before!" and "Mommy never kisses me at home") that horrify Lady Jane. Still, for now, Becky is in Sir Pitt's very good graces and goes off to London to do her design work.
In London, Becky quickly enters into society, mostly under the guidance and patronage of Lord Steyne, an immoral, degraded, lascivious, vicious, and cruel old man, who also happens to be a Marquis (a super-high-up aristocrat) and one of the king's advisers. This guy is into Becky because she's hot, and Becky hopes to get as much out of him as she can – money, social standing, maybe even a good job for Rawdon. Rawdon doesn't really get what's going on because he's dim-witted and mostly just plays cards and gambles with Becky's other hangers-on (actually, that's where most of their income comes from). Higher and higher Becky climbs, until finally Lord Steyne's wife, the pinnacle of high society, invites her for dinner. Obviously she does it because Lord Steyne makes her, but still. This coup even gets Becky an introduction to the king of England – not bad for a broke drawing teacher's daughter.
Meanwhile, in the poor section of town, the Sedleys are doing worse and worse. For a while their money matters were OK because Jos was sending them an allowance and Amelia was putting her tiny pension from George's death into the common pot. But Mr. Sedley continues to speculate – always poorly, always losing money – until the family is actually unable to eat. Amelia doesn't realize how bad things have gotten and still does her best to deck her son out in cool duds and buy him books and things. One day, dead George's sister Miss Osborne sees this little boy out and about and is struck by how much he looks like his father. She tells Mr. Osborne about what she has seen, and Mr. Osborne starts to relent in his hard feelings. Very soon, the Osbornes make Amelia an offer to take her son and raise him (though she would get to see him). Amelia totally freaks, obviously, since she lives only for this boy.
But soon Mr. Sedley reveals that he is totally and completely bankrupt, and Amelia has no choice. Her son goes to live with Mr. Osborne, and Mr. Osborne starts financially supporting Amelia and the Sedleys. The boy grows up to be a slightly less crappy version of his father – handsome, snobby, imperious, but still somewhat kind and loving. Amelia's mom dies, then her father becomes senile and dies. Finally, Mr. Osborne dies, leaving half his property to his grandson and setting Amelia up for life pretty comfortably as well.
Becky, at the height of her awesomeness, gets the idea to put on a charade party, consisting of a bunch of mini-plays. She is of course expecting to be the belle of the ball, since she is quite the actress. She dresses up as Clytemnestra, the ancient Greek queen who killed her husband Agamemnon. Everyone agrees that she is divine and just to die for. Lord Steyne is particularly struck both by how good she is in the role and how symbolically fitting it is for her to play someone who betrayed her husband. Ho ho! The rest of the party goes great. At the end of the night, Rawdon gets Becky a carriage home and decides to take a walk. Suddenly he is arrested for debts and put into debtors' prison.
Rawdon doesn't panic, because he's been there before. All you need to do is find someone to cover your debt and then you can leave. So, in the morning he sends Becky a note asking her to round up some money and get him. The day passes, and nothing happens. Finally, in the evening, Rawdon gets a note back from Becky saying that she was not feeling well and was busy and couldn't get around to bailing him out, but that she'll get him the next day. Rawdon is furious and sends a message to Lady Jane, who comes at once. When he walks into his house, he finds Becky and Lord Steyne all alone in the living room, with wine and dessert, Becky all dressed up and singing songs to the old Marquis. Rawdon loses it completely, tears off Becky's dress and jewelry, punches Steyne in the face, and leaves.
Rawdon knows that after totally dishonoring a gentleman like Steyne the only thing he can expect from Steyne is a challenge to a duel. He goes to find a second (backup). Steyne's lawyer comes to find him, but instead of challenging him to a duel, the lawyer does some fancy talking and explains how actually the evening was totally innocent and how Steyne isn't really mad at Rawdon's honest mistake. To prove it, the lawyer shows Rawdon an article in the paper that says that Rawdon has been appointed governor of a small island in the British Empire. Crazy! A man as powerful as Steyne can make things happen.
Rawdon doesn't forgive Becky. He goes off to the island, gives his son to Pitt and Lady Jane to raise as their own, and pays Becky an allowance to stay away from him. It's unclear if she actually slept with Steyne or not, but obviously that's what everyone thinks. Becky goes from city to city in Europe, where the same thing happens each time. She makes her way into society, everyone loves her, then someone finds out her past from London acquaintances and she gets booted. This happens over and over again, and it's clear that Steyne is so angry with the way she played him that he is actually making her life a living hell from afar.
After Mr. Osborne dies, Amelia gets her son back, and she, Dobbin, Jos, and the boy decide to go to Europe to travel around. They go to the German town of Pumpernickel and have a grand old time. At a fair, Jos runs into Becky, who is now totally poor, living in kind of a squalid house but loving her Bohemian lifestyle. She immediately gets her hooks into him and Amelia, although Dobbin knows that she is bad news and tells everyone so. Dobbin finally confesses his love for Amelia, who of course knows all about it, but she tells him that she can only ever love dear dead George. Dobbin is sad and tells her that he's going away forever because after twelve years of loving her without any returned feelings, he's tired.
After he leaves, Amelia is very sad, but she's still loyal to dead George. Becky takes pity on Amelia and shows her the note that George wrote Becky about running away together the night before he went to fight Napoleon. Amelia is shocked at his betrayal but feels released from the marriage, and writes to Dobbin, who returns immediately and marries her. They go back to London, where Amelia has a daughter. Dobbin slowly falls out of love with Amelia, but continues to be nice to her nonetheless.
Rawdon dies on his island, and after Sir Pitt dies, Rawdon and Becky's son inherits the Queen's Crawley and the whole Crawley fortune. He gets to be good friends with Amelia's son and never sees his mother again. Becky and Jos travel around Europe for a while, until he dies under very mysterious circumstances and Becky tries to collect his life insurance policy. At first the insurance company denies the claim, but she hires some lawyers and the company is forced to pay, since murder cannot be proven. (But it's strongly implied that Becky poisoned Jos.) Becky ends up living in Bath with a nice income, a group of loyal friends, and a life of pious charity work.
Before the Curtain
- The narrator introduces himself as "the Manager of the Performance" (i.1) and describes the world he is going to show the reader as an enormous fair. Insert flashing neon sign blinking "Allegory, Symbolism – Pay Attention!" here.
- The narrator describes his characters as puppets (the most famous is the Becky Puppet) and the novel as a really good show that is making a world tour to much acclaim.
- The Sedleys' coach comes to pick Amelia Sedley up from Miss Pinkerton's school. She just graduated. Woo-hoo! Mortarboard in the air!
- Miss Pinkerton sends her on her way with a nice letter (a kind of old-timey report card) about what a nice young lady she is, her bill, a fancy dictionary, and a note saying that her friend Becky Sharp is also graduating and is coming to the Sedleys to visit, but can't stay longer than ten days since she's supposed to be starting work as a governess.
- Jemima, Miss Pinkerton's weaker, stupider sister offers to give Becky a dictionary too, but Miss Pinkerton isn't having any of it. Turns out Becky wasn't paying tuition but was instead working as a teacher's aide to go to the school. Miss Pinkerton is not a fan of the poor.
- Everyone falls all over themselves to say goodbye to Amelia. She is lovely and wonderful, though the narrator manages to make fun of her by saying that not only is she actually not the heroine of the novel, but that "her nose was rather short than otherwise, and her cheeks a great deal too round" and that she is "a silly thing" who only has two reactions to anything that happens – laughing or crying (1.26).
- Becky says good-bye to Miss Pinkerton in French, making fun of the fact that the old woman cannot speak it. Back in the day, not knowing French was low-class, so Becky is rubbing it in.
- Finally the two girls are in the carriage and Jemima gives them some sandwiches for the road and hands Becky a dictionary that she has somehow managed to sneak out of the school.
- Becky laughs and flings the dictionary out of the carriage onto the ground.
In which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley prepare to open the Campaign
- Amelia is sort of shocked by Becky's throwing the dictionary out of the carriage. It figures – she's all prim and proper and always psyched to obey authority. Becky? Not so much.
- Now we get a little background on Rebecca Sharp. Daddy was a broke, semi-alcoholic artist. Mommy was a French "opera-girl" (a profession that to Victorians had the whiff of prostitution). This is how Becky comes by her native fluency in French and also why she describes herself as having "been a woman since she was eight years old" (2.15). It's not totally clear what that means. Either it has something to do with the fact that she was a model for her father's artist friends (again, a promiscuous-sounding occupation to Victorian ears), or the fact that she spent a lot of time talking tradesmen out of arresting her father for debt. So, in sum, a craptastic childhood.
- Daddy taught art at Miss Pinkerton's school, and Becky pretended to be a shy, innocent girl around the headmistress.
- When Mr. Sharp died, Miss Pinkerton took Becky on as an indentured student (she had to work to get to study there).
- Becky hated the place and hated how super-snobby all the students and teachers were. But she did make friends with Amelia. She also studied her butt off and got really good at singing and playing the piano. (Take note that she's a born performer – this is important!)
- Miss Pinkerton tried to tap her to give music lessons on top of the French lessons she was already doing (so that the school wouldn't have to pay a music teacher) but Becky told her off. Miss Pinkerton resolved to get rid of Becky as fast as possible and found her a job as a governess for Sir Pitt Crawley's family.
- And that's how Amelia and Becky find themselves in the carriage.
- They get to the Sedleys' London house, which is middle-class swanky. (This novel is crazily preoccupied with where everyone and everything fits in on the economic and social status continuums, so these things really matter!)
- Turns out Amelia has an older, unmarried, really rich brother named Jos, who was just back from his job in India. Becky decides to try to marry him.
- Becky tries to fake a fast heartbeat but Amelia sees through that pretty quickly. The narrator tells us that soon Becky's illusions and deceptions will get way better. She's a quick study.
Rebecca is in Presence of the Enemy
- Becky and Amelia make their way downstairs and meet Jos, who turns out to be a very fat, awkward, shy man.
- Becky tries to flirt on his level, putting on some super-virginal airs.
- Jos is kind of into it, but when his father, Mr. Sedley, comes home and starts to make fun of the fashion-victim way Jos is dressed, the whole scene gets to be too much for him.
- Jos tries to escape the house, until Mrs. Sedley tells him about the yummy Indian-food dinner that's waiting.
- The narrator chimes in with an important little tidbit: basically, Becky has to arrange her own marriage since she doesn't have a mom to do it for her.
- Now we get a little background info on Jos. Turns out he works for the East India Company (check out the "Best of the Web" section for what that's all about) as the revenue collector of Boggley Wollah (fake place name meant to sound funny. Hardy har har.).
- Also, turns out he's really, really into his clothes and fancy lifestyle, and is very vain about himself and his appearance. Except he is also painfully lonely and doesn't really know how to be around other people. And, to top it all off, he is fat and self-conscious about it. He wears all sorts of complicated girdles to hide it and buys clothes that are too tight for him.
- Brain Snack: Thackeray described himself a fat, somewhat awkward guy, so Jos is a bit of a self-parody.
- At dinner, Becky is all of a sudden super-interested in all things Indian. She tries a curry dish and is sort of gasping from all the cayenne pepper and spices, when Jos offers her a chili pepper. Thinking it'll be cool (you know, "chilly"), she eats it whole and has a mouth-on-fire attack. But she is a good sport about it, and Jos and Mr. Sedley like her.
- After dinner, Mr. Sedley tells Jos that Becky digs him. Predictably, this freaks Jos out, and he leaves to go the theater instead of hanging out with Amelia, Becky, and Mrs. Sedley.
The Green Silk Purse
- A few days later, Jos comes back. In the meantime, Becky has ingratiated herself into the Sedley family and household (remember, it's not just the Sedleys who live in the big London house – they have a small army of servants too).
- Becky demurely flirts with Jos, going so far as to actually (OK, prepare to be shocked) squeeze his hand slightly.
- Amelia suggests spending an evening at Vauxhall, a kind of park with music, cafes, and other entertainment. Mr. Sedley wants Jos to chaperone the ladies, but also thinks they should invite George Osborne to go with them. Amelia is a little swoony at this idea.
- In bed that night, Mr. and Mrs. Sedley discuss the idea of Becky marrying Jos, and decide basically that better her than an Indian girl. (Casual and open racism was a common thing back then.)
- The next night there is a huge thunderstorm, so Vauxhall is put off. Instead, Amelia, George, Jos, and Becky hang out at home by themselves. There is some piano playing and singing (note that Becky is always really, really good at any kind of performing). There is some flirting and extremely mild hanky-panky. We're guessing Amelia and George maybe kiss a little when they go off by themselves into a darkened room with no candle.
- Turns out George is the son of a very old family friend, and he and Amelia have basically been raised to eventually marry each other. So it's helpful that they are also in love.
- Meanwhile, Becky draws out Jos, as much as he can be drawn out. He's really an ungainly, socially inept fellow. But he's starting to really be into Becky. And why not? She's hot and is basically throwing herself at him.
- Becky makes everyone feel sad about the fact that she has to leave to go be a governess. Everything seems to be working according to plan, and she thinks that the next morning Jos will propose.
- The next morning, Jos does not propose.
- However, what does happen is this: Becky is knitting a green purse (just like in the chapter title!) and gets Jos to help her hold the skein of silk yarn by winding it around his arms until he is tied up and can't move. Symbolism alert: Becky is a spider, and Jos is caught in her silk web! OK, everyone can sit back down now and take a deep breath.
Dobbin of Ours
- Time for a little trip back in time to when George was still a schoolboy. One of the other kids there was Dobbin, a clumsy, dorky kid, who was mocked mercilessly because his father was a merchant and had to work for a living rather than being independently wealthy. This all has to do with being or not being a gentleman – a really big deal for Thackeray. Check out the "Character Clues" section for some info on the whole "what being a gentleman really means" thing. Go ahead. We'll wait for you.
- Another kid at the school was Cuff, who was the popular, bullying jock type.
- Everyone who was there will always remember the day Dobbin saw Cuff about to beat up George. It's not really clear how old everyone is at this point. We'll hazard a guess that George was 9ish, Dobbin 11ish, and Cuff 14ish. Point being that Cuff was way bigger than George.
- Dobbin intervened, and he and Cuff planned to fight after school.
- The fight was very much one-sided, with a half-crazed Dobbin "licking" Cuff (that's some awesome period slang for you all).
- After this, Dobbin's reputation went way up, and the other kids started being so nice to him that he actually began doing really well in school. Turns out he wasn't stupid after all, but just too miserable to study or otherwise function.
- The other result of the fight? Dobbin and George became best friends. Or rather, George condescended to let Dobbin be really attached to him.
- Since all this happened, however, Dobbin's dad has become an alderman and has gotten knighted, meaning he is now Sir Dobbin, and is thus a much higher social class than when Dobbin was at school. Dobbin is now Captain Dobbin and is an officer in George's regiment.
- The reason for all this history? To explain why George invites Dobbin to Vauxhall as kind of a fifth wheel.
- Dobbin comes over to the Sedley house, sees Amelia, and instantly falls in love with her. The five young people hang out, having a good time, until it's time to go. Jos has a few strong drinks for the road, or maybe to give himself some liquid courage to ask Becky to marry him.
- The narrator wonders how the story would change if the main characters were at the top of the social heap (if they were all titled nobility), or if they were servants. It seems that necessarily at least the tone of the novel would be completely different.
- Anyhoodle, the five young people finally go to Vauxhall. Everyone is convinced that Jos will propose there.
- As predicted, Dobbin is the fifth wheel, walking behind the two couples carrying their bags and shawls. He doesn't seem to mind too much and thinks about Amelia.
- The couples split up. George and Amelia have a "perfectly happy and correct" time, just like every other time they've been alone together for the past fifteen years (6.17).
- Becky and Jos, meanwhile, are talking, but just as Jos is about to ask Becky how she'd like to come to India for good, the bell rings to announce the Vauxhall fireworks.
- Fireworks time is dinnertime.
- At dinner, Jos eats an enormous amount of food. (He's fat, remember? And there is no political correctness to prevent the narrator from making fun of him for it.) He also drinks a bottle of champagne almost by himself, as well as a bowl of alcoholic punch.
- Jos is wasted.
- He sings songs, is loud, calls Becky his "dearest diddle-diddle-darling" (6.28), and makes a huge fool out of himself. It's a ridiculous disaster.
- Dobbin and George take Becky and Amelia home, then carry Jos home half passed out.
- That night, Becky thinks Jos will propose tomorrow. Amelia agrees. George, meanwhile, is not too psyched to have a poor art teacher's daughter for a sister-in-law.
- The next morning, George mercilessly teases Jos about what an idiot he made out of himself. Jos is beyond embarrassed and does not come to see Becky.
- George does come to see Becky and Amelia, and Becky quickly figures out that he scared Jos out of coming and proposing. So Becky is no longer a big fan of George.
- Meanwhile, Jos writes a note to Amelia saying that he is leaving the country and going off to Scotland. So, the whole proposal-and-marriage thing is totally off.
- Becky gets ready to leave. Mrs. Blenkinsop, the housekeeper, confesses to Amelia that no one really likes Becky anymore. She's been sneaking around, spying on the family, and maybe even stealing things. Amelia doesn't want to hear it, and it seems like she's really the only one who is sad to see Becky go.
- Still, the Sedleys and George give Becky a bunch of money as a going-away present.
Crawley of Queen's Crawley
- The narrator tells us a bit about Sir Pitt, with the upshot being that he comes from a very long line of nobility.
- On the road to a fancy London house, Sir Pitt's mansion, Becky wonders how fancy a man the Baronet will be.
- (Brain Snack: "Baronet" is the lowest title a member of the aristocracy could have. But still, Sir Pitt is much higher than Mr. Pitt.)
- At the door of the mansion, an old, dirty man meets the carriage and grudgingly helps Becky with her bags. She assumes this is some skeevy servant, but he instead reveals himself to be...Sir Pitt himself!
- Sir Pitt speaks with a low-class Hampshire accent.
- (Brain Snack bonus: there were many, many dialects and accents in Britain, which could identify the social and economic standing of the speaker almost immediately.)
- He eats tripe and onions for dinner with Mrs. Tinker, the cleaning lady. What would the Victorians think? Tripe and onions? Gross poor-people food. Eating with the servants? Total aristocracy no-no.
- Not only is he rude, unpleasant, and not very clean, but Sir Pitt is also very cheap and super litigious. All he does is sue people and get sued in return. He asks whether Becky has good handwriting, implying that she is going do some secretarial work for him on top of her governess-ing.
- The next morning, Sir Pitt and Becky take a coach down to Queen's Crawley, the Pitt estate in the country. This is yet one more sign of his cheapness – a Baronet would usually have his own carriage and not take public transportation.
Private and Confidential
- This chapter is a letter that Becky writes to Amelia, describing life at Queen's Crawley.
- On the way to this big estate, Sir Pitt talks to one of his groundskeepers about the various tenants on his land (farmers who are basically sharecroppers), various ongoing lawsuits, and the general upkeep of a large country estate.
