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Free Study Guide-Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray-Book Notes
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Amelia Sedley and Rebecca Sharp leave Miss Pinkerton’s academy and are ready to face the world. Amelia is a well to do businessman’s daughter, while Rebecca (Becky) is the daughter of a poor artist and a disreputable opera dancer. Before Becky can join her employers at Queen’s Crawley where she is going as a governess for two girls, she stays with Amelia in her grand home at Russel Square.

Amelia has an elder brother, Joseph (Jos), employed in India, who returns home and Becky sees this as a great opportunity to seize and marry him. This would be her short cut to respectability, which she is out to achieve. But her hopes are shattered. She flatters and entices Jos, just enough so that he proposes to her. Jos he gets drunk out of nervousness and, to everyone’s embarrassment, creates a scene. Later, realizing the indiscretion with which he acted, Jos flees to Scotland. Becky is a little disappointed but she is all set to start afresh.

Lt. George Osborne is the handsome Godson of Mr. John Sedley, who wants him to marry Amelia. Amelia and George have liked each other since childhood. George has a devoted friend called Lt. William Dobbin, who too is in love with Amelia, but sacrifices his wishes for his dear friend.

Rebecca makes herself endearing in Sir Pitt Crawley’s home and wins over everybody. Even the old spinster sister of Sir Pitt, Miss Crawley, who has a fortune of seventy thousand pounds, is impressed with her. Sir Pitt’s elder son, Pitt Crawley, is a rather insipid man, but his younger son, Capt. Rawdon Crawley is handsome and extravagant, besides he is a favorite of his rich aunt and is to inherit all her fortune. Becky secretly marries Rawdon, thinking that the old aunt will first be hysterical but later forgive her dear nephew and her favorite companion.

On the other side, Amelia’s father becomes bankrupt and their house and possessions are auctioned. Becky buys a picture of Jos and Dobbin purchases the old Piano on which Amelia used to play and sends it to her modest home at Fulham Street. All this while, George is busy gambling and flirting with the rich ladies in London. George’s father, Mr. Osborne, is a materialistic man who forbids him to marry Amelia for now she cannot bring along any money. Dobbin cannot bear to see Amelia suffering because she is separated from George and so he compels George to accept her even in her poverty. George too is fond of Amelia and they marry without Mr. Osborne’s permission, who disowns his son for having married a ruined man’s daughter.

By this time, the war approaches and Capt. George Osborne, Capt. Dobbin, Amelia, Jos Sedley, Capt. Rawdon Crawley and Becky meet at Brighton. Miss Crawley too is in the same town for health reasons. Rawdon tries to meet her but under the influence of the rector’s wife, Mrs. Bute Crawley (wife of the mother of Sir Pitt), all signs of Rawdon’s reconciliation with Miss Crawley are erased.

From Brighton, the army moves to Brussels and during all this time Becky is out to entice George, in order to have her revenge as he had a hand in her failure with Jos Sedley. Amelia is hurt and jealous at the way her husband flirts with Rebecca. When the call for war comes, George is shaken and ashamed of his deeds. He wonders what will happen to Amelia and his unborn child if he dies at war. Amelia is hysterical with pain and fear of losing George while Becky is calm and assured that Rawdon has left her a private fortune in the form of his possessions and horses. She begins to flatter Jos once again, to prey on him incase her husband falls in the war. Amelia is furious with Becky when Becky comes to meet her, and rebukes her for letting down her old friend (Amelia). Just the noise of cannons is enough to mortally scare Jos who flees from the scene leaving Amelia in the care of the courageous and kind Peggy O’Doud.

At the end of the war, George dies and Dobbin takes care of Amelia. Old Mr. Osborne comes to see his son’s grave, but refuses to accept Amelia. Amelia is lifeless and indifferent to her surroundings after George’s death and only comes to life, once her son is born. Georgy is everything for her and she grows into a very loving, yet possessive mother. Seeing Amelia busy with her son, Dobbin leaves for India, but regularly writes to Amelia and sends gifts, books, and toys for his godson, Georgy.

Rawdon and Becky move to Paris after the war. Becky considers the Parisian high society as her practicing ground and pleases everyone there. Miss Crawley back home, refuses to forgive them. The moment the news arrives that Becky has given birth to a son, Miss Crawley chooses Pitt Crawley as her inheritor and urges the marriage of Pitt with an affluent and graceful Lady Jane.

Once Becky is respectable in Paris, she is bored as her goal achieved. She compromises with the creditor in London and they shift back to their own country, leaving a long trail of debts behind them in Paris.

