Study Guide

Vanity Fair Chapter 49

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Chapter 49

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.

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