- Becky learns that Sir Pitt has a younger brother, Bute Crawley, who is the local parson. (Families that owned huge pieces of land usually also owned the churches on that land, and traditionally, younger sons – who would not inherit the land or the money – would go into the Church to get appointed to these parsonages.)
- At night, Sir Pitt enforces a strict lights-out policy and takes away Becky's candle to save money. His cheapness is made funnier by the fact that the mansion on the estate is enormous, with twenty bedrooms.
- Turns out the Crawley family is complex. Sir Pitt is on his second marriage. He has two sons from his first: Mr. Pitt Crawley (called Mr. Crawley), and a dragoon (a kind of soldier) whom we have not yet met. He also has two daughters from his second marriage. These are the girls Becky will be teaching; they are eight and ten years old.
- At dinner there is a minor scuffle as Mr. Crawley insists on calling all the sad, poor food by its French names for the sake of fanciness and propriety, and his father speaks in his Hampshire accent just to provoke him. Mr. Crawley is kind of a priss.
- Meanwhile, Lady Crawley is a sickly, sad woman, whom Sir Pitt clearly only married for her looks, which are now gone. Becky instantly sees that Lady Crawley has no power or authority in the house and disregards her.
- The two Misses Crawley – Becky's students – are almost totally wild and uncivilized, since no one cares enough to deal with them. They mostly like to run around outside and climb on things.
- Here the letter ends.
- The narrator makes a little warning. Becky seems amusing and likeable now, but don't get too attached. There's going to be some drama, some crimes, and some horrendous behavior later.
- So, this is one those chapters that doesn't advance the plot or anything, but instead gives us some more details and biography about the characters.
- First up, Lady Crawley. Sir Pitt's first wife had been a very high-class, aristocratic lady. They did not get along too well. So the second time around, he decided to marry down, picking the daughter of an ironmonger (we'd probably call him a hardware store owner).
- The narrator has a sarcastic little tidbit telling us that if Lady Crawley had been allowed to stay in her own socioeconomic class, she would have been a pretty happy, if somewhat silly, wife. As it is, she no longer has any friends. Her old friends are too low-class for a Lady, but her low birth makes her too low-class for other aristocrats. She is kind of dumb, and since she no longer has her good looks, she exists as "a mere machine in her husband's house, of no more use than the late Lady Crawley's grand piano." She doesn't even have "character enough to take to drinking." (9.4) Ouch.
- OK, enough about her.
- Now for Mr. Pitt Crawley, Sir Pitt's oldest son. He's prissy and a little compulsive with the whole acting-like-a-gentleman thing. He's so fixated on manners that at college his nickname was "Miss Crawley." Kids can be so cruel.
- Mr. Crawley is also very ambitious, and the narrator mocks him for having "a mediocrity which ought to have insured any man a success" (9.9). Get it? The joke is that only the average and boring get promoted.
- So far, Mr. Crawley's ambitions haven't gotten too many results. He's published some articles and is active in the government of the county. These achievements are meant to sound way lame.
- So that's Mr. Crawley.
- Here's a bit more about Sir Pitt: his cheapness and general bad nature make him a poor money manager. In the long run, he doesn't invest in his estate – which decreases any money he could make from it. And he is a horrible landlord and people person – which means that no good people will work for him and he is constantly swindled by the thieves that surround him.
- Now, more about the family finances.
- Sir Pitt still owes Mr. Crawley a bunch of money. This is money that Sir Pitt's first wife left to her eldest son (Mr. Crawley), but which Sir Pitt has yet to give to Mr. Crawley. Probably because it's already been spent.
- And finally, one more family member. Sir Pitt and his brother Bute have a half-sister, Miss Crawley. She is super-rich and has no children. Both Sir Pitt and Bute really, really want her money. And even maybe more than that, they want the other one not to get any of it.
Miss Sharp begins to make Friends
- OK, back to the actual plot.
- Becky has now become even smarter and better at faking niceness than before. She uses her new skills to worm her way into the Crawley family.
- She endears herself to the two girls in her charge by not making them learn anything and generally leaving them alone to do whatever they want to do.
- She then gets on prissy Mr. Crawley's good side by telling him how he smart he is.
- Finally, she ingratiates herself with Sir Pitt in two ways. One, she's really pretty, and he's into hot young women. And two, she actually is really smart and starts to help him manage the Queen's Crawley estate and deal with all of his lawsuits in an organized way.
- In summary? Becky is awesome and is making all kinds of lemonade with the Crawley lemons.
- Oh, and here's some more info about Miss Crawley, Sir Pitt's rich old sister. She really loves her nephew. Not Mr. Crawley, but his younger brother, Rawdon. He's a dragoon (a kind of soldier), and an all around super-macho guy. He likes pool, cards, drinking, and the ladies. He got kicked out of college for this lifestyle and joined the army. Unlike his brother, he has certainly never been called "Miss Crawley."
- OK, now a bit about the other side of the family – Sir Pitt and Miss Crawley's younger brother Bute Crawley, who is a minister. And what a minister! He likes drinking, gambling, hunting, and going out to dinner. His wife writes all his sermons and tries to deal with his gambling debts. He's basically waiting for his sister, Miss Crawley, to die and leave him her money. Since Sir Pitt is hoping for the same, you can imagine how friendly that makes the two of them. (Hint: not so much.)
- Mrs. Bute as a matter of course bribes all the servants from Queen's Crawley to tell her what is going on there. She soon learns about Becky and how well she has been getting along with everyone. This makes Mrs. Bute worry – most likely, she is worried that Sir Pitt will marry Becky.
- Mrs. Bute writes a letter to Miss Pinkerton. (Remember her, Becky's nasty old headmistress?) Turns out Mrs. Bute went to Pinkerton's school too, and wants some dish about this new governess.
- Miss Pinkerton sends back a super passive-aggressive note all about Becky's low-class birth (daughter of an artist and an opera singer...heavens!), basically implying that Becky herself is probably two steps away from being a prostitute.
- Meanwhile, Becky writes Amelia another letter with news and adventures:
- Lady Crawley has been sick, and her doctor proposed to Becky. Becky turned him down, pretty angrily – "as if I was born, indeed, to be a country surgeon's wife!" (11.25).
- At the same time, Miss Crawley, Sir Pitt's rich sister, has come to visit. She's a real character: she overeats, overdrinks, and is used to being overindulged because of her money.
- When she visits (once a year), Sir Pitt and Bute pretend to get along. Mr. Pitt, the prissy one, leaves for London (she hates him), and Rawdon comes to town.
- Becky tells Amelia that Rawdon has paid her a compliment. When he saw her dancing, he said, "By Jove, she's a neat little filly!" (11.31). He's quite a charmer.
- After the letter ends, the narrator tells us that Rawdon and Becky have quite the little flirtation going on. She's been puffing on his cigar and everything.
Quite a Sentimental Chapter
- OK, enough fun with Becky; let's check back in on Amelia. The narrator apologizes that Amelia so super-boring, but argues that this is because she is such a good and nice person. Nice people don't make good heroines of novels, apparently.
- Amelia doesn't have too much to do in life, since she is rich and protected by her family. She doesn't need to figure out her future like Becky does.
- She hangs out with George's sisters, who are totally condescending and generally act like rhymes-with-witches to her and to each other. They might be jealous of how much George likes her.
- The dynamic of Amelia and George's relationship is worked out. She is madly in love with him and worships the ground he walks on. He loves her OK. His sisters tell him he is some kind of martyr for being with her since she is so lame and dumb, and he starts to believe it. Everyone at George's house thinks that when he isn't around he must be with Amelia, but it turns out he actually hangs out with his friends, drinks, shops, and does basically whatever he wants.
- Amelia writes him long, repetitive, annoyingly sweet letters. He writes her back short, crummy, not particularly nice ones.
Sentimental and Otherwise
- In keeping with his general attitude, George tries to keep his engagement to Amelia on the down low from his fellow soldiers. Instead, he acts like a womanizer, and the other soldiers (who are really just teenagers still) don't realize that he's a poser and admire him.
- Only Dobbin is sort of scandalized by the way George treats Amelia. Um, because he's in love with her himself, maybe? Dobbin tells the barracks that George is engaged to a wonderful lady, then makes George go visit her.
- George borrows some money to buy Amelia a present, but on the way he sees a diamond pin that he likes and buys it for himself instead.
- Still, he does finally go see Amelia, and they have a very nice day of "building numberless castles in the air" (13.30) about their future lives together. She wants a nice house and family. He is mostly obsessed with making sure they live appropriately to their social status.
- The two then go to dinner at George's house. We meet his father, a very rich merchant who is in a bad mood.
- Afterward the women leave the room.
- OK, a little aside here. In Victorian times, after dinner the women would go off and have girl-time for an hour or so while the men had man-time. Then the men would rejoin the women for drinks, music, and maybe cards.
- Anyhow, after the women leave the room, Mr. Osborne tells George that Amelia's father has made some terrible investments and might be broke. This means the engagement between George and Amelia has to be called off.
- George is all huffy and offended, since breaking the engagement would be dishonorable, and he really prides himself on his honor. (Really, though, what doesn't he pride himself on?)
- Amelia can sense that something is wrong, mostly because George is suddenly much nicer to her than usual for the rest of the evening.
- The next day, when George picks up his allowance from his father's bank, he sees Mr. Sedley (Amelia's dad) looking pretty grim.
Miss Crawley at Home
- Miss Crawley comes back from the country to her London house with a new "young person" in tow to take care of her during her illness. The narrator makes it sort of mysterious who this might be, but – spoiler alert – it's Becky! (Shocking, we know.)
- The two women who used to take care of Miss Crawley are totally jealous that she's suddenly all into Becky.
- Miss Briggs, Miss Crawley's paid companion, has a sobby-weepy conversation with Becky about how sad she is that Miss Crawley has been ignoring her. Becky is half-obnoxious and half-friendly in response and promises to leave as soon as Miss Crawley is feeling better. Miss Briggs is a soft touch and makes up with Becky.
- Becky also removes Mrs. Firkin, Miss Crawley's maid, from dealing with Miss Crawley directly. Firkin and Briggs commiserate and discuss how close to death Miss Crawley might be. Pretty close, they conclude.
- Meanwhile, Becky entertains Miss Crawley by doing spot-on and pretty harsh impressions of Briggs and Firkin. (Yet again, she shows herself to be a truly gifted performer.)
- Now the narrator shows us what's actually going on with the old woman. Turns out Miss Crawley has overeaten herself into her illness (though she's pretending it's from the bad weather). While everyone is stressing about Miss Crawley, however, Lady Crawley (Sir Pitt's wife) is sick for real. But, like always, she is mostly ignored and stays in her room.
- Rawdon and Sir Pitt both come to London. Both hang around Miss Crawley's house to check up on her. Both only want Becky to tell them the news about how she's doing. Knowing what we know about each of them, we can guess just how very deeply they are concerned for her health and how much they want her to get better. (Not all that much.)
- Becky is actually a really good nurse. She's a hard worker and can put in the effort if she thinks it'll be worth it (like she did at Queen's Crawley with Sir Pitt's paperwork and dealing with the estate). And taking care of the super-selfish and super-annoying Miss Crawley really takes a lot of effort.
- Rawdon realizes that he is in love with Becky. He tells Mrs. Bute Crawley about it.
- Mrs. Bute keeps egging him on, and teases him that Sir Pitt would like to marry Becky if he could. This makes Rawdon go a little nuts.
- Rawdon jokes about Sir Pitt to Becky and she gets mad and gives him the cold shoulder. Rawdon is even more in love when she plays hard to get. Honestly, though, he's such a dope that stringing him along is not worth her talents. But whatever.
- Sir Pitt wants Becky back at Queen's Crawley, but Miss Crawley won't let her go and spends all day every day with her.
- One day Becky and Miss Crawley go for a ride in the carriage and stop at the Sedleys' house to visit Amelia. Becky and Amelia have mostly fallen out of touch at this point, but Becky, as always, can act any part, so she puts on her best friend face.
- Miss Crawley thinks Amelia is pretty, and invites her over to her house. Becky tells Miss Crawley about Amelia being engaged to George, and after Rawdon tells Miss Crawley that George could easily pass for a gentleman despite not being born into the nobility, she decides to invite George over too.
- Rawdon is psyched. Turns out that George is such a snob and so desperate a social climber that he'd "go to the deuce to be seen with a lord" (14.70). As a result, George spends time with Rawdon and another winner named Lord Deuceace (think playing cards – "deuce" is the two and "ace" is, well, an ace) and basically loses tons of money to them at cards and billiards.
- George and Amelia come over.
- George sees Becky and decides to demonstrate his superiority to her as a governess.
- Instead, Becky totally cuts him down to size with super-politely given insults about his birth. She is a master of insults and he really can't compete.
- Rawdon sees this exchange and is even more into Becky: "She'd beat the devil, by Jove!" (14.88).
- A little while later, Lady Crawley dies. No one cares, she's such a nonperson.
- The next day, Sir Pitt comes to Miss Crawley's house and demands that Becky come back to Queen's Crawley.
- Becky starts to tell him that she can't leave Miss Crawley, with the usual excuses, when Sir Pitt suddenly busts out with a totally shocking thing. Ready? You're not ready, sit down first. OK, ready? He gets down on his knees and asks her to marry him! Crazy!
- Still sitting down? Because it gets even more nuts.
- Becky says no.
- What?! Why?
- Because...she is already married.
- Now that's what we call a cliffhanger. (Remember, Vanity Fair's original readers had to wait for the next installment to come out.)
In which Rebecca's Husband appears for a Short Time
- Sir Pitt is totally floored. Who on earth is Becky married to already?
- Becky squirms under questioning and asks to just come back to Queen's Crawley anyway.
- Sir Pitt thinks he has it figured out – "the feller has left you, has he?" (15.6) – and offers to take Becky as a mistress.
- Becky is like, um, no.
- Instead she gets down on her knees and begs to come back as...drum roll...Sir Pitt's daughter! Guys, it's intense here.
- Turns out Briggs and Firkin have been watching this whole scene through the keyhole...but they ran upstairs to tell Miss Crawley when they saw Sir Pitt propose and missed the whole already-married revelation.
- Miss Crawley comes downstairs and is just made crazy by the level of insanity. Level one: Sir Pitt proposed to a poor, lowborn governess. Level two: she refused him! Level three: he is totally not upset by her refusal!
- Becky pretends to pass out in a chair to avoid talking to anyone for a little bit.
- Sir Pitt leaves with no hard feelings, apparently.
- Firkin writes a quick letter to Mrs. Bute Crawley telling her the news.
- Briggs and Miss Crawley gossip and realize that Becky must have a previous engagement (at least) because otherwise no way would she have refused such an offer of marriage. Miss Crawley assumes it's someone of Becky's social station – "some apothecary, or a house steward, or painter, or young curate" (15.30) and decides that she will set them up in life a little bit.
- Briggs tries to get Becky to tell her who the other man is. Then Miss Crawley tries. Becky won't tell, but is very sad and miserable and asks for Miss Crawley to always be her friend. Oh, good call, if there is anyone whose promises of friendship are reliable, it's Miss Crawley.
- Briggs and Miss Crawley leave Becky alone.
- She cries, for real this time, mostly over the missed opportunity.
- Still, she is a smart and self-sufficient young woman, so she puts it behind her and starts to plan for the future. How should she break the news of her husband's identity to Miss Crawley? How best to do it so that the old woman doesn't get too angry?
- She writes a letter to her husband telling him all the details of the day. Her husband turns out to be...Rawdon Crawley! OK, fine, that wasn't nearly as much of a shock as the ending of the last chapter. They can't all be nail-biters.
The Letter on the Pincushion
- The narrator fills in some details for us. How could Becky and Rawdon have gotten married? Easy enough – they are both of age, so they slipped off and just did it one day. It might not have been Rawdon's best decision, but probably his most honorable. After all, isn't that what men are supposed to do – meet a girl, fall in love, then make it legal?
- Rawdon is happy to leave all the details of their future in his wife's hands. He is at least smart enough to realize that she has a much better head on her shoulders than he does.
- While Becky is dealing with things, Rawdon rents an apartment for the two of them in a middle-class London neighborhood.
- That night Becky is playing it to the hilt. She sings, tells stories, plays cards – everything possible to make Miss Crawley happy.
- The narrator drops in to let us know that if Rawdon had been there that night, and if he and Becky had confessed, Miss Crawley would have instantly forgiven them. But then we'd have no novel.
- As it is, the next morning, a maid named Betty Martin finds a note addressed to Briggs on Becky's bed, which has clearly not been slept in.
- Becky's letter tells Briggs that Rawdon is her husband, and that Becky has gone to be with him.
- Right at that moment, Mrs. Bute comes to Miss Crawley's house (Firkin had written her a letter, remember?).
- Briggs tells Mrs. Bute the news, and together they very slowly, suspensefully, with as much freaking out as possible, tell Miss Crawley.
- She totally loses it.
- Sir Pitt then comes to the house to pick Becky up and take her back to Queen's Crawley.
- Briggs tells him that she is married to Rawdon and he really flips out. He is beyond jealous of his son (nice little Oedipal reversal there), storms back home, and trashes her room and all her stuff.
How Captain Dobbin Bought a Piano
- The chapter opens with an estate auction. The narrator muses about how quickly life can change – one day a guy is rich, and the next all of his belongings are for sale to random strangers.
- In any case, the next item up for auction is a portrait of a fat guy on an elephant. The painting is heckled and mocked, and finally a young couple (obviously Becky and Rawdon) buy it for a ridiculously low price.
- The next auction item is a small piano. The young couple tries to buy it, but it is bought instead by a tall, gangly, awkward army officer (obviously Dobbin).
- So what's going on? Well, the auction is selling off the property and household goods of the Sedleys. Mr. Sedley has gone bankrupt and has been kicked off the Stock Exchange. The Sedleys have had to move to a tiny house in a very low-rent part of London.
- At the auction, some people bought things to give back to the Sedleys. The piano, for instance, was bought by Captain Dobbin, to return to Amelia.
- Meanwhile, it's been a month since Becky left Miss Crawley's house. Miss Crawley still refuses to see Becky or Rawdon, and Mrs. Bute is still there. But so far, married life is nice for them, and Becky still puts on the full charm offensive.
- The marriage is still secret and has not been published in the paper (which is what would normally happen when an aristocrat like Rawdon got married). The reason? Becky is worried that if all the people to whom Rawdon owes money find out that he has married a poor girl, they won't give him any more credit. And if they don't give him credit, there'll be nothing at all for them to live on.
- The narrator does a little aside, explaining that manly, self-confident, aristocratic guys like Rawdon have figured out a way to live basically for free. They get credit on the strength of their family name and the expectation that when someone dies they'll get a big inheritance.
Who played on the Piano Captain Dobbin bought?
- The narrator steps in for a little aside about the fact that the whole Sedley bankruptcy is happening because of Napoleon. Yes, that Napoleon. He is back from Elba, and in total invasion mode. (Check out the "Best of the Web" section for a little history of Napoleon's reign.) It's the threat of war that made Mr. Sedley's investments go ka-blooey, and it's the thing that is destroying Amelia's life.
