Study Guide

Vanity Fair Chapter 32

By William Makepeace Thackeray

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Chapter 32

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)
  • Whoa.
  • 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.

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