Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Vanity Fair. Place on the way to the Celestial City that John Bunyan created in The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678, 1684), which represents the destructive temptations of the world. For Thackeray, “Vanity Fair” is likewise the place where lusts and pleasures are bought and sold, but for him the moral dimension of the threat of damnation is minimized. His Vanity Fair is mildly amusing and satirical; his characters are like puppets, jockeying for social position and money. His novel has no hero or heroine, but only his panoramic view of various versions of Vanity Fair, all filled with snobbery and acquisitiveness.
Miss Pinkerton’s Minerva House Academy
Miss Pinkerton’s Minerva House Academy. Girls’ school in which the wealthy Amelia Sedley and her orphaned friend, Rebecca Sharp, are trained. The importance of position and money is immediately obvious in the academy, for Amelia is polished with husband-acquiring skills, while the orphan Rebecca must earn her keep by teaching French, and she must also soon become a governess in the household of the wealthy Lord Pitt Crawley. The social contrast between the two students is also made obvious in parallel scenes at Dr. Swishtail’s School, whose male students include the wealthy and snobbish George Osborne and the modest grocer’s son, William Dobbin.
*Vauxhall. Pleasure gardens in London that represent Vanity Fair in microcosm, with their love of display, dark walkways, and matchmaking. There, Amelia plans a party and includes her brother Jos Sedley, a perfect counterpart to Vauxhall itself, foolishly vain and pleasure-seeking. Becky works hard to charm Jos in the hope of escaping from having to work for her living, but Jos’s overindulgence in punch and his friend George’s snobbery prevent her from snaring him.
Great Gaunt Street
Great Gaunt Street. London street on which stands the gloomy home of Lord Pitt Crawley, to whom Becky reports for work as a governess. Crawley finds Becky attractive, and she vows to make good use of all opportunities to advance herself in his home. His house, though grand with family portraits, is ruled over by no handsome baronet, but by a dirty, vulgar, and lewd old man. However, his country home, Queen’s Crawley, proves to be a fertile ground for the shrewd Becky. She wins the affections of those who count in the household, especially wealthy old Miss Crawley, whose fortune and ill health make her everyone’s focus. This wretched family is driven by greed, jealousy, and snobbery, and its members’ very names reflect their vain, empty, selfish lives: “Rawdon” and the other “Pitts” of “Gaunt” Street and Queen’s “Crawley.”
*Park Lane. Home in London’s Mayfair district of Miss Crawley, to which Becky is called to care for the wealthy, ailing, old woman. Comic but...
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Compare and Contrast
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. William Makepeace Thackeray. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Contemporary critical anthology brings together essays on Thackeray’s main novels. Excellent starting place for discussion of Thackeray’s major works.
Harden, Edgar F. The Emergence of Thackeray’s Serial Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979. Discussion of the serial structure of five novels, including Vanity Fair, with focus upon the manuscripts and process of composition as the novels evolved. Explains how the fact that the novel was written in serial installments shaped its form.
Ray, Gordon N....
(The entire section is 219 words.)