- Mr. Sedley is a wreck, and Mrs. Sedley is just barely comforting him.
- Amelia looks and acts like death warmed over.
- Mr. Osborne writes Amelia a nasty letter saying the engagement is over and forbids George to have anything to do with her. In response, Mr. Sedley orders her to send back anything that George has ever given her. She sends back the presents but keeps his letters.
- All the servants leave the Sedleys except Mrs. Blenkinsop, who has been with them since before Mr. and Mrs. Sedley were even married. She stays on for free.
- The Sedleys are now fodder for gossip.
- Dobbin's sisters join in the general consensus that Amelia shouldn't have been so in love with George and shouldn't have acted like they were already married. She should have stayed coy and been continually playing hard to get.
- Dobbin is infuriated and yells at them for talking smack about her behind her back.
- The Misses Dobbin are sort of worried that Dobbin is going to propose to Amelia himself, but then the army is ordered abroad to fight with...Napoleon!
- All the soldiers in Dobbin's regiment, including George, are psyched to ship out and fight. It's glorious, honorable, macho, and all that jazz.
- After the excitement wears off, Dobbin finds George depressed in the barracks. He has just received all the things Amelia sent back, along with a letter saying that she frees him from the engagement. The letter also says thanks for the piano, which Amelia assumes George bought. George is moved, but the narrator explains that's it's mostly because now he suddenly doesn't have the thing he was taking for granted all this time.
- Dobbin is pretty crushed too and decides to find the Sedleys' new house. He succeeds. (It's probably not that hard, we're guessing.)
- He goes to visit and finds a gruesomely pale and sad Amelia. Coming back to the barracks, he tells George that she is probably dying.
- George freaks.
- Amelia receives a new letter that says, "I must see you, Dearest Emmy – dearest love – dearest wife, come to me" (18.54). When she comes out of her room, George is there waiting for her. Awww! Cute. But wait...run, Emmy, run! He's still the same conceited jerk he was before! OK, Shmoop is done throwing popcorn at the screen now. Moving on.
Miss Crawley at Nurse
- Mrs. Bute quickly gets the upper hand at Miss Crawley's house. She has spent her life ingratiating herself with Briggs and Firkin, so they are happy to have her there and serve her. Rawdon, meanwhile, has spent his life treating them like the servants that they are, so no one there is going to go to bat for him. The narrator pauses here to give us a cynical little moral lesson: try to be nice to anyone who might be of use to you later in life.
- First things first. Mrs. Bute makes a big deal out of how sick Miss Crawley must be and imposes a restrictive health regimen on her. This mostly consists of Mr. Clump's medicine and lots of indoor time.
- Also, Mrs. Bute forbids Becky or Rawdon from entering the house.
- Regretting that her own family is too dumb and boring to entertain Miss Crawley, Mrs. Bute instead starts to badmouth Rawdon and Becky as much as possible to get Miss Crawley to stop liking them.
- It's pretty easy to do. Rawdon has killed a couple of guys in duels, has seduced and abandoned a bunch of girls, and is a gambler. Becky is not only the daughter of an opera singer, but she herself has been an artist's model and even used to drink gin with her father. They're kind of made for each other, right?
- Everything would be OK for Mrs. Bute except she's a little too tyrannical. Miss Crawley secretly hates her and doesn't want to be kept as an invalid prisoner.
- Mr. Clump and Dr. Squills have a very unemotional conversation discussing the likelihood that Miss Crawley will die really soon under Mrs. Bute's oppressive "care."
- Mr. Clump tells Mrs. Bute that Miss Crawley's life is in danger, and Mrs. Bute freaks out because Miss Crawley has yet to change her will: if she dies now, Rawdon will get all her money. So Mrs. Bute relaxes her iron grip.
- Miss Crawley starts to go out in her carriage.
- In the park, her carriage rides past Rawdon and Becky's, but Miss Crawley totally snubs them. Mrs. Bute one, Becky zero.
- Mrs. Bute decides to take Miss Crawley to Brighton, a seaside resort town.
In which Captain Dobbin acts as the Messenger of Hymen
- Dobbin is very eager for George and Amelia to be married, probably because he's so hung up on her that he wants to get the whole thing over with. Or something...he's not a very clear thinker.
- Amelia is thrilled to see George, and he is pretty moved to see how much she still loves him. She very quickly gets better and stops looking quite so pale and deathly.
- Dobbin and Mrs. Sedley discuss what would happen after the wedding. Mr. Sedley and Mr. Osborne are both opposed to the marriage. The main problem is Mr. Osborne, though, since he is the one who has money and the ability to cut George off, which would leave the couple pretty poor.
- Dobbin hopes that if George does some heroics in battle, his father will get over any anger about the marriage.
- He goes to see Mr. Sedley to convince him that the marriage is OK. Sedley is now a really sad, decrepit kind of guy. He is all subservient to the waiters and servants in the coffeehouse where he is doing his work. Dobbin is horrified to see him in this state.
- Mr. Sedley starts ranting and raving about Napoleon's return. Who could have guessed that war would break out again? He had invested in a French stock that was supposed to go gangbusters – and that's what ruined him.
- Dobbin tries to calm him down by telling him that the army will give Napoleon what-for. Sedley yells some more about how much they need to kill Napoleon and chop off his head, then he settles down.
- Dobbin brings the conversation back to George and Amelia, and Mr. Sedley is all over-my-dead-body. Dobbin tells him that technically they don't need his permission since George and Amelia are both of age. He also tells him about Becky and Rawdon, as an example of people who just got married without anyone's permission. Finally, he tells him that if the marriage takes place, that will be a way to stick it to Mr. Osborne. This last thing is what Mr. Sedley seems to be really into.
- Meanwhile, George is telling Amelia about a Miss Swartz, an orphan whom his sisters have just met and befriended. She is half-Jewish (and perhaps, though it's unclear, half-black), barely educated, super-rich, and extremely uncultured and vulgar.
- OK, campers – Brain Snack time. Here is where we can see how racism and anti-Semitism were pretty much okey-dokey in Victorian times. Miss Swartz sounds like a pretty heinous character, but by making her even somewhat sympathetic – and by making fun of how mercenary and fake the Osbornes are in the way they treat her – Thackeray is leaps ahead of most writers of his time.
- Anyway, the Osbornes are clearly angling for George to marry Miss Swartz, since she is so rich.
- Amelia realizes that this must be the same Miss Swartz she went to school with (and who was paying double price for the privilege).
- George makes fun of how gross and unmannered this girl is, Amelia pretends to be jealous, and the two are happy and lovey-dovey.
A Quarrel about an Heiress
- Mr. Osborne strongly encourages his daughters to be friends with Miss Swartz. He brags about how colorblind and inclusive he is, but obviously it's just because of her money.
- Mr. Osborne is also really hoping for George to marry her. He checks out the way her money is invested and does a little digging on the Stock Exchange. All seems good there. Fred Bullock, a banker on the Stock Exchange who is engaged to Maria Osborne, tells Mr. Osborne that they better snatch Miss Swartz up pretty quick before a member of the aristocracy comes and steals her out from under them. (An aristocrat would have a title, and thus be higher up socially than the Osbornes.)
- Mr. Osborne offers Miss Swartz's governess five thousand pounds to seal the deal between her and George. He also orders George to marry Miss Swartz. George kind of hems and haws and says that he'll wait until after the military campaign is over.
- His father isn't having it. He orders George to come to have dinner with the family and Miss Swartz every day and woo her.
- Miss Swartz isn't in on all these schemes going on behind her back. But George is hot, and she is starting to be into him.
- The next day, George comes home for dinner after hanging out with Amelia. He is shocked at how even more gross Miss Swartz seems after Amelia's delicate and feminine qualities.
- Miss Swartz sees Amelia's name on the title page of a book and realizes that the Osbornes know her school friend.
- George is psyched to talk about her, but his sisters freak out because no one is supposed to mention the Sedleys anymore in the Osborne house.
- After dinner, it's clear that George and Mr. Osborne have to get into it.
- George is all haughty and obnoxious, telling his father that he is a much better gentleman and is farther removed from the business end of where the family money comes from. This is a sore point with Mr. Osborne, who is totally enraged.
- Mr. Osborne makes an ultimatum – marry Miss Swartz or else be totally cut off.
- George says Miss Swartz is the wrong color for him and storms off.
- George then finds Dobbin, tells him what has happened, and says he will marry Amelia the next day come hell or high water.
A Marriage and Part of a Honeymoon
- Mr. Osborne assumes that as soon as George runs out of his allowance money he'll be back to make up.
- George, meanwhile, meets up with Dobbin one morning. Both are dressed to the nines.
- They meet Amelia, Mrs. Sedley, and Jos at a church. George and Amelia are married in a kind of sad ceremony with no wedding breakfast, and they drive off to honeymoon in Brighton.
- A few days later, in Brighton, Jos, Rawdon, and George are walking and hanging out together. They window-shop, get some dessert, and check out the chicks. Then they meet up with Becky and Amelia, who have been out shopping.
- Jos is psyched to be in the company of two beautiful women and two studly dudes, one of whom is an aristocrat.
- Rawdon and Becky laugh and talk about their nonpaying lifestyle and how they are avoiding all the bill collectors and creditors who are trying to find them. Miss Crawley is still angry and still won't see them, though she is also in Brighton.
- The four start hanging out together constantly. Becky and George have made up since the last time they saw each other (again, because she knows how to handle him and his giant ego).
- Dobbin comes up from London and announces that the regiment is ordered to go to Belgium in a week! Everyone gets distressed at the news.
Captain Dobbin proceeds on his Canvass
- Like many people, Dobbin is shy on his own behalf, but when he is trying to be altruistic, he has all the energy in the world.
- While Amelia and George are on their honeymoon, Dobbin is in London trying to figure out the business side of their marriage.
- He has dealt with the Sedleys, and now the time has come to tell the Osbornes what George has done. Dobbin decides it's better to first tell George's sisters about it, since girls are always romantic and won't be as angry as his father is going to be.
- He hangs out with Jane Osborne, the older sister, at a party, and then asks to speak with her about something serious the next day. She kind of flips out a little because she is way into him and thinks he's about to propose.
- The next day there is a pretty comical scene of misunderstanding. Dobbin is beating around the bush trying to get to his point, and she is beating around the bush trying to encourage him to ask her to marry him.
- Finally he starts playing on her feelings about how romance and love are awesome, and also how men need to be honorable to the women who love them. When he puts it like this, she obviously can't disagree. So he tells her about George and Amelia's wedding, then he leaves.
- Jane Osborne is bummed about the lack of a proposal but is OK with the other news. She tells Maria and Fred Bullock about it. Fred points out that George is an idiot who will most likely be disinherited. If that happens, then Maria and Jane will each get a lot more money when Mr. Osborne dies.
In which Mr. Osborne takes down the Family Bible
- Dobbin goes off to meet with Mr. Osborne to tell him the news.
- When he gets there, Osborne is fully convinced that he's coming to negotiate George's surrender and is all smiles and rainbows.
- But when he finds out the real reason Dobbin is there, Osborne has a total meltdown and is completely apoplectic.
- That night he goes home and continues to be extremely angry. Until now, the servants had been instructed to set out a dinner plate for George in case he decided to come back. This time, Osborne orders the plate taken away.
- After dinner, he goes to his study and the proverbial excrement really hits the proverbial fan.
- He takes out the family Bible, opens it to the page where the family's births and deaths are recorded, and crosses out George's name.
- Then he burns his will.
- Oh, it's on now.
- Meanwhile, Dobbin tries to ingratiate himself with Mr. Chopper for some reason. (It's not all that clear what this guy could possibly do for George's cause, but whatever.)
- Dobbin invites him out to dinner the next day, at which Chopper tells him that Osborne will never forgive George and gives Dobbin a letter from Osborne to his son.
- Then Dobbin has dinner with a General who used to be the Colonel of Dobbin's regiment. This guy tells Dobbin that the army will ship out really soon.
- Dobbin goes to the barracks and finds Spooney and Stubble writing letters to their moms about how much they love them and will miss them. He thinks about writing a letter to George and Amelia about the deployment but decides to let them enjoy their honeymoon some more instead.
- The narrator then tells us that if Dobbin had proposed to Jane, she most likely would have been able to reconcile Osborne and George. But as it is, there's nothing for it.
In which all the Principal Personages think fit to leave Brighton
- Dobbin puts on his best Becky face to try to fake Amelia out about how dangerous the deployment to Belgium will really be (hiding the fact that it will be super dangerous and possibly fatal).
- Becky figures out that Dobbin wants Amelia almost immediately. Dobbin freaks her out, though, because he's too honest and upright to fall for her shenanigans.
- Finally, Dobbin gives George the letter from his father. Except – psych! – it's not from his father at all, but from his father's lawyer! And it says that he's totally cut off except for the small inheritance he gets from his mother's estate!
- George gets mad at Dobbin for not doing the business end of his marriage better and for rushing things along in the first place. He claims to be worried about the money for the sake of Amelia. But seriously, Mr. Diamond Shirt Pin, no one believes that you care much for anyone other than your precious self.
- Becky decides to go to Belgium with Rawdon's regiment. He is the aide-de-camp (a kind of military valet/personal assistant) to General Tufto, so he won't be as much in harm's way. It turns out that George has been playing cards and billiards for money with Rawdon – and has of course been losing. Becky has kept George playing by flirting with him and inflating his ego, which is not that hard to do.
- Amelia is vaguely jealous of Becky and sad that two weeks into the marriage George already wants to hang out with some other woman.
- George tells Amelia about the letter from Mr. Osborne's lawyer, and she's sort of excited to be poor with him. He is all patronizing about her naivety. She decides to go to Belgium with the regiment too.
- Becky makes Rawdon get all the money George owes him as soon as possible. It turns out to be quite a bit, but since honor is at stake, George pays up.
- Meanwhile, Becky and Rawdon have been having side dealings with Miss Crawley and Briggs, who are still in Brighton.
- Mrs. Bute runs the show for some time, but suddenly Mr. Bute falls from his horse and breaks his collarbone, so she has to rush back home to take care of him. Miss Crawley is free, which makes everyone in her house happy, including her. Becky sees her chance.
- Becky first meets up with Briggs on the beach and fills her in how Mrs. Bute set her and Rawdon up to fall in love and get married in the first place. Then Becky does a whole romantic thing about Rawdon and how much she loves him. Briggs eats this up, and Becky knows she will tell Miss Crawley everything.
- The next day, she makes Rawdon write his aunt a letter. Becky dictates the letter, since Rawdon isn't really much of a writer. Or a reader. Or a thinker.
- The letter is full of nice hopes for reconciliation and some sad thoughts about the fact that the military campaign might well be fatal.
- When Miss Crawley gets the letter, she immediately realizes that Rawdon could never have written such a thing, since "He never wrote to me without asking for money in his life, and all his letters are full of bad spelling, and dashes, and bad grammar" (25.83).
- Still, she agrees to briefly see Rawdon. He meets her when she is out for a walk, they exchange some pleasantries, but then he feels guilty and doesn't follow her into her house. When he tells Becky that he didn't go in, she calls him a moron, and he gets sort of scarily angry at this.
- Meanwhile, Miss Crawley is growing more and more paranoid about how everyone is just out for her money and wants her dead. She writes Rawdon a note telling him that she has left him something at her lawyer's office (presumably money) to make him and Becky leave Brighton.
- When they get to the lawyer's office, they are expecting two hundred pounds but only get twenty. It's such a mean and horrible joke that it actually makes Becky laugh out loud.
Between London and Chatham
- Amelia, Dobbin, Jos, and George head back to London.
- The more we see of George, the more jerk-tastic he is turning out to be. On their trip back he insists on renting a super-swanky hotel suite and going out to the most expensive restaurant he can find. Ostensibly this is all for Amelia, because "as long as there's a shot in the locker, she shall want for nothing" (26.3). Too bad there's really not all that much shot in that locker; soon they're going to be totally bankrupt.
- Amelia asks to go see her mother, and George is sort of annoyed that she wants to go to the poor neighborhood where the Sedleys now live. Welcome to reality, George.
- It's only been nine days since the wedding, but it feels like forever ago to Amelia. She hugs her mom, looks at her old room, and studies George's portrait. She's jealous of Becky and upset that George is out every night without her, but she still can't admit to herself how crummy he is.
- Still, she makes the best of the visit, chats with her parents, and is happier when she gets back to the fancy-pants hotel.
- The next day George goes downtown to transact what he thinks is "business." The narrator mocks him mercilessly because he is the laziest, most good-for-nothing loser around but carries himself like he's God's gift to humanity.
- He has no sense of money, and though his father has worked tirelessly all his life, George has been brought up to lead a life of leisure and lacks any useful skills. This was his father's idea of what a gentleman should be – but to be a gentleman like that you need to be really rich.
- Anyhoodle, George sends Amelia off to buy some suitably spiffy clothes, since he's such a fine gentleman and all. Clearly they can't actually afford them, but he is stubborn and kind of stupid.
- Meanwhile, George goes to see Mr. Higgs, his father's lawyer, to get a check for the small inheritance his mother left him. It's two thousand pounds, and he spends something like a hundred a week, at least. You do the math!
- At Mr. Higgs's office, he acts all superior and haughty and doesn't notice that even the lowliest clerks are mocking and sneering at him.
- Higgs is totally calm and indifferent, gives him the check, and forgets about him.
- George then goes to the bank and cashes the check. There he runs into Fred Bullock, who of course reports back to Mr. Osborne how obnoxiously George was acting. This makes Mr. Osborne all the more angry and all the more set to never forgive his son.
- George, totally oblivious of all this, pays for Amelia's clothing, the hotel and the restaurant, convinced that he is quite the aristocrat.
In which Amelia joins Her Regiment
- Amelia, George, and Jos make their way to Chatham, the staging ground for the deployment. It's not really clear why Jos is coming with them, but whatever. Dobbin is already there.
- In the inn Amelia finds a letter addressed to herself, and George recognizes the handwriting of Peggy O'Dowd, the wife of the regiment's major.
- The letter is an invitation to dinner that night, but Mrs. O'Dowd can't wait and bursts into the room five minutes later.
- Peggy is one of the novel's comic-relief characters. Or at least she starts out that way. She is Irish – clearly, from her name – and her Irish accent is written out (though her similarly Irish husband's is not). She is loud, a little vulgar, and generally convinced that her noble Irish family is very famous and that Ireland is the world's best country. Still, the narrator doesn't dislike her, so her ego doesn't come off as nearly as unpleasant as George's – she's funny rather than jerky.
- Peggy instantly tells Amelia her whole life story. She was one of eleven children, descended from the Malonys of Glenmalony and Ballymalony and related to Lord Poldoody (all meant to be funny-sounding Irish geographical names).
- When she was 33, she asked her cousin Mick O'Dowd to ask her to marry him, which he did.
