Study Guide

Vanity Fair Chapter 18

By William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter 18

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, Emmy, run! He's still the same conceited jerk he was before! OK, Shmoop is done throwing popcorn at the screen now. Moving on.

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