Contradictory Statements- Professions for Women- Virginia Wolf

 

In the Victorian Age, genteel women were looked down on for working. Supposedly, this view had changed but it seems that she is trying to make writing look easy and effortless. Woolf is trying to make it appear as if it is not work. She describes her writing simply as moving a “pen from left to right.” If she really wants to get rid of these stereotypes, why is she including them in her writing?

One of the reasons I think she would do this is to add a layer of complexity to her writing. She writes about how she is sure she has killed the Angel of the House, but is not sure if she can tell “the truth about [her] own experiences as a body.” Her excluding the frustrating nature of her work is another way for her to reiterate her point. She does not feel like she is able to tell the truth about her experiences, so she doesn’t.

Another reason could be that Woolf is just not aware of it, which still adds a beautiful complexity to her writing. She wishes to get free from these hindrances to her writing but she hasn’t been able to. She still suffers underneath them and tries to make light of her work. For example, she tells the reader she wrote a novel because she wanted to buy a car. Instead of admitting that she wanted to write a novel, she made the reason frivolous and shallow. But then why would she do that? So people won’t know how much important her writing is to her? As self-protection for if the novel is bad? Or maybe she makes it seems like it was effortless so that she can be hailed a genius?

I have no idea. She is either a woman stuck under the conventions she wishes to get rid of or she is a genius writer who knows exactly what she is doing. There may be another option in there but I can’t think of it.

A Novel without a Hero?

One of the titles for Vanity Fair is “A Novel without a Hero.” Is this true? Does Vanity Fair not have a hero? My inclination would be to say Dobbin is the hero of the novel. He is the most honorable and selfless character in Vanity Fair. All others pale in comparison to him because every character seeks only their good. There is no question that Dobbin is nobler than all the other characters. However, is he part of Vanity Fair? Does he qualify to be a part of its selfishness and shallowness? On one hand, Dobbin shows how he unselfishly gives of himself and of his means for Amelia and Georgy (and even George). He constantly provides for them and his only aim is to make Amelia happy. For example, he convinces George to marry her because he knew it was what she wanted most, even though it was contrary to his own desires. Yet, is he selfish in constantly and obsessively thinking about Amelia? Almost every action he takes is somehow related to her. Amelia thought about no one but George and his happiness and she is looked down on for it. Shouldn’t our opinion of Dobbin be the same? He lavished love on a person who did not deserve it. Both Amelia and Dobbin loved a person who was not worth their time. So, since Amelia is part of Vanity Fair, shouldn’t Dobbin be too? Can a person truly be a hero and still be part of Vanity Fair?

Georgy and George

Amelia’s love for Georgy is obviously a reflection of her all-consuming love for her late husband. Just as her whole life revolved around George when he was alive, her whole life revolves around Georgy. So then, why does the narrator say that Georgy is an “improved” version of George (388)?  Georgy could be an improved version of George, in Amelia’s eyes, because he cannot leave her. Georgy is completely dependent on her and listens to whatever she says, because he is a child. On the other hand, George could and did leave Amelia whenever it was convenient for him to do so. He constantly left her to talk to or be around Becky. Georgy could also be considered an improved version of George (though Amelia may not think so) because he is not completely George. George was riddled with character flaws, like selfishness and faithlessness, to which Amelia continues to be completely blind. So, Georgy could be an improved version because George’s character and temperament is softened with parts of Amelia’s sensitive character. Georgy is a mixing of both Amelia and George. The narrator says that Georgy is like George “as if come back from heaven” (388). Since Amelia could be considered an “angel in the house,” the mixing of both Amelia and George could result in an innocent, holier version of George.

War in Vanity Fair

The narrator clearly criticizes the characters for their uncaring, flippant attitude towards the looming war. The first time he mentions the war he says, “and about the war that was ensuing… people were going not so much to a war as to a fashionable tour” (263). However, he later dismisses the war, and the characters going to it, as easily as the characters do. The narrator mocks the characters’ vanity since they only care about what is happening in their own lives and not in the greater world. So, why does he do the exact same thing?

The narrator could be bringing both himself and the reader down to the level of the characters. We, like the main characters, don’t care about what is happening in the war. We care about what is happening with the characters and their unimportant lives. The readers are more interested in the day-to-day lives of others, rather than a war with important consequences.

The narrator could also just be criticizing the characters further. Since the characters did not go “farther with the [soldiers] than to the city gate” (293), neither will we. The characters are so wrapped up in themselves that they completely forget the combatants after they have left (except Amelia). The narrator, as the “Manager of the Performers,” has to stay with them in Vanity Fair, instead of pursuing worthier subjects.

 

 

Source: Thackeray, W.M. Vanity Fair. 1st. New York: WW Norton& CO., 1994. 1-689. Print.