- Major Mick O'Dowd is a very pleasant, quiet, agreeable, unassuming man, who clearly loves his wife and does whatever she says. At the same time, he is an extremely brave soldier who has earned his rank through heroics in combat and daring war strategy.
- Peggy then goes on to tell Amelia all about everyone else in the regiment and welcomes her to the big army family.
- Amelia is happy at this reception, and at dinner that night she is pretty and popular with the soldiers, and even George seems more attentive and nicer to her than usual.
- Dobbin is at the dinner too and silently watches her, then goes outside to smoke a cigar and think.
In which Amelia invades the Low Countries
- The army men cross the Channel to Belgium in government boats, and Jos, Amelia, Mrs. O'Dowd, and the other civilians follow them later.
- Jos makes the most of this time, which will provide him with stories and party conversation for the rest of his life. He has a special military-looking coat made, grows a huge military-looking mustache, and is even sometimes confused for someone official.
- Jos's British servant refuses to make the trip, so Jos ends up hiring a little Belgian man who addresses him as "my lord," which so makes him happy.
- The Belgian occupation is a very lovely, peaceful time, according to the narrator. The army men are not forcibly quartered, and instead pay their way. This endears them to the Belgians. Plus, there are many rich and aristocratic tourists coming to see the fighting, who also end up spending a bunch of money there.
- George starts to be embarrassed at the vulgarity and commonness of some of the women that Amelia has been forced to hang out with. Amelia, being a more normal and less stuck-up person, doesn't really care.
- Mrs. O'Dowd cracks everyone up (unintentionally) because, for her, everything in Belgium is vastly inferior to its Irish equivalent. She is constantly comparing and commenting.
- The narrator points out that Napoleon picked a terrible time for the second invasion, since all the armies were still massed on the continent and ready to expel him again. If he had just waited until the allies started fighting amongst themselves, history – and the novel – would have been totally different.
- Amelia is delighted by her time in Brussels. George takes her out every evening and buys her presents, which is enough to make her happy.
- Abroad, some of the social divisions that are very sharp in England are allowed to mellow. So one night, George actually dances with the daughter of the Countess of Bareacres (their name implies that their estate is not doing so well financially. Get it? Their "acres" are "bare" since all the trees have been sold for lumber already).
- George invites the Count and Countess to dinner.
- The Countess and her daughter decide they will see the Osbornes here in Brussels but will snub them back in England.
- George is delighted to be hobnobbing with these horrible people.
- At this dinner, the Countess and her daughter do their best to totally ignore Amelia. She writes her mother a letter describing how awful the evening was. What does Mrs. Sedley take from this letter? That Amelia got to have dinner with a Countess. Snobbery is universal and hard to shake.
- Now a little bit about General Tufto, Rawdon's employer. He is a very old man who is comically and grossly obsessed with his appearance. He dyes his eyebrows and mustache, wears a wig, and even wears padded clothing to look more built than he really is.
- Amelia, George, Mrs. O'Dowd, and Major O'Dowd see General Tufto coming down the street one day. He stops and buys a bouquet of flowers.
- George points out that if he is here, that means Becky and Rawdon are, too.
- Amelia's heart skips a beat and she is suddenly miserable again.
- Out for a drive the next day, George, Amelia, Mrs. O'Dowd, and Jos run into Becky and Rawdon.
- Becky has now become pretty high and mighty. She is riding in a little group of horsemen, looking fantastic. In the group, Mrs. O'Dowd spots Wellington, the commander in chief of the whole army! (The guy who beat Napoleon at Waterloo!) Jos freaks out stalker style, and the celebrity spotting is the only thing they talk about for the rest of the day.
- That night, everyone goes to the Opera.
- Amelia and company sit on one box and see Becky, Rawdon, and General Tufto in another box across the way. Mrs. O'Dowd recognizes Tufto and sees that Becky is now holding the bouquet of flowers he bought earlier.
- George instantly runs to Becky's box to say hello.
- On the way, he runs into Rawdon, who invites him to dinner and gambling.
- George then goes in the box, where Becky starts to flirt with him, obviously (to everyone except George, who thinks he's quite the lady-killer) to make General Tufto jealous. It works really well: Tufto is furious and snarling.
- Then Becky decides to go to Amelia's box to say hello.
- In the box, she is lively and chatty, clearly acting for the benefit of General Tufto, who is watching her with his opera binoculars.
- Dobbin is grossed out by her behavior and complains to George. George is having none of it and finds Becky delightful. Dobbin then warns George to stop gambling with Rawdon, but George isn't having any of that either.
- George starts hanging out at Becky and Rawdon's place a lot. Turns out they live in a little apartment in General Tufto's house. Amelia is cold to Becky when she visits, and Becky says it must be because Amelia is so scandalized by this living-with-the-General arrangement.
- George starts coming over to visit Becky by himself. He plays cards and billiards with Rawdon while Becky flirts with him. He doesn't realize that they are using him. He's really a tool.
- The more into Becky George gets, the more he avoids Dobbin, since that's the only person who calls him out on his nonsense.
- In a little while, one of the tourist duchesses gives a ball in Brussels. This is the party to end all parties, so everyone is desperate for an invitation. Everyone we know somehow manages to get tickets, except Jos and Mrs. O'Dowd.
- George orders a new dress for Amelia, brings her to this huge ball where she knows no one, and immediately abandons her. He's pretty pleased with himself for even bringing her there in the first place, since now she can "amuse herself as she liked" (29.53) Um, yeah, it's kind of hard for her to be amused when no one wants her.
- Then Becky arrives. She is magnificently dressed and instantly becomes the life of the party and belle of the ball. George instantly wants to spend time only with her.
- Becky comes over to Amelia and patronizes and sneers at her. This kills poor defenseless Amelia, who just blanks out and spends the rest of the night sitting on a chair without moving or speaking.
- George dances with Becky nonstop.
- At the end of the evening, he runs to fetch Becky's shawl and flowers, and when he gives them to her, she sees that there is a secret note inside the bouquet. Which is clearly beyond awful. Guys married for six weeks aren't supposed to be writing secret notes to other women.
- Amelia sees George run off to take care of Becky and is just done for. She calls Dobbin by his first name (William) and asks him to take her home.
- Meanwhile, George is totally crazily keyed up. He goes off to play cards, then gets wasted. Finally Dobbin finds him and tells him that the left flank of the army is already engaged in combat and that they (the right flank) are to march to the front in three hours. Dum-duh-dum.
- George goes home to pack. At first he is all nervous excitement. Then he starts feeling sad and guilty about his stupid life.
- He writes a letter to his father, feeling awful for disobeying him about the marriage.
- Then he goes to look at his sleeping wife and is overcome with shame and remorse. She wakes up and hugs him as the military bugles starts blowing outside.
'The Girl I left behind Me'
- So this chapter is all about how the different women we've come to know prepare for their men going away to the army. Always remember: whenever you see a bunch of characters doing a similar action, the author wants you to compare and contrast.
- Let's see. First, we get the O'Dowds. The Major is calm and relaxed. He didn't go the ball, so he gets to bed at an early hour after telling his wife to wake him up at 1 in the morning.
- While he sleeps, Mrs. O'Dowd packs all his things, puts snacks and drinks in his uniform pockets, gets his clothing ready, and makes him coffee and a good breakfast. She puts her emotions away until after he's gone, since there'll be "time enough for that, when Mick's gone" (30.4).
- Because of all this prep work, the Major looks relaxed on horseback when it's time to go, and so he keeps up troop morale.
- After he leaves, Mrs. O'Dowd gets out a big book of religious sermons and reads them.
- So that's the O'Dowds. Not so much figures of fun anymore, are they?
- Moving on, we get the Crawleys.
- Rawdon is much more emotional than Becky at the idea of separation. He's really in love with her, and worries about her financial well-being (and that of his kid, since she might well be pregnant) if he were to get killed. Still, she fakes a tear or two to keep up appearances.
- Rawdon spends his packing time itemizing all of his possessions and their value to see how much Becky could sell everything for. There's some jewelry, some trinkets, his new army uniform (he wears a beat-up one to the front), and, most importantly, three horses.
- After he leaves, Becky takes off her ball clothes, freshens up in the mirror, then goes to sleep. Then she wakes up, has breakfast, and goes over all the possessions again, seeing that if she had to sell everything, she would have six or seven hundred pounds to live off of. Not bad for a clever person like her.
- OK, now for the Osbornes.
- Dobbin comes by in the morning to say good-bye, ostensibly. Really he just wants to looks at Amelia before he leaves. Also, he wakes up Jos and makes him promise to take financial care of Amelia if anything happens to George. Jos is a really generous guy, so he readily promises.
- Dobbin hangs around some more and finally gets a glimpse of Amelia.
- She is pale, disturbed, and crazy looking. She doesn't know how to help packing, so she just follows George around with a military sash that she picked up.
- Finally George takes Amelia back in the bedroom and comes out by himself.
- George is all psyched up for going to war and goes away without much thought for Amelia (though with a little shame).
In which Jos Sedley takes Care of his Sister
- Jos is, all things being equal, pretty happy that George is gone. George used to mock him mercilessly.
- He is getting ready for breakfast, but Amelia is too ill to come out of her room and join him.
- Instead he talks to his servant Isidor, who periodically goes into town to try to get whatever news he can about the war. Right now the news is basically that Napoleon is kicking butt and taking names. According to Isidor, the Duke of Wellington is about to flee the country.
- Jos doesn't really believe it but is a little nervous about the reports.
- Isidor, meanwhile, is really pro-Napoleon. Not least because if the English are chased out of Belgium or imprisoned or whatever, then all the belongings of the Osbornes and of Jos will go to him. As he gets Jos ready every morning, he mentally tabulates every item and figures out how he will use it.
- It's a funny moment and also, reminds the reader of Becky and Rawdon's somewhat similar list-making in the last chapter.
- When Jos is putting on his military-style coat, Becky walks in.
- At first she makes fun of Jos for looking like he wants to join the army. Then she starts to flirt with him. She basically tells him that she still has feelings for him, and that Rawdon is very jealous of him. It's really easy as pie, and Jos instantly has the hots for her again.
- Meanwhile, Becky thinks that by doing this, she has found herself a good seat in Jos's carriage should the British need to flee Brussels. Jos obviously doesn't get that he's being used.
- Becky then goes in to see Amelia.
- For the first time in her life, Amelia sort of stands up for herself and lets Becky have it.
- She tells Becky that she has been a good friend to her and asks why Becky felt the need to take George away from her even though they've only been married for six weeks.
- Becky actually genuinely starts to feel bad, although she is also proud to be on the receiving end of this, since Amelia is basically conceding defeat.
- Then Amelia starts ranting and raving, and her conversation veers towards crazy.
- Becky starts to actually worry about Amelia, goes out, and finds Mrs. O'Dowd.
- Mrs. O'Dowd is huffy that Becky is talking to her, but Becky just tells her to go deal with Amelia, since she is clearly not doing well.
- Mrs. O'Dowd does succeed in making Amelia pull it together somewhat. She then goes to have lunch with Jos, when all of a sudden there is a loud noise outside...gunfire and the sounds of cannon!
In which Jos takes Flight, and the War is brought to a Close
- Everyone in Brussels runs outside in alarm at the gunfire.
- Isidor keeps coming back with more and more bad news about the British and Jos is increasingly panicked.
- Finally he decides to flee the city and comes to take Amelia with him. At first Mrs. O'Dowd thinks he just wants to get her to go outside and is concerned that she's too sick to move. Then she mocks his cowardice and says they're not going anywhere till they hear from their husbands.
- Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Pauline the maid sees her fiancé Regulus, who is in the Belgian army, stumble in.
- According to him, he and his regiment deserted the field after being slaughtered by Napoleon's troops. The narrator makes an aside about the Belgians and their lack of bravery. In any case, listening to Regulus's tale, it sounds like the British are about to be beaten as well.
- Isidor and Jos listen and Jos really loses it.
- Jos gives Isidor his military-style coat (Isidor is beyond psyched) and puts on civilian clothes. Then he orders Isidor to shave off his mustache. He tries to get horses for his carriage, but – oh no! – basic supply and demand kicks in here. Everyone is trying to flee, so there aren't enough horses to go around. Jos can't find any at all.
- Meanwhile, Becky is sitting pretty. She has three horses: one for herself and two that she can sell to the highest bidder.
- The first bidder is the Bareacres family. They've spent their whole time in Brussels ignoring and snubbing her, so now Becky gets to have her revenge. At first she won't talk to anyone but the actual Countess. Then, when the Countess shows up to bargain for the horses face to face, Becky won't sell them to her and laughs in her face. It's kind of awesome.
- In a funny conclusion to this little episode, the Countess, Count, and their daughter end up sitting inside their carriage, without horses, waiting for someone to bring them some.
- Becky sees Jos wandering around and decides to sell her horses to him.
- Knowing how high demand and how low supply is – and also seeing how scared and desperate to escape Jos is – Becky sells him the horses for a completely crazily overinflated price. It's so much money that the narrator won't even tell us how much...much like Jos will never tell anyone about it either.
- Jos brings the horses back to his own hotel, but just as he gets there the rumors shift.
- Suddenly there is new information that actually the British withstood the French assault after all.
- A few injured soldiers are brought back into town.
- One of them stops at Jos's hotel and turns out to be Stubble, one of George and Dobbin's ensigns. He is really badly hurt. Amelia and Mrs. O'Dowd start to take care of him, which makes Amelia feel better.
- Stubble tells them about the glorious battle, and lets everyone know that George, Major O'Dowd, and Dobbin are all fine.
- Still, whoever can flee the city is still doing so. It turns out this was just a minor victory, and now Napoleon is bringing the rest of his army to fight Wellington.
- The Bareacres family manages to somehow get a horse and leaves town.
- Becky sews her valuables into her clothing in case she has to flee suddenly.
- The next day Jos again begs Amelia and Mrs. O'Dowd to leave with him. They refuse, and he sets off by himself.
- Meanwhile the new battle is fought. And guess what it will come to be known? The Battle of Waterloo. So you can probably guess who loses. OK, we'll spell it out for you: Napoleon! (Just listen to the ABBA song if you don't believe us.)
- People in Brussels are psyched. But the chapter ends with this crazy, totally unexpected paragraph: "No more firing was heard at Brussels – the pursuit rolled miles away. Darkness came down on the field and city: and Amelia was praying for George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart." (32.89)
- But also – touché, right? The guy who's obsessed with his appearance dies facedown in mud? The heartless guy gets shot through the heart? Well played, Thackeray.
In which Miss Crawley's Relations are very anxious about Her
- OK, enough about Brussels, the war, and all that stuff. What's happening with the characters back in England?
- Miss Crawley has been following the war in the papers, where she learns that Rawdon served with distinction and has been promoted to Colonel. She then receives a long and amusing letter from Rawdon about the fighting and some souvenirs from the battlefield (epaulettes, the butt of a sword, etc.).
- Miss Crawley realizes that it's Becky who wrote the letter, but she writes back and agrees to a correspondence – mostly because she likes being entertained. What she doesn't realize is that not only did Becky write the letter, she actually bought all the "souvenirs" from a street vendor.
- Meanwhile, Miss Crawley gets Briggs to write a letter to Mrs. Bute telling her never to come back. Freedom!
- Mrs. Bute feels that she played her hand wrong, but there's nothing for it.
- Meanwhile, at Queen's Crawley, Sir Pitt has gone totally to the dark side. He drinks low-class liquor with farmers, stops going to church, and – really awful – has installed Miss Horrocks (the gameskeeper's daughter) as a mistress. Or something. It's not entirely clear if they're actually sleeping together, but whatever it is, it's way inappropriate.
- Mr. Pitt is horrified by all this and frequently goes to Brighton to visit the Southdowns, especially his fiancée, Lady Jane. When he is in Brighton, he leaves visiting cards for his aunt, Miss Crawley, but doesn't presume to actually try to visit her.
- So, here's the lowdown on the Southdowns. Lady Southdown is a super-bossy, know-it-all, overprotective woman. Her husband, Lord Southdown, is mentally diminished from epilepsy, so she rules the roost. They have three children: Emily, who is old, unmarried, and obsessed with philanthropy; a son, who is the forgotten black sheep because he took up all sorts of bad ways after going to London to become a Member of Parliament; and finally Jane, who is kind, loving, protected, totally innocent, pretty, and very nice. Sound like anyone else we know? Yup, she's another Amelia type.
- One day Pitt and Jane meet Briggs in the street at Brighton. Pitt knows how Miss Crawley likes to be surrounded by young pretty girls, so he decides to pay a visit to his aunt.
- Lady Southdown is all for this and immediately wants to come armed with religious tracts to convert Miss Crawley. Lady Emily is all into this idea too.
- Pitt lets them know that this kind of approach will just scare Miss Crawley off, and when he points out how rich she is and how they don't want to alienate her, Lady Southdown immediately backs down.
- The next day the Southdowns come and leave visiting cards for Miss Crawley.
- Quick Brain Snack: visiting cards were beautiful cards with people's names on them – the more aristocratic the person, the fancier the card. Leaving one of these for someone was kind of like friending them. If they wanted to proceed to meet or to visit or whatever, they would respond with a card or with an invitation to come over.
James Crawley's Pipe is put out
- Miss Crawley, bored in Brighton, is happy to meet Pitt, Lady Jane, and her mother.
- The visit goes well, with Pitt mediating between the two bossy old women with a skill "which showed that, had his diplomatic career not been blighted by early neglect, he might have risen to a high rank in his profession" (34.3).
- Miss Crawley loves Lady Jane, who is just naïve and dumb enough to be extremely nice and kind to everyone.
- So Pitt and Jane visit Miss Crawley often, until Mrs. Bute down in the country gets wind of the arrangement and becomes crazily jealous (remember, everyone is hungry for the inheritance).
- She and her husband decide to send their son Jim – the only good-looking one of their children – down to Brighton to see whether Miss Crawley would like him.
- Jim is still in college and so isn't really used to polite society. And being descended from Bute Crawley doesn't help him much in the brains department.
- He goes down to Brighton with his dog and, after spending a night at an inn, comes to his aunt's house.
- At first she likes him because he's handsome and kind of awkward, and on top of that she pretends to really, really like him in order to make Pitt uncomfortable. They're a nice, loving family that way – everyone just wants to make each other feel as bad as possible.
- To really stick it to Pitt, Miss Crawley asks Jim to leave the inn and stay at her house instead. She sends off her butler, Mr. Bowls, to go pay his hotel bill.
- That night Jim is still charmingly shy at dinner, so after dinner Pitt tries to get him to embarrass himself by getting him totally wasted. Pitt also tells him that Miss Crawley is super-liberal and wants everyone to just do whatever they want in her house. Jim does get wasted, but when they rejoin the ladies, he clams up again.
- But suddenly, Jim's luck begins to change. Turns out that when he stayed at the inn, he made friends with a bunch of prizefighters and treated them to several rounds of gin. When Bowls went to pay the hotel bill, the innkeeper told him that Jim himself had drunk every one of these gin shots (18 total!), worried that otherwise Bowls wouldn't pay. Bowls told Briggs about the 18 gins, and she tells Miss Crawley, who is totally scandalized. Mostly she is shocked that Jim drinks gin, which is considered a vulgar, low-class alcohol. If were claret or sherry it would have been OK.
