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 Vanity Fair Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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Vanity Fair: Metaphors

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Amelia’s Piano

This piano represents Amelia’s past and is a relic of both her youth and her family’s previous wealth. It also symbolizes Dobbin’s love for her as he buys it when the contents of her parents’ home are being auctioned off.

 

As well as being a reminder of his love, it also represents Amelia’s blinkered view of her dead husband, George Osborne. She chooses to believe in his goodness, despite evidence to the contrary, and for years she incorrectly thinks he had the generosity to buy this piano for her.

 

George Osborne’s Note to Becky

This note is a useful plot device and because its contents are not revealed until the final pages, Amelia is allowed to spend most of the novel grieving over a husband who, it transpires, was unfaithful in spirit if not fact.

 

It also represents betrayal and is a concrete sign of Osborne’s vanity and untrustworthiness. When Becky reveals the contents, Osborne is demonstrated to be as lacking in moral virtue as she has been rumoured to be.

 

The Painting of Joseph on an Elephant

This painting was purchased by Becky and Rawdon at the auction of the Sedleys’ possessions. It was bought jokingly, but its reappearance later in the novel means that it comes to symbolize Becky’s opportunism and Joseph’s vanity. When she shows him she has kept the painting for over a decade, he is willing to believe she has had affection for him for this length of time.

 

The painting is also one of the novel’s many allusions to the expansion of British colonies. It is a reminder of Britain’s colonising ventures, and these are ridiculed through the deflation of figures such as Joseph. 




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