Show me the money!

Last week, we discussed Becky’s claim that she could be a good woman if she had 5,000 pounds a year. This notion of morality seems somewhat Marxist, affirming the materialistic idea that action is bound with economics, or simply relative and circumstantial. Thackeray continues to question the concept of morality in a superficial and vain world. The novel does not endorse Becky’s claim, but exposes her utter selfishness which is at the root of her abuse of money.

Becky’s pursuit of fortune constantly tarnishes her integrity. Becky price gouges her carriage and horses to Jos in his panic-stricken state in the midst of the war: “Rebecca measuring the value of the goods which she had for sale by Jos’s eagerness to purchase, as well as by the scarcity of the article, put upon her horses a price so prodigious as to make even the civilian draw back” (320). Becky and Rawdon continue in their toxic irresponsibility to gamble and live on credit. Becky and Rawdon’s abuse of money again shapes their morality as they effectively bankrupt Briggs and Raggles, “….and though the poor wretch was utterly ruined by the transaction, his children being flung on the streets, and himself driven into the Fleet Prison; yet someone must pay even for gentleman who live for nothing a-year….” (372). Becky’s selfishness pervades her environment. Her love for money seems to be greater than the love she has for her own son. He only becomes useful to her at the end of the novel when he financially supports her. Her adulterous and utilitarian relationship with the rich Lord Steyne reveals her lack of dignity. In the midst of Mr. Sedley’s death, Osborne tells George:  “You see….what comes of merit and industry, and judicious speculations, and that. Look at me and my baker’s account. Look at your poor grandfather, Sedley, and his failure. And yet he was a better man than I was, this day twenty years—a better man I should say, by ten thousand pound” (607). Thackeray seems to be making a clear statement on morality standing independent of one’s economic situation.

This notion becomes subverted as Becky likely kills Jos in order to live off his insurance policy and ironically live a life of charity: “She busies herself in works of piety. She goes to church, and never without a footman. Her name is in all the Charity Lists.” (689) In a sense, the novel comes around full circle, as she does “become a good woman”, but her charity is false and unconvincing. Thackeray insists that Becky’s lack of virtue does not arise out of her financial situation, but underlies her pursuit of wealth at the expense of those around her.

 

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