- In any case, that's strike one.
- Strike two is that on the second day, Jim loses his shyness. His giant dog attacks Miss Crawley's little lap dog, and he just laughs about it.
- That night Jim gets totally wasted again after dinner, and this time he tries to be the life of the party. He tells the ladies all about his boxing friends and jokes that he wants to fight Pitt with or without gloves on (without gloves would be a tougher, more brutal style of fighting). Strike three!
- In his room Jim lights up a tobacco pipe and smokes and smokes and smokes. He thinks he's being very clever because he opens the window, but he's so drunk that he doesn't realize the door of his room is also open. This creates a cross-breeze and blows all the smoke into the house.
- Miss Crawley is totally grossed out by the smoking, which makes her ill.
- The next morning Jim gets a note from Bowls asking him to get the heck out of there ASAP.
- The narrator laughs and says that Jim has gotten his wish of fighting Pitt with his gloves off.
- And what are Becky and Rawdon up to? Well, Becky is the toast of Paris, meeting the king's official mistress and generally living the high life. And she's pregnant! Rawdon is happy there, too.
- After a while Miss Crawley reads an announcement in the paper that Becky has given birth to a son.
- She freaks out, because this son is the only heir to the Crawley family fortune.
- She demands that Jane and Pitt get married instantly and rewrites her will to leave them all her money. The ceremony takes place on the spot.
- Pitt wants to go on a honeymoon, but Miss Crawley says she's so attached to Jane that she won't let them go. So now Pitt has to deal with Miss Crawley and Lady Southdown bossing him around even more.
- Finally, Miss Crawley dies. A moment of silence, everyone.
Widow and Mother
- OK, enough in Crawley Funville. Now back to Osborne Sadtown.
- So, Mr. Osborne and George's sisters are totally destroyed by George's death.
- The women weep openly, but Mr. Osborne doesn't talk about his grief to anyone. His feelings are split. On the one hand, he is really sad that his son is dead. On the other hand, he is furious that now George will never apologize for marrying Amelia.
- Still, he does commission a hideously gaudy sculpture honoring George for their church.
- One day, a few months later, Dobbin's father stops by, tells Osborne that Dobbin has been promoted to Major, and gives him a letter. It's the letter George wrote on the eve of the battle.
- Osborne reads it but can't see the emotions George was feeling while writing it. It's kind of like when you write an email with no emoticons and your tone of voice doesn't come across. George meant to be all emotional and loving and full of remorse, but his father just sees stiffness and pride. He stays just as mad as ever.
- Sometime later, Osborne announces that he will travel to Belgium. George's sisters know that this is where Amelia still is and they wonder whether their father is going there to forgive her.
- Osborne gets to Brussels, goes to see George's grave, and then takes a tour of the battlefield where he died, accompanied by a soldier in George's old company.
- This soldier, among other things, tells him that Amelia is now finally recovered from her shock and deep insanity after George's death.
- The next day Osborne sees her driving in a carriage with Dobbin, and he declares that he hates her just as much as ever. She doesn't even see him and still seems totally crazy.
- Dobbin does see him, follows him to his hotel, and tells him that Amelia is pregnant. Osborne gets all defensive about how he was a totally awesome father and George was a totally hateful son. Dobbin realizes that Osborne will never help Amelia out financially.
- OK, a little pause. We skip ahead a year into the future.
- Amelia really was going crazy, but when she gave birth she started to recover her ability to love and be emotionally connected to the world. She is a really, really doting mother. She won't let anyone else touch the baby. But still, at least she's not catatonic any more, right?
- Dobbin is the baby George's godfather.
- He brings Amelia and baby George (we'll call him George Jr. from now on) back to London to her parents' house.
- They can see that Dobbin loves her, but Amelia only has eyes for George Jr.
- Finally, Dobbin can't deal with the situation any more and tells Amelia that he's leaving for a long time.
- She only half hears him, tells him she'll write about the baby, then shushes him as he goes away.
How to live well on Nothing a Year
- The narrator takes a little time out from the action to explain just how it is that Becky and Rawdon are able to live their fancy-pants lifestyle despite being totally broke.
- There's really only one keyword to solve that mystery – credit. Namely, unguaranteed, far-too-risky credit.
- (Incidentally, you may remember this kind of credit from the economic meltdown that took out our country's financial system recently. Good times!)
- So yes, basically Becky and Rawdon put on a fancy front and get credit extended to them just on the basis of them looking the part, rather than on any kind of actual collateral or income.
- The narrator points out that in fact many people live this way, totally beyond their means.
- To make a little ready cash, Rawdon is always happy to play some cards or dice or billiards. Since he practices every day, he is really good at gambling. He's even perfected the routine of faking being a bad player until the antes are high and then coming through in the end to win.
- Becky flirts with all the men who come to their house to gamble, and this encourages more traffic.
- But Becky isn't satisfied; she wants to be just a little more established. She's hoping to get Rawdon some kind of government appointment.
- When Miss Crawley dies, Becky goes into deep mourning.
- Faking the need to go deal with inheritance issues, the Crawleys leave Paris for Brussels. They leave all their bills unpaid, defrauding everyone from the hotel owner to the dressmaker to the servants to the nanny.
- Oh, yes, nanny. Remember how Becky had a son? He is also named Rawdon, but we'll call him Rawdon Jr. Either way, Becky cannot be bothered to deal with him, though Rawdon seems to be quite attached to his son.
- In Brussels, Becky leaves Rawdon Jr. with her maid (who watches him so well that he almost drowns), and goes to London.
- There she deals with all of Rawdon's creditors basically by buying out his debts pennies on the pound. (Brain Snack: Rawdon cannot come to London because at this time debtors were arrested and put into debtors' prison. Because nothing makes people earn money like putting them in a place where they can't work.)
- Becky explains to the loan sharks exactly how broke Rawdon is and how he's never going to get the money to repay them. If they don't take the little that she's offering, they won't ever get any money at all; Rawdon will just never come back to England. She's very convincing, and all of the lenders see reason and settle.
- The Crawleys come back to London.
The Subject continued
- In London, the Crawleys go right back to living off credit without paying anything to anyone.
- Mr. Raggles, who used to be Miss Crawley's butler before Bowls, now owns a house that he rents out to Becky and Rawdon. He also provides all their food (he runs a food shop nearby) and whenever they have company, he acts as their butler while his wife does the cooking.
- Wow. Becky can talk miles around anyone and basically just relies on that to keep from paying anyone who works for her.
- It's a good system, right? For everyone except all the people who go broke under it. Think about it – the Crawleys aren't paying Raggles but he still has to pay the house mortgage, the taxes, the insurance, and so on and so forth. Soon enough he's going to run out of money.
- But obviously Becky doesn't care about this. She is busy trying to get into the upper ranks of society.
- It's hard. The men like her because she's hot and funny. But the women really don't – maybe for the same reason, and also because she's so low-born. And it's the women who really hold the keys to society.
- At first, the women's insults to Becky make Rawdon furious. But Becky tells him that getting mad will solve nothing.
- She's good at keeping him calm. He was seeing red after Miss Crawley's death because she left him nothing at all. But Becky made him relax and thus accomplished two things: 1) his credit remained good and he wasn't arrested for debt, since everyone assumed he got an inheritance; and 2) he kept up a relationship with Pitt, who now has all the money and could be helpful.
- More than that, Becky wrote Pitt a letter (pretending that it was actually Rawdon writing) saying all nice things and wanting to be friends with him, Lady Jane, and their new son. Pitt and Jane were touched but have yet to actually meet with Becky and Rawdon in London.
- Meanwhile, Becky keeps having little dinner parties just for men at her house. Rawdon plays cards with them and usually wins, but he is totally bored of this life.
- Becky comes up with the idea of hiring a companion for herself. That way Rawdon won't have to be around, but Becky can still have a bunch of dudes over without it being improper.
- One of her new visitors is a marquis, Lord Steyne. He's a really, really high-ranking guy who personally knows the royal family. Also, he's very clearly a gross, amoral, highly unpleasant man.
- OK, so while Becky is leading this fun social life, what's happening with Rawdon Jr.?
- Well, he's certainly not getting any mommy attention, that's for sure. He just stays upstairs in his room, raised by a nanny. Becky sees him once a week, tops. When he is little, he half-worships her as a kind of goddess, but as he gets older...not so much.
- Still, Rawdon really loves him and spends many hours playing with him and taking him out.
- One day, Rawdon is taking Rawdon Jr. on a pony ride in the park when they meet another little boy about the same age with his grandfather.
- Turns out this is Mr. Sedley, and the little boy is George Jr. The boys share the pony, while Rawdon and Mr. Sedley talk a little bit about Waterloo, the army, and George Osborne.
A Family in a very Small Way
- So, speaking of George Jr., how is that Sedley family doing these days?
- Well, let's see. Jos has gone back to India and has been promoted a few times in his post there. All he ever talks about is how he was at Waterloo, and at this point his stories make it seem like he was actually with Wellington during the battle.
- He sends an annual stipend to his parents, which is pretty much their only income.
- Mrs. Sedley is doing OK and has adjusted to caring about the gossip of her new neighborhood rather than her old one.
- Mr. Sedley keeps trying to be a merchant again, constantly switching from one company to another, but always failing. Every Sunday he takes George Jr. out to the park and loves running into soldiers he can talk to about George.
- Amelia obsessively, head-over-heels, protectively loves her son. All she does is take care of him, tell him stories about his dead father, make him clothes, and just live vicariously through him.
- Because she won't let anyone else take care of him in any way, she and her mother are having some issues. Mrs. Sedley is pretty passive-aggressive about it.
- Still, Amelia's hyper-maternal feelings seem to make her really attractive to the men around her. George Jr.'s doctor is half in love with her and his wife is jealous. Amelia even gets a marriage proposal from the curate of the neighborhood chapel (she says no thank you and tells him that she will never get over her dead husband).
- On the anniversaries of her marriage and of George's death, she locks herself in her room.
- Financially, Mr. Sedley is slowly making the family bankrupt once again. He keeps investing in failing businesses. Amelia has an army pension of 50 pounds a year, and Dobbin tells her that George left 500 pounds invested in Indian funds at 8% per year.
- Mr. Sedley is suspicious about these funds and accuses Dobbin of trying to cheat Amelia out of her rightful inheritance. This is obviously crazy, since there is nobody more honest than Dobbin in this novel.
- Poverty really hasn't improved Mr. or Mrs. Sedley – they have both become way more proud and obnoxious and are living with a victim mentality.
- In any case, Dobbin finally explains to Mr. Sedley that George was way in debt when he died and that he and a few other soldiers scraped together this 500 pounds for Amelia. Even this is a lie, as all the money comes from Dobbin.
- When George turns 6, Major Dobbin starts to write him letters and offers to pay for some of his school costs. He also asks his sisters to visit Amelia every now and then.
- One day Dobbin's sisters tell Amelia the very exciting news that he is going to be married...to Mrs. O'Dowd's sister! Amelia is so very happy for him. Oh good, yay!
- Um, yeah, she's faking it.
A Cynical Chapter
- Hey, how about those Crawleys back in the country?
- Here's an update.
- Mr. and Mrs. Bute are totally enraged that Miss Crawley only left them 5,000 pounds after she died (Mr. Pitt got 65,000).
- But Mrs. Bute makes the best of it, making her ugly daughter go out into society as much as possible in order to find a husband. They act so non-poor and non-bankrupt that they manage to almost convince everyone that they did actually end up with some of the inheritance.
- Mr. Bute and Mr. Pitt had a huge fight and are no longer on speaking terms.
- And what about Sir Pitt, you ask? Ugh, get ready to be grossed out.
- At some point after their marriage, Mr. Pitt and Lady Jane went to visit him.
- They found: 1) many of the estate trees cut down and sold for lumber (picture how attractive that would be); 2) most of the servants gone and the mansion and grounds abandoned and neglected; 3) Sir Pitt totally gross and no longer even pretending to be anything other than a drunkard; and finally 4) Miss Horrocks, the butler's daughter, installed as housekeeper, running the house and hoping to be the next Lady Crawley.
- Sir Pitt gives Jane some of dead Lady Crawley's jewels, which he's been hiding from Miss Horrocks. Totally appalled, Pitt and Jane run away as fast as they can.
- Everyone is also freaking out that Sir Pitt might actually marry this horrible young woman.
- To Sir Pitt, it's just all very funny. All his old friends shun and ignore him, which he also laughs off. All he does is get drunk with Mr. Horrocks every night and hang out with Miss Horrocks every day.
- Then finally one day he has a fit of some sort. (Victorians didn't really differentiate between all the different kinds of ways old age could kill you, so "fit" could mean stroke, heart attack, or whatever else you can imagine.)
- He loses his ability to speak and then falls into a coma.
- Mr. and Mrs. Bute hurry to the house and find Miss Horrocks trying to open the cabinets in his study with a bunch of keys. Mrs. Bute accuses her of being a thief and threatens to have her arrested, but then she and her father are allowed to quickly and quietly go away and are never heard from again.
In which Becky is recognized by the Family
- Mr. Pitt comes back to Queen's Crawley and basically takes over as heir, even though Sir Pitt is still technically alive. He finds the estate tangled up in all sorts of crazy mortgages, lawsuits, and other business dealings and begins to try to make sense of the mess his father has made.
- Mr. Horrocks and his daughter aren't arrested but instead buy and run the town's tavern.
- Lady Southdown moves to Queen's Crawley with her daughter and son-in-law and proceeds to boss both of them around, and their two kids as well (they have a son and a daughter at this point).
- Finally, in a few months old Sir Pitt dies. His son, Mr. Pitt, is now the new Sir Pitt. We will call him young Sir Pitt to avoid confusion.
- Young Sir Pitt wants to write a letter to his brother Rawdon telling him about their father's death. He invites him to come and stay at Queen's Crawley.
- Jane asks whether they can invite Becky, too.
- Young Sir Pitt says of course, but Lady Southdown says absolutely not. Finally the time has come for young Sir Pitt to make his stand.
- He tells Lady Southdown to go stuff it and that he will be the only master of the house. She tries to call his bluff by pretending to leave...but he's not bluffing, so she stays.
- Young Sir Pitt then dictates a letter to Rawdon and has Jane write it down from his dictation. It's long, complex, beautifully worded, full of quotations, and just generally amazing. Jane is totally floored by how smart her husband apparently is.
- Little does she know that he has actually written this letter weeks ago and has been memorizing it all this time just so he can impress her.
- Becky is psyched when she gets the letter. Rawdon is sort of grumpy about having to go down to the country, but Becky fills him in on her plans: "I mean that Lady Jane shall present me at Court next year. I mean that your brother shall give you a seat in Parliament, you stupid old creature. I mean that Lord Steyne shall have your vote and his, my dear, old silly man; and that you shall be an Irish Secretary, or a West Indian Governor; or a Treasurer, or a Consul, or some such thing" (40.34).
- She plans to go with Rawdon and to leave Rawdon Jr. behind.
- The next time Lord Steyne comes over he finds Becky and her companion remaking all the clothes into official mourning clothes. (There was a really complex way to indicate through clothing that you were in mourning.)
- Her companion turns out to be...Briggs! She's back! OK, you're right, meh.
In which Becky revisits the Halls of her Ancestors
- Becky and Rawdon fall into nostalgic thoughts on their way back to Queen's Crawley. Becky thinks about how much younger she seemed to herself nine years ago when she came to Queen's Crawley to be a governess. Rawdon thinks about his own misspent youth.
- OK, sentimental break over.
- Young Sir Pitt welcomes Becky and Rawdon to the mansion, and Lady Jane is so nice to her that Becky actually...wait for it, it's crazy...cries real tears.
- It makes us realize how rare it is for someone to be genuinely nice to her.
- Sort of sad. Sort of.
- Becky quickly starts her standard tactic of ingratiating herself with everyone.
- She first asks to see Lady Jane's two kids and compliments them on how cute they are. This instantly endears her to Jane.
- Then she launches into Lady Southdown, who is still pretty cold. Becky asks her for help with religious matters and then, as icing on the sucking-up cake, asks her for medical advice.
- Lady Southdown takes her very seriously, and pompously helps her.
- Becky works on her impression of Lady Southdown and later, when she gets back to London, uses it to entertain Lord Steyne.
- But for now, Lady Southdown warms to her slightly.
- Young Sir Pitt, meanwhile, is totally into his sister-in-law. All she does is compliment and praise him. It helps that he is really susceptible to praise. As the narrator points out, "Pitt himself, who, always inclined to respect his own talents, admired them the more when Rebecca pointed them out to him" (41.31).
- While all this is happening, old, dead Sir Pitt is laid out in state. Young Sir Pitt hires the right number of mourners and orders black mourning clothes for everyone who lives and works on the estate. However, he and the other members of the family don't go near the coffin.
- There is a proper and totally impersonal funeral service.
- As soon as it's over, everyone forgets all about him. We guess that's fair – if you don't make any friends while you're alive, don't expect much sadness when you die.
- Young Sir Pitt is totally psyched to be in control of his estate and decides to be a good, economical, practical, and fair steward of it.
- Rawdon has now become very subservient to his brother.
- He also gets frequent notes from Briggs about how Rawdon Jr. is doing in London. The boy sometimes even writes letters himself, which Rawdon shows to Lady Jane with a lot of pride. Young Sir Pitt promises to pay for the boy's education.
- Deep into a slow and comfortable country existence, Becky has a thought that has now become a very famous quotation from the novel. She sees how nice and calm everyone and everything is, and decides that "I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year" (41.38). This line has since become a quick way of saying that morality is relative, and that it tends to depend on circumstances. Here, for instance, Becky blames her scheming and conniving ways on the fact that she is poor and has no other way to get ahead in life.
- Soon it's time to leave Queen's Crawley. Becky is torn between how boring and how nice it was to be there. Either way, though, her life is in London.
Which treats of the Osborne Family
- Yes, how is that Osborne family?
- Mr. Osborne is more and more growly and miserable than ever.
- He proposed to Miss Swartz, the mixed-race rich girl he had been trying to get George to marry, but was rejected by her and her minders out of hand.
- Maria was finally married to Fred Bullock.
- Jane is a spinster and lives in total depression, loneliness, and misery with her horrible father.
- The Bullock family is connected with the aristocracy, so to make up for her own lower social rank, Maria starts to ignore and avoid her father and sister. She never has them over when she has her A-list parties, and sadly is too stupid and too bad of an actress not to let them know.
- Dobbin's sisters sometimes visit Jane Osborne, just as they do Amelia. They've been telling Jane all about George Jr. and how adorable and wonderful he is.
- One day, after George Jr. goes to spend a day with Dobbin's sisters at their estate, Amelia writes a letter to Dobbin, congratulating him on his upcoming marriage. There is a lot of sarcasm from the narrator here about just how happy Amelia is about the idea of Dobbin getting married.
