Vanity Fair–Textual Puzzle

“It is those who injure women who get the most kindness from them–they are born timid and tyrants, and maltreat those who are humblest before them.” (page 496, Norton edition)

This aside by our narrator in chapter 47 grabbed my attention immediately.  The narrator says this during the time of Amelia’s giving Georgy away to his grandparents, and the reader has just learned that, despite Amelia’s ardent attempts to show love to Georgy, her love is unrequited.  Georgy “had sprung up with the sun and put on the new clothes” the morning of his permanent departure from his mother; Thackeray makes a point to illustrate how little Georgy cares about his mother (496).

I began to pity poor Amelia, but when my eyes read this main quote, I stopped pitying and began thinking.  This quote is two-faced; rather, it addresses (and accuses) both men and women.  The former part of the quote easily applies to both George and his son Georgy.  Both men took advantage of Amelia’s quiet and submissive disposition and socioeconomic status.  While both men rarely took time to show how they loved Amelia, she still continued to dote upon George and Georgy.  This constant devotion leads me to the latter part of the quote.

Amelia radiates timidity throughout Vanity Fair, and how easy is it to apply the adjective “tyrant” to Becky!  But, within the context of this quote, Amelia is not guiltless of this charge.  If being a tyrant means that one mistreats “those who are humblest before them,” then Amelia is guilty of tyranny towards Dobbin.  Dobbin was the only character who watched and listened to Amelia, and loved her for who she was.  Buying her a piano is an obvious sign of attachment, yet Amelia never shows any gratitude or appreciation towards Dobbin.  Perhaps Amelia, in marrying George, has also become a participant in Vanity Fair–becoming so involved in herself and in her life that she is completely oblivious to the one, true friend that she has.

Once again, Thackeray plants tiny seeds in our minds that make us think heavily on the topic of women in Victorian society.  Is Amelia to be pitied?  Or is she foolish for blindly chasing after an unattainable love in both George and Georgy?  Can we hold her responsible for becoming a tyrant, or is society to blame?

Nothing ever seems to be entirely clear in Vanity Fair.  The absolutes are often obsolete.

18 thoughts on “Vanity Fair–Textual Puzzle

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