Vanity Fair and Metafiction

It’s always interesting when a writer breaks the fourth wall and creates little meta-moments. Of course, this happens frequently in Vanity Fair. What are we to make of it? It’s true that it may heighten the Realism. But it’s also true that it makes the work less realistic—life doesn’t have narrators and novelists guiding the way and shaping your moral opinions. Thackeray writes “The novelist, it has been said before, knows everything.” He knows everything which is happening in the story because he wrote it. There is a deeper implication that he knows everything morally, which is a bit disconcerting.

These meta-moments may also give the reader a chance to assess the novelist/narrator himself. We usually know little about the narrator if he isn’t part of the story-world. Vanity Fair’s meta-moments may serve to let the reader characterize the narrator and make judgments for himself. After the narrator says the novelist knows everything, says “My son,–I would say, were I blessed with a child—you may by deep inquiry and constant intercourse with him, learn how a man lives comfortably.” We learn that the narrator may be childless (which may have bearing on his assessment of mother/father/child relationships). We learn that he views fatherhood as a gift, supposing he is being sincere. This statement could also position the reader as the son and the narrator as the father. This reinforces the idea of the narrator as a moral guide.

15 thoughts on “Vanity Fair and Metafiction

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