- George Jr. comes home with a gold chain and tells Amelia that an old, unattractive lady gave it to him.
- Amelia's heart skips a beat because she realizes this must have been Jane Osborne.
- When Mr. Osborne comes home that night he sees that Jane is really out of it. When he asks her what's wrong, she tells him that she has seen little George Jr. and that he is the spitting image of his father. Mr. Osborne doesn't say anything but starts to tremble
In which the Reader has to double the Cape
- Meanwhile, all this time Dobbin has been stationed in India as a Major under Colonel O'Dowd.
- With the promotion to Colonel, O'Dowd got a title, so Mrs. O'Dowd became a Lady.
- Lady O'Dowd is just as kind and domineering as ever.
- She wants her sister-in-law, Glorvina, to marry Dobbin, so Glorvina spends all day every day trying to make Dobbin propose to her. It ain't happening. Glorvina is beautiful and strong and loud – the opposite of what he wants. Dobbin is still completely hung up on Amelia. Still, Glorvina is so hell-bent on this that the rumors of their engagement travel all the way to England (that's how his sisters hear about it).
- One day Dobbin gets the letter from Amelia congratulating him on the upcoming marriage. He is sad that she is so blind to the fact that he has been desperately in love with her all this time.
- A few days later he gets a letter from one of his sisters telling him that they've seen George Jr., who is adorable, bossy, and spoiled. She also writes that Amelia is about to marry Mr. Binny, a local curate (a low-ranking cleric).
- Dobbin freaks, panics, and immediately asks for leave to go back to England.
A Roundabout Chapter between London and Hampshire
- In London Becky is in charge of redecorating the Crawley family's Gaunt Street house. She loves this job, which plays to her artistic and creative abilities.
- When young Sir Pitt comes to town, she meets him and invites him to stay at her house while the Gaunt Street house is being worked on.
- She sings to him, compliments him, sucks up to him, and even very mildly flirts with him. He is definitely into it.
- However, whenever Becky brings up the question of money, young Sir Pitt gets defensive and nervous and launches into long speeches about how broke he actually is because of all the house and estate restorations.
- Becky has low expectations of everyone, so she doesn't let this bother her too much.
- Meanwhile, she uses the fact that Rawdon and young Sir Pitt seem to have made up to get even more credit from all the tradesmen. She also tells Briggs that Sir Pitt wants to help Briggs invest her small savings better. Briggs gets all excited and takes her money out of the funds it was in.
- Rawdon Jr. is now about 8. He loves Lord Southdown (Lady Jane's brother, who bought him a pony), Molly the cook, Briggs (who has ended up being his de facto nanny), and most of all his father.
- He detests his mother, and Becky pretty much hates and resents him in return.
- Of all the bad things Becky does throughout the course of the book, this lack of maternal instinct is shown to be the most horrible.
- For instance, one day when Becky is singing to Lord Steyne, Rawdon Jr. comes out of his room and listens on the stairs. When Becky sees him, she runs up and hits him.
- This is when the all the servants start gossiping about and passing judgment on her, her relationship with Lord Steyne, and how awful she is to Rawdon Jr.
- The assumption is that she and Lord Steyne are having an affair. The novel does not make it clear whether they actually are or not. It doesn't really matter. What Thackeray is interested in is the perception of wrongdoing, not the actual bad behavior itself.
- On the one hand, Becky's servants condemn her for her horrendous immorality.
- On the other hand, the fact that Lord Steyne is there so much is what makes her tradesmen keep giving her credit. They assume that Lord Steyne is sleeping with her, and therefore he must be giving her lots of money.
- So life goes on until Christmas, when Becky, Rawdon, and (because Lady Jane specifically invites him) Rawdon Jr. go to Queen's Crawley.
- Rawdon and his son ride on the outside of the carriage and talk about everything and everyone they see. Rawdon Jr. loves the trip.
- At Queen's Crawley, Pitt Binkie and Matilda take Rawdon Jr. around and they all get to be good friends.
- Lady Jane really likes Rawdon Jr., who is a serious and gentlemanly sort of boy. While they are getting to know each other, Rawdon Jr. lets slip a few things that indicate to Jane just how neglected he actually is at home.
Between Hampshire and London
- Pitt starts to really live it up at Queen's Crawley. His main goal is to earn back all the respect and reputation for the Crawley family that his father destroyed at the end of his life. To do this, Pitt upgrades the grounds, has people over for dinner, starts up foxhunting again, and donates to the local charities.
- However, he has another reason to be doing all this stuff.
- Becky keeps filling his head with ideas about how great a man he could be in Parliament, how talented a speaker he is, and how high-ranking cabinet ministers have their eyes on him.
- All this talk really feeds into Pitt's ego and delusions of grandeur. He makes time every day to talk to Becky.
- On Christmas day, there is a grand dinner for the whole family at Queen's Crawley. The Butes come, and Becky acts super nice to all of them.
- Rawdon Jr. has made good friends with his cousins Pitt Binkie and Matilda, and really loves Jane.
- Jane and Becky do not get along nearly as well this time around. Becky dislikes Jane for being good and kind and sort of simple-minded. Jane has her own reasons for disliking Becky. For one thing, Pitt pays way too much attention to his sister-in-law. For another, Rawdon Jr. tells Jane that his mother never kisses him, which is really disturbing.
- Still, Rawdon Jr. gets to hang out with his dad and Jim, Mr. and Mrs. Bute's son. He also gets to see all the farm goings on and to watch the horses and dogs. He's generally having a great time in the country.
- As a Christmas present, Pitt gives his brother Rawdon a hundred pounds.
- Finally, Becky, Rawdon, and Rawdon Jr. go back to London.
- Becky puts the finishing touches on Pitt's house there.
- Pitt comes to London, and Becky has him meet Lord Steyne at her house. Lord Steyne is powerful and very highly connected, and Pitt is flattered that he is even talking to him.
- Meanwhile, in the country, Jane is sad about how much Pitt likes Becky.
- Becky needs Rawdon less and less. He spends his evening at his club now, or doing things for the kids.
Struggles and Trials
- The Sedleys have a household income of about 200 pounds a year, which should be enough to keep the four of them (Mr. & Mrs. Sedley, Amelia, and George Jr.) comfortable.
- Amelia scrimps and saves to try to dress George Jr. in the kind of fancy clothes she thinks George's son should be wearing.
- George is old enough now to go to school, so Amelia sends him to Mr. Binny's school. He does well there, though she is sad to no longer be with him all day.
- If you haven't figured it out, Amelia lives only for George Jr. She keeps all his papers and worksheets and knows everything about his classmates.
- Meanwhile, Maria Osborne grows more and more obnoxious and more and more estranged from her father – and his money.
- Jane Osborne thinks often about George Jr. and wants to see him more. Sometimes she does at the Dobbins' house.
- Mr. Osborne starts to think seriously about George Jr. too.
- One day, when George Jr. comes back from the Dobbins', he tells Amelia that he saw an old man there with thick eyebrows and large chains.
- Amelia realizes this must have been Mr. Osborne, and she readies herself for what's coming next.
- She's right to be worried. Osborne sends her an offer proposing that she send George Jr. to go live with him. In return, George Jr. will inherit the Osborne money, but she will only be allowed to see him infrequently.
- Amelia flips out and orders the messenger who brought the offer out of the house.
- Her parents don't notice that she is going slightly crazy. They have their own issues.
- Mr. Sedley, who keeps investing in failing ventures, is constantly losing money.
- Also, it seems that Jos has stopped paying the annual allowance that he had been sending to his parents.
- The cutting back is at first sort of annoying. Amelia tells George Jr. that he can no longer get new clothes for Christmas, like she had been promising. He flips out, whines, and cries.
- Amelia feels terrible and goes to the pawn shop to sell her last nice thing – a shawl from India that Dobbin sent her.
- With the money from that, she buys George Jr. books and clothes and is happy.
- But when she gets home, Mrs. Sedley sees all the new things and loses it. They have a big fight. Mrs. Sedley accuses Amelia of spoiling George Jr. and tells her they are completely bankrupt.
- The Sedleys fall behind on their bills and start to eat so poorly that Amelia notices that George Jr. is not getting enough food.
- She realizes that she might be being selfish in not giving him up to go live in wealth and comfort with Mr. Osborne.
- It's super sad, guys. It's OK if you need to take a few minutes.
- This chapter clues us in on why Lord Steyne is the way he is.
- So, to make a long-ish story short:
- Steyne has a secret set of apartments inside his London mansion where his married friends can bring their mistresses (and where he, we're assuming, has brought his own mistresses). He also makes his serious, proper wife invite some really gross characters to dinner, thus officially sanctioning them socially. He bullies and abuses her. Basically, he's a pretty bad dude.
- Steyne comes from a long line of famous aristocrats dating 400 years back, to the reign of King Henry VIII. It's like being able to trace your family back to the Mayflower but way more impressive. Everything was going fine for him at first. His marriage was even a happy-ish one, and his youngest son (George Gaunt) was doing well as a diplomat abroad.
- Until he suddenly wasn't. George Gaunt became paranoid, started seeing things, raving, and generally being crazy. Apparently this kind of thing ran in Lady Steyne's family, so she – or at least her gene pool – is to blame. Shmoop is no psychiatrist, and neither was Thackeray, but from the symptoms and late onset, we'd guess George Gaunt had paranoid schizophrenia. Awful stuff, especially back then, with a stigma for the whole family. So they locked George Gaunt up in a private house with a bunch of nurses and told everyone he had moved to Brazil.
- So the upshot is that Lady Steyne feels horrible and guilty, and Lord Steyne blames her for what happened to their son. He lives a life of pleasure and debauchery to try to distract himself. He's a horrid man, but still, you kind of feel sorry for him.
In which the Reader is introduced to the very best of Company
- Finally, finally, all of Becky's striving and work and effort are about to pay off. She is ready to climb to the very top of the social ladder – or least its public side. At last she gets to...wait for it...be presented to the King of England at Court!
- Sort of.
- So what is this presented-at-Court thing all about? Well, think of it as a combination of Oscars red carpet (because all the newspapers report what Becky was wearing in detail) and a private audience with the Pope (because having met the King somehow makes her more respectable in the eyes of society).
- The whole thing is arranged by Pitt and Lady Jane, who take Becky and Rawdon in the family carriage to be presented.
- Becky easily tops the best-dressed list, though the narrator jokes about the fact that twenty years from now what she is wearing will be seen as thoroughly ridiculous. (Fashion was fickle back then just like it is today.)
- Lady Jane sees that Becky's dress is made out of extremely expensive fabric, which even she herself could probably not afford. (This might sound strange, but at a time before fabric was factory-made, it had to be woven by hand, so anything complex like lace or brocade was crazy expensive.) Becky brushes this off and says these are bits and bobs she's had forever. In reality, though, they are things she found in – and stole from – the Crawleys' London mansion while she was managing the restoration.
- She also has some fantastic diamonds going on. Rawdon wonders where they're from, and Pitt suddenly is very uncomfortable. Turns out he gave her one of the small bracelets she is wearing.
- Becky laughs and deflects this question too, saying that she rented all the diamonds.
- At the Court, Becky sees Lord Steyne, who has a Court Appointment as Lord of the Powder Closet (yes, that's meant to be funny). He sees her diamonds and knows where they are really from – him.
- The narrator then says basically that what happens at Court stays at Court, and that he will not tell us what Becky and the King talked about.
- Still, afterwards Becky becomes a super-patriot. Or at least really, really loyal to the King. OK, mostly just a very inspired name-dropper.
- A few days later, Becky finally gets visiting cards from Lady Steyne and her daughter-in-law, the Countess of Gaunt (she's the one married to Lord Gaunt, Lord Steyne's older son).
- This means these two women, who are at the very top of social mountain, acknowledge her existence.
- Becky is really thrilled.
- Lord Steyne comes to visit and tell her that she will be invited to dinner at Gaunt House, his mansion, next week. Talk about finally making it to the cool lunch table. As usual, Becky flirts with him until Briggs comes in and interrupts.
- Steyne is angry and demands in a whisper that Becky get rid of Briggs. Becky sends Briggs out with Rawdon Jr., then tells Lord Steyne that she can't get rid of her because she owes her a ton of money – which is true. Steyne asks how much and Becky tells him double the actual amount. He curses, then leaves.
- That night, Becky gets an invitation to dine at Gaunt House, along with a check for twice the amount of her debt to Briggs.
- Becky is half-tempted to pay back Briggs, or to pay Raggles the landlord, or any number of other people she owes money to. It's a passing fancy. Instead, she gives a little bit of money to Raggles, buys Briggs a new dress, and puts the rest of the money into a locked drawer of her desk, where she also keeps the jewelry from Lord Steyne.
In which we enjoy three Courses and a Dessert
- How exactly did Becky score that invitation to Lady Steyne's dinner party?
- We get a little window onto the scene at Gaunt House and see Lord Steyne browbeating Lady Steyne and his daughter-in-law, Lady Gaunt, into sending it.
- Lady Gaunt at first loudly objects to having anything to do with Becky since she is so low-born and immoral.
- Lord Gaunt then proceeds to remind her that she and her family aren't such great shakes either. For one thing, Lady Gaunt used to be Blanche Bareacres, from family that's now totally bankrupt. Her father basically gambled away all their money, so this makes her no better than Becky in terms of wealth. For another thing, Fanny Gaunt, the daughter-in-law married to the mentally disturbed George Gaunt, is not highborn, and her grandfather was about as low-class as Becky is.
- After this cold and purposefully offensive speech, Lord Steyne yells that anyone he wants to have over at his house must be welcomed by the women who live there, or else.
- So the two ladies send out cards and an invitation to Becky.
- Not surprisingly, Becky shines at the dinner. Rawdon, on the other hand, is overwhelmed and embarrassed and keeps quiet the whole time.
- After dinner, when the ladies retire, the knives really come out. All the women proceed to completely ignore Becky. When she comes over to talk to them by the fireplace, they walk over to the sofas. When she goes to the sofas, they get up again and go to the windows. And so on.
- Finally, Lady Steyne takes pity on Becky and asks her to play the piano.
- She plays her some of her favorite music from childhood, and Lady Steyne is suddenly transported to the one happy time of her life – listening to church music as a little girl.
- Lord Steyne comes in with the rest of the men, sees immediately what has been happening, and is grateful to his wife. He comes over and is nice to her for the first time in years.
- The rest of the evening goes swimmingly. Becky is charming, speaks French with the Russian prince and princess, and is generally a big hit with everyone. Well, she never really wins over most of the women, but it doesn't seem to matter.
Contains a Vulgar Incident
- Mrs. Sedley is growing more and more bitter and unpleasant because of the discomfort and constant embarrassment of being poor. She is no longer friends with the landlady and now has suspicions about the one maid they have. Amelia tries to be nice to her, but to no avail.
- Amelia tries to figure out if there is something she can do to make money. But honestly, have we seen anything to indicate that she has any skills besides looking pretty and crying?
- So she does about as well as expected.
- At the same time, the less money they have, and the worse everything becomes, the more Amelia gives in to the idea of giving George Jr. up to the Osbornes.
- The last straw is when she writes Jos a letter to ask him to start sending the annual payment again.
- To make Mr. Sedley feel better, she tells him she's written to Jos. Mr. Sedley finally admits the truth: Jos has been sending the money all along, but Mr. Sedley has been using it to pay the debts he's amassed from all his get-rich-quick schemes.
- Amelia really loses it at this news. That's it. She's done resisting.
- She writes a letter to Miss Osborne, telling her why she has changed her mind. She says she is willing to let George Jr. go as long as they promise to let her see him as often as she wants.
- She tells George Jr. that he's going to go live with his other grandfather. He is totally psyched, not at all sad, and brags to his classmates about how he's going to be rich. This isn't surprising, since all kids his age are selfish, but it crushes Amelia.
- Finally the day comes when she packs all his things and Miss Osborne comes to pick him up.
- Time passes.
- George Jr. comes to visit Amelia often, but he is already changing and picking up a bossy, haughty tone.
- Amelia often sneaks over to watch the Osbornes' house. On Sundays she goes to their church and sits in the back to see if she can see George Jr.
- One day, while spying like this, she sees George Jr. kindly give money to a street beggar. So here's hoping that George 2.0 isn't as horrendous as his dad.
In which a Charade is acted which may or may not Puzzle the Reader
- Now come the few months of Becky's triumph. Oh, sorry, spoiler alert.
- Ever since the invitation to the cool table at Lady's Steyne's house, all doors are open to Becky. She takes full advantage and is generally a star.
- At first she hangs out with the "best" foreigners. Then she is accepted into the society of the "best" English people.
- The narrator makes fun of the idea of a "best" person as meaningless and vain. Think about what it means to be "popular" in high school – this is about as shallow as that.
- What's fascinating is that Becky quickly becomes bored with the high life. Just like every other group of people, this one hangs out together and has the same tired conversations about each other over and over again.
- At first Becky has fun trying to figure out how to dress perfectly and host parties given that she and Rawdon have no money. But soon, even this becomes boring.
- But while she's on top, she remains on top.
- At the parties she makes sure to be very nice to the professional entertainment (singers, mainly). This behavior has two good effects: 1) the aristocrats are charmed by how she always remembers her own poor artist background and so are less hostile to her pretentions, and 2) the professionals are floored by being treated as human beings and so come and sing at Becky's own parties for free.
- Becky is not only charming and pretty, she also has a fast and sharp wit. This is useful for deflecting the insults or jokes made at her expense by her various enemies and frenemies in this circle.
- Rumors start to circulate about how she could possibly afford to dress and entertain like she does. The rumors mostly involve her unscrupulously begging, borrowing, or stealing money from various innocents.
- The narrator doesn't clarify one way or another whether the rumors are true, but says that surely all of them can't be.
- This is an important evasion. Keep in mind the narrator not wanting to tell us the truth about Becky – it will come up again.
- There's a fad at the time to act out elaborate charades at parties. Back then, charades were a combination of what we think of charades (acting out a word) and little one-act plays. Each word would be acted out syllable by syllable, then all at once through an elaborate theatrical set piece. (We guess people had a lot of time on their hands back then.)
- Becky convinces Lord Steyne to host one of these charade nights at Gaunt House, and he agrees. OK, quick poll: who thinks lying, wheedling, conniving Becky is going to be really good at acting on stage?
- The first charade is "Agamemnon." (Remember him? If not, check out Shmoop's summary of Agamemnon.)
- This gets broken up into the syllables "Aga" (a Turkish prince) and "Memnon" (an Ethiopian king). Each of these is acted out very nicely. Then it's time to act out the whole word.
- Rawdon acts the part of Agamemnon himself, sleeping on a couch. Then Becky comes out for the first time, dressed as Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra – with a giant knife in her hand poised to kill him! Flashing neon "Symbolism" sign.
- The crowd goes wild.
- After the charades are over, Becky is an even bigger hit at the party. Lord Steyne loves it and laughs to himself at the idea of Becky playing a husband-killing wife. He seems into that idea.
