- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes

A Comparison of Two Heroines in Vanity Fair

Page 1 of 31


William Makepeace Thackeray is one of the representatives of the famous critical realism writers in Britain. Vanity Fair is recognized as his masterpiece.

There are two important characters in this story, and one of them is Becky Sharp, a clever and beautiful girl. Becky came from an economic deprived family, struggled with poverty, and made great efforts to change her own destiny. Her biggest dream was to cast off low socio-economic status and enter the upper class. Although she had never succumbed to poverty, she finally failed to overcome some difficulties and escape the influence of the family background. Becky can be seen as the most successful figure created by Thackeray, while she can be also regarded as the character he dislikes. The other character is also a pretty girl named Amelia Sedley, who is completely different from Becky Sharp described above. Thackeray's main attitude towards Amelia was disapproval. As he is not a heroine, there's no need to describe her person (Thackeray:1996). Amelia came from a wealthy and famed family, with peace of mind, desiring for true love. In the end, she married William Dobbin and led a well-off life. From a portrait of life of these two heroines, the author demonstrated his own criticism and thinking about the British society during that period of time, and reflected his thought in the patriarchal society.

Vanity Fair published in 1847 portrayed the real situation of the British society in the early 19th century. At that time, Britain had become a powerful industrial country, completed the colonial expansion, and accelerated the development of capitalism. The whole society at that time encouraged laissez-faire and free competition, which widened the disparity between rich and poor. The emerging bourgeoisie relied on the power of money, gradually approaching the edge of the nobility. Some people also took advantage of this opportunity, climbing up the upper class. Thackeray wrote this novel in order to reveal such status quo of the British society at that time. In this novel, he also revealed the living conditions of women in his time, and expressed his sympathy for them.

The reason why Thackeray shaped these two characters is also related to his personal experiences. The image of Amelia was the concentrated embodiment of his girlfriend, mother and wife. Even though the personality traits of these three women were not similar, all of them can be regarded as the ideal type of women at that time. Amelia embodied the greatest ideal for women in the patriarchal society. She was full of maternal love, which was what Becky lacked. Even if Amelia was superficial, she had the most generous selfless maternal love. And in the eyes of the author, Becky's lack of maternal love cannot be forgiven.

Selfless maternal love often means self-sacrifice to others. The emphasis on and the greatest esteem for maternal love reflects cultural slavery of women in the male-dominated society. The reason why Becky was expelled and not accepted by the patriarchal society was that she tried to pursue her own value and achieve her own implication of life, which violated the rules in the patriarchal society.

The image of women written by male authors shows the psychological reflection and subjective desire of these women. They can only be regarded as the carrier of the male-dominated culture and life experience, but cannot be used to reveal the true image of women (Chen:1995). These two images of heroines indicate the shackles of civilization imposed by the male-dominated society on women and the suppression and obstruction of the female spirit by males, and reveal the plight of female survival in a patriarchal society.

Chapter 1 An Overview of Vanity Fair

Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp were close friends, but the difference between their family backgrounds determined their diverse life paths. Becky was an orphan, outstanding and talented. But the humble family background made her being bullied from childhood. She determined to change her fate by entering the upper echelon. She was flirtatious, lying fraud, doing everything to achieve her aim. In order to occupy a place in the upper class, she betrayed her reputation and even conscience. She played trick, though once in trouble, but never lost heart and depressed. At the end of the novel, Becky turned to devote herself in charity and religious career, and the temperament became gentle and kind. This change did not because she had wake up after bitter experience and trouble, but due to her aim of keeping her property and status, restoring the lost reputation and respect. When she was in the middle age, she was considered to be treacherous, and found it almost impossible to climb to a higher position. She was not willing to lose everything she has received.

Download as (for upgraded members)
Citation Generator

(2017, 10). A Comparison of Two Heroines in Vanity Fair. Retrieved 10, 2017, from

"A Comparison of Two Heroines in Vanity Fair" 10 2017. 2017. 10 2017 <>.

"A Comparison of Two Heroines in Vanity Fair.", 10 2017. Web. 10 2017. <>.

"A Comparison of Two Heroines in Vanity Fair." 10, 2017. Accessed 10, 2017.