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

Major Themes

In Vanity Fair, as the name suggests, Thackeray portrays a true picture of society with its superficiality and its artificial adherence to virtue. He has satirized his times and he is as great a satirist as he is a moralist. He has presented the fact - how vanities corrupt manís morality. He portrays characters, which are in fact, puppets, animated by their personal vanities and go to any length to justify them.

Thackeray, with his realism, tries to convey to his reader that vanities only make men ridiculous and corrode the goodness and simplicity of their hearts.

Minor Themes

Besides vanities, Thackeray has also tried to show that money may be important for survival, but men and women should not be staunch worshippers of Mammon. Almost all inhabitants of Vanity Fair hanker after money. The more mankind inclines towards money, the farther it goes from simple humanity.

Also, most people are deeply materialistic. They value things and possessions to their children and relations. They pamper and care for their relations for they have ulterior motives. Thackeray gives the example of Old Osborne and Miss Crawley, in order to make the readers realize that what is of most significance is selfless love and care.

With the example of Rebecca, Thackeray also shows the ills of too much ambition and determination. Becky is ambitious to climb the social ladder and on her way to reach the top, she is not only a failure as a wife and mother but also as a human being.


MOOD

Vanity Fair has characters who are either bad, or with streaks of grey in them. There are rarely any characters, who are consistently good. Hence selfish, conniving and materialistic characters lend the book a very bleak mood.

The beginning of the novel has a mood of expectation, as the ladies are out of finishing school. It gets more and more dark as the narrative advances. The war chapters create a mood of tension and worry as the principal male characters are participating in the war.

The post war phase of the novel is essentially bleak as it repeatedly speaks of and exposes the vanities and vices of society, even though the humorous and sarcastic comments of the narrator bring some respite. Therefore, the novel being so vast does not have a single dominating mood.

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