- Rawdon is sad at all the attention and success Becky gets. He feels her becoming more and more distant from him and painfully realizes that she is his superior.
- After the party he puts Becky in her carriage and sends her home. Then he starts walking home himself.
- Suddenly some men come out from the alley nearby and arrest Rawdon for debt! The debt is relatively small, about a hundred pounds (although for comparison, remember that this is half of what the Sedleys earn in a year). Rawdon goes quietly with the three bailiffs.
In which Lord Steyne shows himself in a most amiable Light
- Let's take a few steps back in time again.
- It seems that Lord Steyne has really been on a mission to clear everyone out of Becky's house. What could he possibly be up to?
- The first thing he does is use his political clout to get Rawdon Jr. a spot at prestigious boarding school.
- Rawdon is upset at the idea of his son going away. He can't deny that education is important, but Rawdon Jr. is really his only friend and companion in life.
- When Rawdon tries to tell Becky about his feelings, she just mocks him. So Rawdon talks about his son with Lady Jane instead.
- Not surprisingly, Becky isn't that sad to see Rawdon Jr. go. Briggs is the one who packs up his things, and Briggs and Rawdon hang out together afterwards crying and talking about the boy.
- Rawdon Jr. does very well in school. It helps that he is clearly highly connected (since Lord Steyne is the one who got him into the place) and that he is a good-looking, happy kid.
- He tells his father all about his classmates, and Rawdon brags about his son's achievements to his friends. Becky finds all of this ridiculous and starts to find Rawdon contemptible.
- OK, so that's person one out of the house.
- Person two is Briggs.
- Lord Steyne realizes that Becky must not have paid Briggs back with the money he gave her. He talks to Briggs and she tells him the real amount Becky owes her (only half of what she asked Steyne for). Steyne decides Rawdon must be behind the lie. When he confronts Becky about it, she also tells him she was just following her horrible husband's orders.
- What Steyne doesn't suspect is that Rawdon knows nothing about anything, and that Becky is keeping the money in a secret place for herself.
- Finally, Steyne has a better idea. The Steynes of course have an estate in the country. They don't go there often – once every two years or so – and the housekeeper there is getting very old. He offers Briggs the chance to replace her. This is an amazing offer, since it would basically take care of all of Brigg's needs for the rest of her life.
- Briggs is thrilled and asks only that Rawdon Jr. be allowed to visit her.
- When Rawdon tells Lady Jane and Pitt about this offer, they are surprised, suspicious, and worried.
- Becky's moment is the sun is already starting to cloud over. All her flirting is starting to be noticed and more and more rumors are swirling around her, damaging her reputation.
- Jane thinks a woman as full of life as Becky cannot go to parties alone, and so if Briggs isn't with her any more, then Rawdon needs to step up and be with her all the time.
- Rawdon does just that.
- He stops going to his club, stops going to see his friends, and instead starts going everywhere with Becky. If she is invited out by herself, he makes her decline the invitation.
- Becky actually seems surprisingly happy about Rawdon's sudden concern for her. She smiles at him, is nice to him, kisses him and generally acts very loving towards him. Rawdon decides he was suspicious about nothing, since she clearly loves him and just needs to be with people out in society, which isn't such a crime.
- The only problem, Rawdon decides, is to figure out how to make her like Rawdon Jr. a little bit more.
- It's in this state of mind that he is arrested for debts.
A Rescue and a Catastrophe
- Rawdon goes with the bailiffs who arrested him to the debtors holding prison. He's not too worried, since the amount he owes isn't huge. Everyone at the prison is very nice to him because apparently he has been there a couple times before.
- Debtors' prisons were more like inns with walls around them than jails. The idea was that the debtor would call in all his favors to pay the debt back and be released.
- The warden shows Rawdon to his room, tells him when food will be served and asks him if he needs anything.
- Rawdon decides to wait until morning to tell Becky what's happened, since she most likely wouldn't have noticed that he's not there. (Like most Victorian couples, they sleep in separate bedroom suites.) He goes to sleep.
- The next morning Rawdon has breakfast, chats with the chambermaid, then writes a letter to Becky asking her to bail him out ASAP. At this point, he's thinking it'll be about three hours until he's out of there. Becky will need to first pawn something to raise the money, then pay back the creditor who called the debt in, then come get him.
- Three hours pass...nothing.
- The whole day passes...nothing.
- Finally, during dinner, a messenger comes with a letter from Becky.
- In it, she claims to be have been too overcome by the news of his arrest to run the necessary errands to get him out. She says she had people over and told Lord Steyne what had happened. He agreed to lend her the needed money so she wouldn't have to go to the pawn shop.
- Rawdon is beyond furious. He realizes several things all at once: 1) Becky doesn't care enough about him to sell her stuff to get him out of prison; 2) she had guests over that day; and 3) the timing of all of this is crazily suspicious.
- He quickly writes another letter to Pitt and Lady Jane. He is particularly eager to get out now because he doesn't want Rawdon Jr. to find out that he had been in debtors prison.
- A little while later a woman comes to the gate with his release. It turns out to be...Jane! We know, we know – we were hoping Becky would come through, too.
- Rawdon is all emotional and confesses to Jane how his love for Rawdon Jr. makes him want to be a better man.
- Then he leaves her and goes home.
- Guys, things are about to hit the fan. You'd better sit down.
- Rawdon looks at the house. The lights are on. But didn't Becky say she was sick?
- He opens the front door and hears sounds of laughter and singing.
- He looks around. All the servants are gone.
- He opens the door to the living room and sees Becky and Lord Steyne alone together! She is dressed to the nines with all her jewelry (some of which she could have pawned!). Steyne is holding her hand and is about to kiss it. There are two plates and two wine glasses out.
- OK, insanity breaks out.
- Becky screams that she is innocent and asks Steyne to confirm.
- Steyne is all, as if! He yells that he bought all the jewels she is wearing and has given her a ton of money.
- So what does that mean? Well, Becky means she is innocent of adultery. It's not clear if that's true or not. Steyne's response is ambiguous; either he is saying 1) oh, please, we totally had a bunch of sex and you know it, or 2) all you've done is extort money from me which is not what an innocent person would do.
- Rawdon grabs Steyne around the neck and punches him in the face until he bleeds.
- He makes Becky take off all the jewelry and throw it on the ground. He flings one of the pieces at Steyne, leaving a mark that scars him for life.
- Finally he makes Becky go upstairs and searches all of her rooms for the money and jewels Steyne was talking about. Eventually he finds the locked desk drawer, opens it, and sees all the checks and things. One of them is a check from Steyne for 1,000 pounds.
- Rawdon's last words to Becky are: "You might have spared me a hundred pounds, Becky, out of all this – I have always shared with you" (53.46). Wow, harsh. And sad.
- Becky gets out another "I am innocent" (53.47), but Rawdon leaves.
- Becky collapses. She contemplates suicide briefly until her maid finds her and gets her to lie down.
- The narrator has a coy moment telling us that even he doesn't know whether she is innocent or not.
Sunday after the Battle
- It's now morning, and Rawdon stumbles into Pitt and Lady Jane's mansion. He tries to read the paper in Pitt's study but is too crazed to make out the words.
- Pitt comes downstairs and is alarmed to see his disheveled brother (who still hasn't changed out of his party clothes).
- Rawdon tells him that it's all over. At first Pitt thinks he's talking about money and starts a long speech about how he doesn't have any to give to his brother.
- Rawdon interrupts and in fits and starts tell Pitt what happened. For insulting an aristocrat and physically assaulting him, the only recourse to restore honor is a duel. Rawdon is expecting a challenge from Lord Steyne any moment.
- Then Rawdon tearfully asks his brother to promise to take care of Rawdon Jr. if anything should happen. After all, Lady Jane is more of a mother to him than Becky.
- Pitt is deeply moved and makes a solemn promise.
- Rawdon hurries off to Lord Steyne's mansion. He hands the servant a card with the address of his club, still assuming that Steyne will send a challenge to him that day.
- Finally he goes to his club.
- There he finds an old friend, Captain Macmurdo, and asks him to be his second in the duel.
- (Brain Snack: each duelist designates a second to make the logistical arrangements and frequently other decisions on his behalf. The idea is that someone about to duel is not in the right state of mind to make rational choices, which is probably true.)
- Macmurdo has done this before, so he's game. He asks whether it's about debts.
- When Rawdon tells him that it's about his wife, Macmurdo is entirely unsurprised. Actually, he says he's shocked it's taken Rawdon this long to catch on to Becky's doings.
- Macmurdo is kind of floored to hear that the challenger will be a Marquis and wonders if there's a way to settle the problem peacefully. After all, Rawdon doesn't have definitive proof that anything actually happened and that Becky did anything wrong.
- Rawdon won't hear it.
- He sends a servant to his old house to get some clothes together. After a while the man comes back and says the people at the house won't give him Rawdon's clothes and that the house is in a state of total chaos.
- Macmurdo tells Rawdon to forget about it and gives him some of his own clothes, since they are about the same size.
In which the same Subject is pursued
- Meanwhile, after lying in bed a little bit, Becky comes around and rings the bell to summon her maid. Nothing happens. She rings again and again, until finally she rips the bell rope out of the wall.
- It turns out that the maid, realizing that the household was probably about to be bankrupt, had already taken as many valuables as she could, packed her bags, and left.
- Becky walks out of her room and goes downstairs. There she sees the cook and the other servants sitting around in the drawing room, drinking wine with the Raggleses.
- Becky at first acts scandalized by the fact that they are not answering her rings, sitting down in her presence, getting drunk, and all manner of other things.
- The drunken footman totally tells her off.
- The other servants join in. They tell Becky that this isn't her house anyway, that her husband is most likely not coming back, and that she never took care of her son. It's hard to have live-in servants – they tend to know everything about you.
- Becky tries to maintain her dignity and says that Rawdon just got a great job. She gets dressed and says she's going to go out to find him. Privately she hopes it's not too late to salvage the situation.
- Becky goes to Pitt's house. He is shocked to see her, but she immediately starts to tell him that she is not guilty. He is also surprised by an announcement he saw in the paper.
- Becky confirms it – Rawdon has just been appointed governor of Coventry Island, a small island that is part of the British Empire. It's a very impressive post that pays about three thousand pounds a year.
- Becky tells Pitt her version of events, which is basically that she flirted with Lord Steyne but never went past that, and all the time was just trying to get a good job for Rawdon out of him.
- Pitt buys this story, and Becky kneels and kisses his hand.
- Lady Jane walks in and sees them like this.
- To the shock and surprise of everyone, including herself probably, Lady Jane busts out with a long, amazing speech about what a horrid monster Becky is and how if Pitt has anything more to do with her, Lady Jane is going to take their children and move out of the house. Becky is too unclean and immoral to exist in the same space with, Lady Jane says, then leaves the room.
- Becky goes away, but first Pitt promises to go see Rawdon to try to patch things up between them.
- Meanwhile, at the club, Rawdon is getting ready and having some dinner when some of the other club members come up and congratulate him on his appointment. They've seen it in the paper too.
- Rawdon is totally floored by the newspaper article. While he's still in shock, Mr. Wenham comes in to see him.
- Rawdon assumes that Wenham is Steyne's second and wants to leave him and Macmurdo to work out the details, but Wenham wants nothing of the sort.
- Wenham is there to do the opposite – to smooth things over so that there is no duel. He's a really good, silver-tongued lawyer with an answer for everything. The general version of events he tells is that actually, Becky invited him and Mrs. Wenham over that night too, not just Lord Steyne. But sadly, Mrs. Wenham had a headache so they couldn't come. So it was all totally innocent. His other story is that Steyne really desperately wants to fight this duel, but that Wenham managed to calm him down and get him to not issue a challenge.
- Rawdon isn't buying any of this baloney.
- But then again, he doesn't have proof that any of it is not true.
- Still, Rawdon says that if Steyne doesn't issue a challenge, then he himself will. Macmurdo tells him to sit down and shut up and accept the peaceful resolution of the fight. Macmurdo shows Wenham out and gives him back the thousand-pound check that Rawdon took from Becky.
- Just then Pitt arrives at the club. He tries his best to get Rawdon to give Becky another chance.
- No dice.
- The upshot of all of this? Well, Rawdon takes the job on the island. Becky disappears to no-one-knows where. Raggles is seized and put in jail for his debts. And little Rawdon Jr. is taken in by his aunt and uncle. (Coventry Island is too difficult to live on for a little kid). Rawdon sends him letters and newspaper clippings about himself.
Georgy is made a Gentleman
- George Jr. is living is up at Mr. Osborne's, who has decided that money is no object when it comes to his grandson. Mr. Osborne's hopes and dreams are to turn George Jr. into a titled gentleman.
- George Jr. has clothes, a nice pony, his own servant, and a series of private tutors. As he learns from these tutors, he realizes how uneducated his grandfather actually is and starts to look down on him.
- He's already had good practice in learning to lord it over others from the way Amelia raised him.
- One day he buys a portrait of himself for his mother as a present. She is happy for weeks at this demonstration of affection. (She's got a pretty low threshold for what counts as being nice, right?)
- At home George Jr. acts like a little grownup. He has grownup clothing, sits at dinner at the adult table, drinks his champagne (usually children would only drink a weak beer or rum-based drinks).
- Mr. Osborne thinks this is delightful, though his old-men friends aren't really into having little George Jr. around being obnoxious during dinner.
- Mr. Osborne also encourages George Jr. to fight other little boys, especially ones bigger and older than him. It's not really clear why, but it's probably a character-building exercise.
- George Jr.'s footman takes him and his friends (over whom he also domineers) to plays and out to dinner afterwards.
- Finally, George is old enough to go to school and is enrolled at Mr. Veal's academy.
- Mr. Veal caters to rich clients and, unlike most schools, does not use corporal punishment. He is pompous and snobbish and proud of the long words he uses. He is awed by Mr. Osborn's money and treats George Jr. accordingly.
- The reason Osborne is the way he is towards George Jr. is finally revealed, but it's not really all that shocking. George Jr. looks a lot like his father, and so for Mr. Osborne this is kind of a way to reconcile with the dead George.
- George Jr. starts to really look down on his other grandfather, Mr. Sedley. Mr. Osborne is constantly running Mr. Sedley down as a bankrupt and a swindler, and George Jr. can't help but start thinking this way about him too.
- Meanwhile, Mrs. Sedley dies. Amelia has been taking care of her in her illness, which has at least helped take her mind off George Jr.
- His wife's death makes Mr. Sedley even more broken down.
- One day, at Mr. Veal's school, there is a knock on the door and visitors are announced for Mr. Osborne. It's a tall, thin guy and a fat guy. Who could it be?
- You guessed it – Major Dobbin and Jos! George Jr. recognizes Dobbin from his mother's stories about him.
- At her mother's funeral, Amelia almost wishes she were in the casket instead. Her life seems like it's over. She is forced to live on the charity of Mr. Osborne and to take care of her aging and somewhat mentally unstable father.
- Still, she bucks up and determines to try her best to make her father's time on earth happy. She sews, cooks, plays cards, and sings, and he is at least appreciative.
- Meanwhile, Major Dobbin has been traveling from India back to England.
- In the middle of his trip, he fell gravely ill. The doctors finally washed their hands of him and assumed he would die.
- Then he briefly recovered, then fell sick again, then again kind of recovered and got on the ship to go around the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of Africa.
- Dobbin is traveling with Jos, who has now served out his appointment in India and can return home to live on his pension.
- Jos is lively and generous onboard the ship, but still as vain as ever.
- In the last days of his illness, Dobbin talked about Amelia to Jos, who told him that she was not actually going to be married. Dobbin recovered in no time at all.
- As they travel, Dobbin talks about Amelia and George Jr. to Jos all the time, basically trying to get him to agree to take care of them in London. Jos agrees. Obviously, Dobbin doesn't know yet that Mrs. Sedley is dead and that George Jr. lives with Mr. Osborne.
Our Friend the Major
- Jos and Dobbin disembark and take a room at a famous inn. Their first meal of British roast beef and beer is heavenly.
- Dobbin wants to be off to London ASAP, but Jos is tired and cranky and fat and doesn't want to go without all his stuff.
- Dobbin agrees to stay overnight at the inn but gets up at the crack of dawn and wants to be off. He wakes Jos up, but when Jos finds out what time it is he curses and yells and then goes back to sleep. Dobbin takes the next carriage out of there and makes super-fast time through the countryside.
- Why on earth is he in such a hurry? Yes, mysterious.
- In London, Dobbin goes to his old club and gets a room and a snack there.
- Quickly, he hurries off to Amelia's old neighborhood. He is totally freaking out at this point. He starts to shake when he sees a woman walking with a child...it's not her.
- At the house, he see the Clapp family, who recognize him after a second or two (it's been ten years!) and tell him all about Mrs. Sedley's death and where George Jr. lives now.
- He wants to ask whether Amelia is married but can't come out with it.
- Finally they tell him that she is out for a walk with her father, and that Polly Clapp knows where they like to walk and can take him there.
- On the way, they run across a guy walking with a woman on each arm. Polly says hello and tells Dobbin that this is Mr. Binny. Dobbin kind of does a twitch at this. Then it turns out the two ladies are his sister...and his wife. Yay! Amelia isn't married to him! Oh, wait, we already knew that. But Dobbin didn't. He's psyched.
- Polly and Dobbin get to the park and see Amelia and Mr. Sedley. Dobbin turns pale and then red and then twitches around. Polly would have to be a total idiot not to figure out that he still has the hots for Amelia.
- Dobbin asks her to go tell Amelia that he's there. When Amelia sees him, she starts to cry. (Hey, it's pretty much her only response to everything.)
- Her first question: So where's Mrs. Dobbin? Dobbin tells her he's not married either. She's psyched (well, kind of). Then he tells her that Jos came with him too and that he's ready to take care of her and Mr. Sedley.
- Mr. Sedley now starts saying hello to Dobbin and it's clear that he's senile.
- All of them go back to the house and have some tea.
- Amelia tells Dobbin all about George Jr. Seriously, all about George Jr. She's obsessed with her kid and how much he is like his dead father.
- Dobbin is sort of sad. He leaves and goes to the theater, feeling a little guilty that he hasn't seen his own family yet.
The old Piano
- Mr. Sedley is shaken into some rather pathetic business-type activity by the idea that Jos is coming. He starts going through his papers as if Jos is going to do some kind of audit, then cries because Mrs. Sedley is dead and won't be able to ride on Jos's carriage. He's really a very sad old man at this point.
- But Jos doesn't come; he sends a letter saying he will be there in a day or two.
- Before coming to London, Jos has to get a whole bunch of new clothes and spends the day shopping. He is as vain and metrosexual about his appearance as ever.
- Then, when he is finally on the road, he stops at every single inn along the way and eats and drinks an enormous amount of food. Obviously this makes his travel slow going.
- Finally he gets to the Sedley house.
- Amelia tells him about their mother's death. He sees how decrepit his father is and is moved by all of this. He's always been a pretty generous guy and now decides to really take care of them well.
