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William Makepeace Thackeray "Vanity Fair". Analysis of the Chapter Xlviii

In: Novels

Submitted By MariaMSU
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William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair
Analysis of the following chapter:
Chapter XLVIII: In Which the Reader Is Introduced to the Very Best of Company

In the chapter Rebecca Sharp finally is presented at Court — the height of her ambition. The omnipresence of the author making philosophical diagrations on different matters is a characteristic feature of the novel. The passage contains of two paragraphs, and the most part of it is the author’s phylosophical and ironic contemplation on Vanity Fair representatives’ relation to those being presented at Court and to the King himself.
The figure of the King is the central one in the extract. Portaying the King, Thackeray uses the words with positive connotations: “the Good, the Magnificent, the Great”, etc. They acquire the opposite sense in the context. And this is a common feature of ironic description. Irony turns to be the key device of the passage.
In the presence of the monarch the representatives of the Vanity Fair seem to be going into ecstasies: “How they cheered, and cried, and waved handkerchiefs. Ladies wept; mothers clasped their children”. We observe here many sentences with homogeneous parts, parallel constructions, which are used to give a full image of a crowd cheering in the presence of their monarch. And, so, George V is represented as The King of the Vanity Fair.
The process and consequences of being presented to the Sovereign at Court are likened to the sacrament of the Eucharist. In the first paragraph we may also find such words as “virtue”, “virtuous”, “ordeal”, coming from religious discourse, which shows the absurdity of the situation, when monarch is perceived as God and worshiped.

Here parallels with “The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come” by John Bunyan are quite evident. It is a well-known fact that Thackeray borrowed the name of his novel from the writing. «The Pilgrim's Progress» is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature. In the writing Christian, an everyman character, who is the protagonist of the allegory, goes on a journey from his hometown, the "City of Destruction" ("this world"), to the "Celestial City". On his way he meets Faithful, also a former resident of the City of Destruction, who accompanies him to the city named Vanity, where Vanity Fair is set up. There all sorts of vanity are sold, and it lasts all the year long. At this fair one may find “houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen juggling cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers, and that of a blood-red colour”. Christian and Faithful are arrested, as they are only ready to buy truth and nothing else. And at court the figure of the Prince of the town appears. Faithful is accused of being a rebel, because he did not perceive the Prince as God. The judge remains the audience that “There was an Act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, a servant of our Prince, that whosoever would not fall down and worship his golden image, should be thrown into a fiery furnace. There was also an Act made in the days of Darius, that whoso, for some time, called upon any god but him, should be cast into the lions' den”. And these rules are still actual and valid in the city.
So, we may find some parallels between Thackeray’s Vanity Fair representatives’ relationship to their King, and that of the inhabitants of the Vanity city from the “Piligrim’s progress” by John Bunyan.

At last Becky's kindness and attention to the chief of her husband's family were destined to meet with an exceeding great reward, a reward which, though certainly somewhat unsubstantial, the little woman coveted with greater eagerness than more positive benefits. If she did not wish to lead a virtuous life, at least she desired to enjoy a character for virtue, and we know that no lady in the genteel world can possess this desideratum, until she has put on a train and feathers and has been presented to her Sovereign at Court. From that august interview they come out stamped as honest women. The Lord Chamberlain gives them a certificate of virtue. And as dubious goods or letters are passed through an oven at quarantine, sprinkled with aromatic vinegar, and then pronounced clean, many a lady, whose reputation would be doubtful otherwise and liable to give infection, passes through the wholesome ordeal of the Royal presence and issues from it free from all taint.

It might be very well for my Lady Bareacres, my Lady Tufto, Mrs. Bute Crawley in the country, and other ladies who had come into contact with Mrs. Rawdon Crawley to cry fie at the idea of the odious little adventuress making her curtsey before the Sovereign, and to declare that, if dear good Queen Charlotte had been alive, she never would have admitted such an extremely ill-regulated personage into her chaste drawing-room. But when we consider that it was the First Gentleman in Europe in whose high presence Mrs. Rawdon passed her examination, and as it were, took her degree in reputation, it surely must be flat disloyalty to doubt any more about her virtue. I, for my part, look back with love and awe to that Great Character in history. Ah, what a high and noble appreciation of Gentlewomanhood there must have been in Vanity Fair, when that revered and august being was invested, by the universal acclaim of the refined and educated portion of this empire, with the title of Premier Gentilhomme of his Kingdom. Do you remember, dear M--, oh friend of my youth, how one blissful night five-and-twenty years since, the "Hypocrite" being acted, Elliston being manager, Dowton and Liston performers, two boys had leave from their loyal masters to go out from Slaughter-House School where they were educated and to appear on Drury Lane stage, amongst a crowd which assembled there to greet the king. THE KING? There he was. Beefeaters were before the august box; the Marquis of Steyne (Lord of the Powder Closet) and other great officers of state were behind the chair on which he sat, HE sat--florid of face, portly of person, covered with orders, and in a rich curling head of hair--how we sang God save him! How the house rocked and shouted with that magnificent music. How they cheered, and cried, and waved handkerchiefs. Ladies wept; mothers clasped their children; some fainted with emotion. People were suffocated in the pit, shrieks and groans rising up amidst the writhing and shouting mass there of his people who were, and indeed showed themselves almost to be, ready to die for him. Yes, we saw him. Fate cannot deprive us of THAT. Others have seen Napoleon. Some few still exist who have beheld Frederick the Great, Doctor Johnson, Marie Antoinette, &c.-- be it our reasonable boast to our children, that we saw George the Good, the Magnificent, the Great.

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