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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Download Vanity Fair as PDF

by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, was a published as a serial during 1847- 48 by William Makepeace Thackeray. An English journalist and novelist who specialized in satire, Thackeray also published works under pseudonyms such as Michael Angelo Titmarsh and George Savage Fitzboodle. His novel Vanity Fair derives its title from a location in Bunyan's allegorical work, A Pilgrim's Progress, which features an endless fair of sin and vice meant to distract man from his higher nature. Whereas Bunyan's was a prolonged indictment of the bleakness of human nature, Thackeray's work was more a work of entertainment, one which became an immediate critical hit. It is to this day considered a treasured work of English literature. In the era of monthly installments with cliffhanger chapters (for which Dan Brown would make a bagillion dollars doing), Vanity Fair ruled the day. It's a grande soap opera; a literary Sex in the City. It hooked the whole reading public of London for a year and a half and propelled Thackeray to fame.

Though it takes a bit to get rolling, with myriad characters coming onto the scene, when it does start to rip the payoff is worth it. We have Amelia, an aristocratic debutante who's kind and naive and shallow. There's Rebecca Sharpe, Amalia's opposite and the novel's central character. She's a cunning, cruel, heartless and vile - her only interest is her own. The novel is set during the Napoleonic Wars in early 19th century England; its characters, however - lying, cheating, social-climbers - couldn't be bothered with international conflict, as it doesn't pertain to their self-interest. As in Pilgrim's Progress, Vanity Fair is a place without God. To wit Thackeray remarked: "What I want is to make a set of people living without God in the world. . . greedy, pompous, mean, perfectly self-satisfied for the most part and at ease about their superior virtue." Why would you want to read a book like this? Well, it does have a happy ending (swear!).


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