In London, the condition of Sedley family gets worse with time. Amelia cannot do much for her child due to financial constrains. Miss Jane Osborne meets Georgy and also convinces her father to take care of Georgy. Old Mr. Osborne sends his lawyer to Amelia asking for the guardianship of the child; Georgy is to stay with him and meet Amelia sometimes, for parting with her son, Old Osborne is ready to pay Amelia a large sum. This agreement enrages Amelia, but later she agrees to it as she realizes that she can’t provide well enough for her son. She feels guilty at being so selfish as to obstruct the good fortune of his son and in deep anguish parts with him.

Miss Crawley dies leaving a meager sum for Rawdon and most of her property for Pitt Crawley. Rebecca and Rawdon return to London and prey upon Raggles, who is the former butler of the Crawleys. He works hard enough to earn a posh apartment, which the couple rent but never pay him a shilling. Later, poor Raggles is a ruined man because of them. Becky advises Rawdon to be on good terms with his brother and sister-in-law. Their relations improve and while Rawdon is touched by Lady Jane’s kind heart, Becky is all set to captivate Pitt with his intelligence. In the meanwhile Sir Pitt dies and Pitt becomes the new Baronet and Member of Parliament. With Sir Pitt, she gets an entry into the Court and begins to hobnob with the cream of society. Becky’s character comes to prominence as Rawdon’s character diminishes. Rawdon is busy with his son when Becky is realizing her ambition of getting respectability.

A Rev. Binney proposes marriage to Amelia but she politely refuses. Amelia gets the news that Dobbin is planning to marry Glorvina, the sister of Peggy O’Dowd, in India. She is heartbroken, but writes a nice letter blessing the couple. Dobbin is hurt to read her letter, but the last straw is the news that Amelia is marrying Rev. Binney, which comes in his (Dobbin’s) sister’s letter. Dobbin rushes to England. He is very relieved when he is informed and assured by Jos that Amelia has no such plans. Jos is travelling home with Dobbin.

Becky tries to carve a niche for herself in high society for which she uses influential people like Lord Styne. Lord Styne helps to put little Rawdon into a good school and sends Miss Briggs, her servant, (former servant of Miss Crawley) away for a better Job. He also gets Rawdon arrested for debt. Rawdon writes a frantic letter of help to Becky who makes an excuse of bad health and asks him to wait for the next day. Angry with Becky, Rawdon seeks Lady Jane’s help who obliges. In the meanwhile, Becky and Lord Styne are having a good time together and are shocked when Rawdon enters into the house. Rawdon hits Lord Styne and ignores Becky’s hysterical repetitions that she is innocent. Lord Styne tells him that he has paid large sums to Becky and Rawdon finds this true on checking her secret drawer. Rawdon is wounded at the thought that Becky did not share her money with him in the time of dire need while all his life he had shared everything he had with her. He forsakes Becky and with some hesitation accepts a position of Governor of Coventry Island offered by Lord Steyne.

Fortune smiles upon Amelia as Jos returns to take care of his family. Their parents die shortly. Georgy is very happy in his new house. Dobbin implores with Old Osborne to reconcile with his son’s wife. The patriarch agrees, but he dies before a meeting can be arranged. Nevertheless, he leaves half his property for Georgy with a good annuity for Amelia, restores her son to her, and leaves Dobbin enough money to become Colonel.

During this time, Rebecca leads the life of a vagabond moving from place to place. Whenever she settles in a place, her past is quickly known and she is uprooted from there. Soon she begins to mingle with low and cheap people.

Jos, Amelia, Georgy, and Dobbin plan a trip to Pumpernickel and have a great time together. One day, Jos meets Becky in a shabby condition, living in a cheap Inn. She quickly wins his sympathy and by narrating the false story of her son being torn apart from her by her husband’s family re-wins Amelia’s confidence. Dobbin can see through her pretensions and tries to warn Amelia who is rude to him. Dobbin realizes that Amelia does not love him and she is not worth all the adulation he has given her. He leaves in a bitter mood.

Amelia and Georgy miss Dobbin. At last, Amelia sets aside her scruples of loyalty to her dead husband and writes to Dobbin the same day that, Becky shows her proof of her late husband’s infidelity. Soon Dobbin and Amelia marry and settle near Queen’s Crawley. They establish a wonderful friendship with the Crawleys. They have a daughter whom they name after Lady Jane.

Little Rawdon is taken care by Sir Pitt and Lady Jane who become his parents. Georgy and Rawdon are good friends and fight over Lady Jane’s daughter. While Becky lives on the money Jos Sedley leaves her before dying, she is seen doing acts of charity, which is the best punishment for her.

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Free Study Guide-Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray-Book Notes


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