- Jos tells Amelia that she will make a nice hostess at his house until she has a house of her own (meaning that she will marry Dobbin). Amelia shakes her head and says no way, because she will never stop loving old dead George.
- But still, it's always nice to be loved, and Amelia acts pretty nice to Dobbin because of his love for her. She tries hard not to lead him on, and thus relegates him strictly to the dreaded friend zone. She decides that she thinks of him as a brother. Ouch!
- Jos rents a nice house in a neighborhood where other people formerly stationed in India now live.
- Amelia is really happy to leave the gross little house they've been renting all this time. She's also happy to leave behind the Clapps, who apparently have not been the best of landlords. She leaves all her furniture except the piano which someone (ahem, Dobbin) bought back for her at the auction of all their stuff when Mr. Sedley first went bankrupt.
- Dobbin is totally excited to see that she kept it and asks about it. Amelia, who all along has thought it was George who bought it for her, is like, "Oh, I love it so much since George bought it for me."
- Dobbin is completely defeated and crushed.
- Based on his reaction, Amelia suddenly realizes that George never bought her any such thing. Um, because he was a selfish jerk.
- She apologizes to Dobbin for not realizing it was him, but then she no longer wants to play the piano again.
- Dobbin finally busts out with all his love. He tells her he's loved her forever and ever and asks why she doesn't care about him.
- Amelia cries. Like always. About everything.
- The narrator snipes a little something about her really, really not being worth it.
- She then does her thing about only loving dead George and asks Dobbin to be her friend. She criticizes him for not coming sooner, since maybe he could have prevented George Jr. from having to go live with Mr. Osborne. (Um, how exactly?)
- Dobbin doesn't have anything to say to this and just asks to be able to see her often, to which she agrees. The narrator sums it up nicely by quipping that Dobbin was now "at liberty to look and long – as the poor boy at school who has no money may sigh after the contents of the tart-woman's tray" (59.40).
Returns to the Genteel World
- Now that she is restored to reasonable wealth again, Amelia suddenly regains a bunch of her old "friends." Maybe frenemies is a better word? In any case, Miss Osborne and Dobbin's sisters now start to visit her. She starts to make friends with Jos's circle of India retirees.
- She does well. The women like her OK, and the men like her better.
- Dobbin comes to the house almost daily. The person there who likes him the best is George Jr., who is now allowed to come visit a lot more frequently.
- Dobbin is the only person that George Jr. is a little scared of and impressed by. Which is interesting, since Dobbin is the only person who does not brag about his own accomplishments nor think extremely highly of himself. The narrator tells us that this marks him as a gentleman, and George Jr. is able to sense that somehow.
- Dobbin takes the boy to the theater and tells him stories about his father. In turn, George Jr. tells Amelia how much he likes Dobbin.
- But Jos? Not such a huge fan of George Jr. And actually, the feeling is mutual.
- Jos starts to live the life befitting a man of his level of importance. Soon enough he even gets presented at Court, which makes him a very devoted fan of the King. Remind you of anyone else? (Name starts with a B and ends with ecky.)
In which two Lights are put out
- Not long after Mrs. Sedley's death and Jos and Dobbin's return, Mr. Sedley takes a turn for the worse. Clearly he's about to die.
- Amelia takes care of him during his final days, and Mr. Sedley loves her more and more for it. Finally he apologizes for how he and her mother were angry with her over her excessive devotion to George Jr.
- Aw, folks – closure.
- The narrator talks a bit about how a good death is quiet, calm, resigned, and reconciled.
- Mr. Sedley dies.
- Mr. Osborne is one of the few people who even remembers who Mr. Sedley was, and his death really affects him.
- Also, he figures out two things: 1) Dobbin has a really impressive military career, even though he is modest and doesn't really talk about it; and 2) Amelia and her family were basically supported almost solely by Dobbin while Mr. Osborne refused to acknowledge their existence. Mr. Osborne is floored by this discovery.
- He makes up with Dobbin and invites him to dinner a few times.
- Then Mr. Osborne leaves his card with Jos. Jos comes over to dinner at the Osborne mansion a few times.
- Seems like a slow reconciliation is in progress.
- But, it's not to be. Remember how the title says that two lights are going to be put out? Sedley was one. You can probably guess who number two will be.
- Yes, that's right. Just before he can make up with Amelia, Mr. Osborne has a stroke or something – some kind of medical issue where he can't talk but lives for a few more days.
- Finally he dies.
- It turns out that Osbourne changed his will again just before he died. He leaves half of his property to George Jr. and the other half is split between the two Osborne sisters. Wow, crazy, since originally George was written out of the will entirely.
- Also he leaves Amelia 500 pounds a year, which is a pretty amazing fortune (she's been living on about 50 a year before), and enough to Dobbin to buy him his next rank, Colonel.
- Amelia is happy to hear that Mr. Osborne apparently forgave her and dead George before he died, and she in turn forgives him too.
- She and George Jr. go to visit the old Osborne mansion before it's taken apart and sold.
- As soon as everyone learns how much Amelia now has, they start being nice to her again. Suddenly old friends come out of the woodwork to visit her.
- But she's bored to pieces with the company of Jos's friends and Mrs. Frederick Bullock's friends. (Remember her? She's the other Osborne sister.)
- So a trip abroad is proposed!
- (And yes, we promise this novel will end eventually. Just not quite yet.)
- A few weeks later it's the season for the British to go abroad. They apparently do this en masse every year at a particular time.
- On the ship Jos acts like a big-time traveler but gets very sick when the actual journey starts.
- They see the Bareacres family, who sit alone and talk to no one on board.
- George Jr. is having fun, running around, eating a ton of food, and generally acting like a normal little kid for once.
- After they land, Jos is obsessed with meeting the king and queen of every country they come to – which apparently is reasonably easy at this time for someone of his rank.
- Amelia loves it there. She walks around with Dobbin, who carries a little stool and sketching things for her. He plays soldiers with George Jr.
- While they are outside enjoying the weather and nature, Jos sleeps a lot.
- Dobbin takes Amelia to the opera for the first time in her life. She takes to it like a duck to water and starts to finally become at least a little bit educated and cultured.
- The narrator reveals that Dobbin a true gentleman, the only one in the novel (and one of very few in real life).
- Finally they get to Pumpernickel, a town in Germany. (Like the bread!) It's sleepy, quiet, lovely, and adorable.
- Suddenly the narrator turns into an actual person and tells us that he met Dobbin, Amelia, Jos, and George Jr. in Pumpernickel while they were there.
- What on earth? It's a jarring thing, this narrator switching.
- In any case, they like the town so much that they decide to stay there for a while before continuing their trip.
In which we meet an old Acquaintance
- Immediately Jos starts getting himself into the highest ranks of the little town's society.
- The British ambassador to the town, Lord Tapeworm, makes friends with everyone. He recommends a doctor whose miracle diet will make Jos skinny (which Jos is totally psyched for), flirts with Amelia (who doesn't really get what he's doing), and gets them all invited to dinner at court with the local duke and duchess.
- When Amelia is all dressed up for going to court, her beauty knocks Dobbin's socks off.
- Pumpernickel is a lovely little place, with cute architecture, beautiful gardens, great theater, and a small but very fancy court.
- All the nobles and aristocrats that find themselves there together become friends because society is less formal abroad.
- The politics of the place revolve around which soprano is better at the opera and the blood feud between Tapeworm and his French counterpart.
- Everyone has a great time, and even Amelia finally finds some people to be friends with.
- Soon a royal wedding is going to be celebrated, so a big festival is set up. There's lots of food, of course, and games for the peasants. One of these games is climbing up a pole to get a prize at the top. George Jr. gets one of the prizes and gives it away to a peasant.
- The other fun thing is a gambling room that's set up for just one week.
- George Jr. goes there with Jos's valet and sees that there are women gambling there, not just men. Because this is kind of taboo, the women are allowed to wear masks.
- George Jr. sees one masked woman playing roulette and constantly losing until her last two coins are gone. She turns around and looks at George Jr. for a little while, then asks him in French whether he'd like to play.
- She gives him a gold coin from her purse and tells him to put it on any number. He does and immediately wins – beginner's luck.
- She thanks him and he tells her that his name is Osborne. He is about to talk to her more when Dobbin grabs him by the shoulder and drags him out of there.
- Who is the mystery woman, you're all wondering? OK, probably not. It's not really that much of a mystery.
- In any case, Dobbin yells at Jos and his valet for bringing George Jr. to the gambling room. But they are both pretty drunk and not worth arguing with, so Dobbin just takes George Jr. home and gives him a stern lecture about never ever gambling.
- Jos meanwhile comes to table where the woman is and sits down next to her.
- She suddenly tells him that his nephew is the spitting image of his father and that she has never forgotten him and their earlier times together.
- Jos kind of flips out and demands to know who she is.
- And it's...Becky. Of course.
- Becky tries one last bet and even cheats to move her piece from red to black, but loses again when red comes up. Then she tells Jos to find her at her hotel.
A Vagabond Chapter
- So what exactly has Becky been up to this whole time? The narrator would really like to catch us up with her but, well, her doings aren't really appropriate for polite conversation.
- The narrator makes a now-famous comparison between Becky and the sirens of Greek mythology. Sure she's really pretty sitting on a rock and singing, but only as long as you don't look too deep under the water to see her monstrous tail and the carnage and corpses of her devoured victims.
- Take that, Becky!
- Within the bounds of politeness, we learn that Becky has been traveling all over continental Europe, seeking out small colonies of British people to live among. Her life is a repetitive cycle now. She finds some people, befriends them, tells them her version of events, they believe her and like her, and then one of two things happens. Either she gets bored with normal, repetitive, daily life, or somehow one of the new friends gets word from London about her background, or the actual deal with Lord Steyne, or something else. Then she moves on to another place.
- It's a cycle, but also a downward spiral. Her social standing, and the standing of her friends, keeps getting lower and lower. She starts to drink more and gamble.
- Ever the thrill seeker, Becky starts to need a constantly higher order of thrills.
- Eventually she sinks low enough to try to get on the stage as a singer. But sadly, at this point her voice has been ruined by the drinking and the hard life she's been living.
- Finally, the last straw. One day, in Italy, she somehow manages to get an invitation to a fancy party, and who should be there but...Lord Steyne!
- Becky smiles at him and suddenly flashes back to memories of her former glory.
- He sees her and loses his, ahem, composure.
- The next day she goes for a walk in the fashionable district of town to try to see him, but is instead intercepted by his valet. The man tells Becky that if she stays in Italy, she will get sick and die. (Hint, hint. Her illness would most likely be a fatal case of knife-to-the-throat.) Steyne is still enraged at what happened and will never forgive her.
- Becky gets scared and leaves the city.
- Soon after this, though, Steyne has a series of fits and dies. His heirs and mistresses scramble over his inheritance and fortune.
Full of Business and Pleasure
- The morning after his night gambling, Jos dolls himself up as best as he can and goes to visit Becky.
- She lives on the upper floor (i.e., the cheapest room) of a quasi-Bohemian kind of hotel where all sorts of people from students to traveling merchants are staying. It's not a nice place, but Becky kind of loves it there. She has reverted almost entirely to the kind of life she led as a little girl with her artist father. She's full of life and happy to be in the thick of relative seediness.
- When Jos knocks she quickly hides her liquor, lets him in the room, and immediately begins to tell him her story.
- Her version is that she is blameless and a victim of the Crawley family's evil scheming. Also running through her story is the implication that she is still deeply in love with Jos.
- After a while, Jos "went away, convinced that she was the most virtuous, as she was one of the most fascinating of women, and revolving in his mind all sorts of benevolent schemes for her welfare" (65.18). So yeah, Becky can still bring it.
- Jos tells Amelia and Dobbin about how sad and miserable Becky is. Dobbin is all, yeah right. But as soon as she hears that Becky was "forced" to give up little Rawdon Jr., Amelia decides to go visit her and try to make her feel better.
- The three of them get ready and make their way to Becky's hotel.
- When they get there, Amelia runs and hugs and kisses Becky.
- Becky is actually quite moved by Amelia's PDA. She feels sort of bad about having to pretend that she's tormented about Rawdon Jr., but there's no way around it now.
- Amelia immediately falls for Becky's version of the events surrounding her marriage and separation, especially since Becky is clever enough not to speak with anger about Rawdon, but only wistfulness.
- Meanwhile Dobbin is hanging out downstairs in the hotel and overhears two students talking about Becky. Their conversation makes it clear that she is planning on putting on a concert of some sort (and selling tickets), and that she likes to have a drink or two (or three).
- Dobbin reminisces about the old days then remembers how George half-confessed wanting to have an affair with Becky two months into his marriage. (Though his memories reveal that George never actually told Dobbin how far along he had carried his plan out.)
- In any case, he is as much against Becky as ever.
- Amelia comes back to Jos and the two of them decide to let Becky stay at their house.
- Dobbin is totally outraged. He huffs and puffs, then makes an ill-timed allusion to Becky's behavior with George.
- Now it's Amelia's turn to be outraged. She basically kicks Dobbin out of the house and all the bits of love she had been kind of feeling towards him seem to dissipate.
- Man, that guy just never gets a break!
- Just as he's leaving, Becky arrives with her few belongings. She tells them that most of her luggage is still in a different city, waiting to be forwarded. (Um, yeah, not so much.)
- They have dinner without Dobbin, and George Jr. wonders where he is.
- Afterwards George Jr. recognizes Becky as the woman he met at the gambling rooms, and she tells him not to tell anyone. He agrees.
- The same night, Dobbin goes to dinner with Tapeworm, the British ambassador. This guy knows everything about everyone, and he tells Dobbin the real deal about Becky, Steyne, and the whole sad mess.
- Poor, innocent Dobbin is beyond shocked.
- The next morning he goes over to Amelia and Jos's house. He wants to talk them out of letting Becky stay there, but when he walks in, Becky is with Amelia. Amelia is still pretty angry, and she pulls the old "anything you say to me can be said in front of my friend" thing.
- Which is fine to say, but not actually true, of course. Dobbin is a real gentleman and can't repeat the things Tapeworm said to him with Becky there.
- He tries to say she's no good, but Becky is a much better talker and she lawyers around his arguments.
- Amelia isn't having any of this anyway, and she tells him she will never forgive him for making a reference to George's near-affair.
- Dobbin is totally crushed by the situation.
- He asks to have a word alone with Amelia and tells her it's over. He has loved her forever, and she isn't really worth the sacrifice. He tells her he is going away again.
- She is all, "What?"
- Which is to say that maybe she does actually have feelings for him after all.... Oh, the drama! But seriously, she really isn't worth it, is she?
- At dinner that night, George Jr. sees Dobbin's carriage being set up and freaks out when Amelia tells him Dobbin is going on a long trip and never coming back.
- George Jr. runs into the street, hugs Dobbin good-bye, and then stands in the middle of the road crying as Dobbin drives away. Awww. He loves his almost-stepdad.
Which contains Births, Marriages, and Deaths
- Becky is psyched to live in the comfort and affection of Amelia and Jos's place. Like she usually does when she's taken care of, she starts to try to please everyone around her. She does this quite well.
- Jos is quickly wrapped around Becky's little finger. He starts to give little parties in her honor, and a part of society immediately accepts her.
- Amelia is at first kind of put off by having to be yet again second banana to the much more dynamic and personable Becky, but soon enough Becky figures out how to please her. And that's by talking about Dobbin. A lot. Mostly about how super-wonderful he is.
- Amelia is pretty depressed about Dobbin going away. She talks about him and how good a man he is to George Jr.
- One day Becky gets her much-discussed luggage from abroad, but there doesn't seem to be anything much in it besides some papers. However, one of the things she takes out of it is...the portrait of Jos on an elephant she and Rawdon bought at the Sedleys' auction!
- She puts it up in her room and tells Jos how she's kept it all these years because it's...very...sentimentally...meaningful. Hint, hint. This is the final straw, and Jos falls head over heels into Becky-obsession.
- Jos reads in the paper that Dobbin is going to be promoted from Major to Lieutenant-Colonel.
- Amelia already knows about this because she makes George Jr. maintain a very steady correspondence with Dobbin (which George Jr. is very happy to do, of course).
- Finally, the season in Pumpernickel is over.
- Jos's doctor recommends the mineral baths at Ostend, so that's where they go.
- Unfortunately, they run into some of Becky old gambling and cheating acquaintances there. Two men in particular attach themselves to Amelia in the hopes of marrying her and getting her money. Becky feels terrible about this. She tries to get Jos to leave Ostend, but he is a slow mover. As a last resort, Becky decides to have it all out with Amelia.
- She brings up Dobbin. Amelia tells her that she really tried to be into him but couldn't ever get over George.
- At this, Becky shows Amelia the note that George wrote asking her to run off and get it on with him. Amelia cries a little bit but is actually relieved that she is no longer bound to George's memory.
- Becky tells her to write a letter to Dobbin, and Amelia says...that she already has! Nice!
- Two days later, Dobbin comes to Ostend, and as soon as he gets off the boat, he and Amelia hug and kiss and make up. Then they get married. The narrator mocks Dobbin for finally getting what he's wanted for eighteen years, because Amelia is clearly no great shakes. But, to each his own.
- And now, here is what happened to everyone we've met.
- Peggy O'Dowd's husband is now a Major-General and they live back in Ireland.
- Colonel Dobbin resigned his army commission and he and Amelia now live near Queen's Crawley. Amelia has a daughter with him.
- At Queen's Crawley, Pitt is no longer in Parliament as a result of the Reform Bill. Lady Jane and Amelia become fast friends. George Jr. and Rawdon Jr. become good friends too, eventually going to the same college, and then fighting over Jane and Pitt's daughter, with whom they both end up in love.
- No one mentions Becky.
- Becky and Jos travel everywhere together, and "that infatuated man seemed to be entirely her slave" (67.66). Jos takes out a huge life insurance policy, and Dobbin goes to Brussels to find out what the deal is. Turns out Becky and Jos live in different suites in the same hotel. Jos has nice things to say about Becky, who it seems has taken care of him through some weird illnesses, but he also seems very scared of her. He says he insured his life so she would be taken care of if something happens to him.
- Dobbin asks Jos to get away from her somehow, maybe go back to India. Jos breaks down and says that he'd love to escape, but he's too scared to leave with Dobbin straightaway.
- Three months later, Jos dies.
- The insurance company cries foul play and refuses to pay. Becky hires lawyers. Oddly enough, they have the same names as a bunch of recent mass-murderers. Hmm...a hint perhaps? Finally, the money is paid.
- Rawdon dies at his post in Coventry Island.
- Pitt dies.
- The estate and title go to Rawdon Jr. as the next male heir. (Oh, did we mention that Jane and Pitt's son died? He did, without too much fuss on the narrator's part.)
- Rawdon Jr. refuses to have anything to do with Becky, though he does pay her an allowance.
- Becky lives well at the resort town of Bath. She has friends there who love her, along with some enemies.
- Dobbin loves Amelia less now. Mostly he loves his daughter and his history books.
- The end. Woohoo!