Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Rebecca (Becky) Sharp
Rebecca (Becky) Sharp, an intelligent, beautiful, self-centered, and grasping woman whose career begins as an orphaned charity pupil at Miss Pinkerton’s School for girls and continues through a series of attempted seductions, affairs, and marriages that form the background of the novel. Unscrupulous Becky is the chief exponent of the people who inhabit Vanity Fair—the world of pretense and show—but she is always apart from it because she sees the humor and ridiculousness of the men and women of this middle-class English world where pride, wealth, and ambition are the ruling virtues.
Amelia Sedley, Becky Sharp’s sweet, good, and gentle schoolmate at Miss Pinkerton’s School. Although married to George Osborne, who subsequently dies in the Battle of Waterloo, Amelia is worshiped by William Dobbin. Amelia does not notice his love, however, so involved is she with the memory of her dashing dead husband. Eventually, some of Amelia’s goddess-like virtue is dimmed in Dobbin’s eyes, but he marries her anyway and transfers his idealization of women to their little girl, Jane.
Captain William Dobbin
Captain William Dobbin, an officer in the British Army and a former schoolmate of George Osborne at Dr. Swishtail’s school. He idolizes Amelia Sedley, George’s wife, and while in the background provides financial and emotional support for her when she is widowed. After many years of worshiping Amelia from afar, he finally marries her.
George Osborne, the dashing young army officer who marries Amelia despite the fact that by so doing he incurs the wrath of his father and is cut off from his inheritance. George, much smitten with the charms of Becky Sharp, slips a love letter to Becky on the night before the army is called to the Battle of Waterloo. He is killed in the battle.
George Osborne, Jr.
George Osborne, Jr., called Georgy, the small son of Amelia and George.
Captain Rawdon Crawley
Captain Rawdon Crawley, an officer of the Guards, the younger son of Sir Pitt Crawley. He marries Becky Sharp in secret, and for this deception his aunt cuts him out of her will. Charming but somewhat stupid, he is a great gambler and furnishes some of the money on which he and Becky live precariously. He lets Becky order their life, and even though she flirts outrageously after they are married, he does not abandon her until he discovers her in an intimate scene with the marquis of Steyne. He dies many years later of yellow fever at Coventry Island.
Rawdon Crawley, the son of Rawdon and Becky. He refuses to see his mother in her later years, though he gives her a liberal allowance. From his uncle, he inherits the Crawley baronetcy and estate.
Joseph (Jos) Sedley
Joseph (Jos) Sedley, Amelia’s fat, dandified brother whom Becky Sharp attempts unsuccessfully to attract into marrying her. A civil servant in India, acting as the Collector of Boggley Wollah, Jos is rich but selfish and does nothing to rescue his father and mother from bankruptcy. Persuaded by Dobbin, finally, to take some family responsibility, he supports Amelia and her son Georgy for a few months before Dobbin marries her. For a time, he and Becky travel on the Continent as husband and wife. He dies at Aix-la-Chapelle soon after Amelia and Dobbin’s marriage. His fortune gone from unsuccessful speculations, he leaves only an insurance policy of two thousand pounds, to be divided between Becky and his sister.
Sir Pitt Crawley
Sir Pitt Crawley, a crusty, eccentric old baronet who lives at Queen’s Crawley, his country seat, with his abused, apathetic second wife and two young daughters, Miss Rosalind and Miss Violet. Immediately after Lady Crawley’s death, Sir Pitt proposes marriage to Becky. His offer reveals her secret marriage to Rawdon Crawley, his younger son. Later, grown more senile than ever, Sir Pitt carries on an affair with his butler’s daughter, Betsy Horrocks, much to the disgust of his relatives. He eventually dies, and his baronetcy and money go to Pitt, his eldest son.
Miss Crawley, Sir Pitt’s eccentric, unmarried, and lonely sister. Imperious and rich, she is toadied to by everyone in the Crawley family and by Becky Sharp, for they see in her the chance for a rich living. She finally is won over by young Pitt Crawley’s wife, Lady Jane, and her estate goes to Pitt.
Pitt Crawley, the older son of Sir Pitt Crawley. A most proper young man with political ambitions, he marries Lady Jane Sheepshanks, and after his brother’s secret marriage so endears himself to Miss Crawley, his rich, domineering aunt, that he gains her money as well as his father’s....
(The entire section is 2018 words.)
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