Study Guide

Vanity Fair Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

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.

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