Vanity Fair: Chapter 46,47,48,49,50

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Summary - Chapters Forty Six, Forty Seven, Forty Eight, Forty Nine and Fifty

The narrative moves to the Sedleys in Chapter Forty Six and explains how Amelia has to scrimp in order to dress Georgy well. His aunt, Jane Osborne, yearns to see him and after the first time Amelia reluctantly allows more contact. On one of these visits Georgy meets his grandfather (Osborne senior) and afterwards he formally offers to take Georgy and make him heir to his fortune. He would also give Amelia an allowance and would not withdraw it if she married again. If she agrees to this, Georgy would live with the Osborne’s permanently and she could see him occasionally. This offers comes in a letter, which is torn up by Amelia in anger.


She does not tell her father about it as he has his own concerns. He has entered into another failing venture and Joseph’s money is not paid to them any longer. Because of the lack of money, Amelia has to cancel the order for Georgy’s new Christmas clothes. She then decides to sell a shawl that Dobbin gave her and buys Georgy some books. Her mother criticizes her for this as she has had to sell every trinket she has. Amelia had not realized the extent of the family’s financial problems and gives her the rest of the money she received for the shawl. Amelia believes ‘her selfishness was sacrificing the boy’ and sees the benefit of Osborne senior’s request: Georgy could have the ‘wealth, station, education’ his father forfeited for her.


Chapter Forty Seven changes tack and gives the background to Lord and Lady Steyne’s family trees. A mention is made of one of their sons who is thought to be locked up for insanity. Lord Steyne defies this threatening ghost of madness with hedonism. This chapter finishes with a reference to Sir Pitt attending Lord Steyne’s parties because, despite his notoriety, he is a ‘respectable man’ and ‘Lord Lieutenant of a County’.


In Chapter Forty Eight, Becky is at last rewarded for her ‘kindness and attention’ to Sir Pitt. His wife, Jane, is to present her to the Sovereign at Court (which will give her the character ‘for virtue’). She takes the lace for her dress from clothes she took from Sir Pitt’s London house when it was being renovated and is wearing diamonds that he gave her (without telling his wife). Becky lies to Rawdon and tells him that she hired them.


After being presented at Court, Becky severs links with her more ‘dubious’ female friends. She is delighted when Lord Steyne’s wife and daughter-in-law leave their calling cards, and is later invited to their home.


When Lord Steyne and Becky talk at her home, Briggs annoys him with her sighs. After she has left the room, Becky explains that she cannot turn her out as she has borrowed all of her money. He asks her how much, and she doubles the amount. He gives her this money and with £150 of it she pays off some of her debts and buys Briggs a gift. She keeps the remainder (which is a larger, unspecified amount) in one note and hides it in a desk given to her by Amelia. Her jewels are also secreted here.


Chapter Forty Nine describes Lord Steyne’s battle to get his wife and daughter-in-law (Lady Gaunt) to invite Rawdon and Becky to their home. Lady Gaunt is seen to hold ‘the very highest rank in Vanity Fair’ and is a Bareacre by birth. We are told incidentally that the Bareacres are now bankrupt. At the dinner, Becky refers to their meeting in Brussels and asks Lady Gaunt’s mother if her diamonds are safe now.


It is not until the ladies are alone that Becky sees the ‘correctness’ of Lord Steyne’s statement that she should ‘beware of the society of ladies above her own sphere’. When ‘poor little Becky’ walks up to a group, they all walk away. Eventually, Lady Steyne takes pity on her and asks her to sing and play the piano. After that, the evening is a success for Becky and when the men enter, they crowd around her.


In Chapter Fifty, the Sedleys are in debt to their landlord and since the withdrawal of Joseph’s annuity they have been almost on a ‘famine diet’. Amelia struggles with the idea of giving up Georgy or marrying Reverend Binny, but can do neither. She writes to Joseph to ask him not to withdraw his support; she does not know that he is still making the payments, but her father sold the annuity to fund one of his schemes. When Sedley admits the truth about Joseph’s money, she thinks she must now give up Georgy. She writes to the Osbornes to let them know. Georgy is ‘rather elated’ when she tells him he is to live with his other grandfather and brags to his friends about how he will go to a finer school. A parallel is then drawn between father and son: ‘The boy was the image of his father, as his fond mother thought.’ After only two days at the Osborne home, Georgy has developed ‘a slightly imperious air and patronizing manner’. On the days when he does not come to Amelia, she sits in Russell Square and looks up to his room and prays.


Analysis - Chapters Forty Six, Forty Seven, Forty Eight, Forty Nine and Fifty

As Amelia finds it necessary to give her son over to Osborne senior, Becky strives to become accepted in society. With the help of her association with Lord Steyne and Sir Pitt, this now becomes possible.


Although Becky’s many faults, such as vanity, pride and greed, are made all too clear throughout the novel, it is also evident that the apparently saint-like Amelia is also blemished. This becomes even more obvious towards the end of the novel, but here (in Chapter Forty Six) she is depicted as blind to the problems of those around her. She is unaware of the extent of the family’s financial difficulties and is consumed by the thought of her son’s appearance. It is not until she learns that her father has sold Joseph’s annuity that she recognizes her selfishness. Her devoted regard for her son, and late husband, is also mocked when the narrator compares the two Osbornes and points out unflattering similarities. This failure to see faults in either the son or the husband demonstrates a weakness for pride and a masochistic pleasure in martyrdom.

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