Vanity Fair: Chapter 5,6,7,8,9,10

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Summary - Chapters Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten

Chapter Five shifts its gaze to give the background of a fight between Cuff and Dobbin at Dr Swishtail’s School. Dobbin is teased mercilessly at school because his father is a grocer. Boys young and old join in and this includes the younger Osborne. Despite this, Dobbin stops Cuff (the school dandy) bullying Osborne and goes on to beat Cuff in a fight that is compared to David standing up to Goliath. After this battle, Dobbin rises in the estimation of his fellow pupils and his studies improve. He sees Osborne as the reason for his happy change in circumstance and becomes his man Friday. As an adult, Osborne invites him to the re-arranged Vauxhall party. They are both in the same regiment and Dobbin is a captain. His father is also extremely rich now.


A hint of future events is made in this chapter when Osborne catches Becky’s eye when he looks in the mirror. He blushes as though attracted to her.


In Chapter Six, the Sedleys gossip about the possibility of Joseph marrying Becky and come to agree that this is a good idea. At Vauxhall, the two couples separate, and Dobbin walks alone; they then all meet up for dinner. The narrator intimates a change in events when Joseph orders rack punch. He drinks most of it and a crowd gathers to listen to him sing. Unaware of the crowd mocking him, he clings to Becky and continues to sing. Dobbin disperses the crowd and puts Joseph in a carriage to take him to his lodgings.


The next day, Osborne has decided he does not want someone in the family he is marrying into to marry a ‘little nobody’. He teases Joseph about the way he was singing to Becky and tells him he would rather have a proper lady for a sister-in-law. Osborne then visits the Sedleys and tells them of Joseph’s hangover. He also slights Becky, but she defends herself and this leads him to inform Amelia that Becky should ‘learn her station’.  Joseph does not come home that day and writes a letter to say he is visiting Cheltenham and then Scotland for some months. He asks Becky to forgive him, and everyone in the house (except Amelia) thinks Becky should leave as soon as possible. She leaves with ‘equanimity’, but believes Osborne prevented her marriage.


Chapter Seven begins with a detailed introduction to Sir Pitt Crawley’s family tree. Becky is to work for him as a governess for his two young daughters (which are the product of his second marriage) and it means she will be ‘in a much more distinguished circle’ than she had been at the Sedleys. When she arrives at his town house, she believes the man helping her with the luggage is the porter. It is, instead, Sir Pitt. He is a Member of Parliament and is in London on business. They take a stage coach next morning for his country home at Queen’s Crawley.


The beginning of Chapter Eight is dominated by a letter from Becky to Amelia. Here, she tells Amelia of the difficult times she has endured (although the readers know this is untrue). She makes references to gothic novels and compares Queen’s Crawley to the castle of Udolpho and satirizes events that have taken place. She describes their evening meal, and how one of Sir Pitt’s two sons was present and he lead the prayers. This son is Pitt Crawley, and his younger brother is Rawdon. These are his (adult) children from his first marriage.


In Chapter Nine, there is a description of Sir Pitt’s second marriage to ‘lowly’ Miss Rose Dawson. Her father was an iron monger and she is now isolated from those in her past as she is a Lady, and from those in the present as she is seen as being of low birth. Her husband often leaves her alone to attend parliamentary sessions and is known to get drunk and beat her when at home. She would have been happier married to Peter Butt, ‘but a title and a coach and four are toys more precious than happiness in Vanity Fair’. She does have a little support from Pitt Crawley, who is described as earnest and religious and he covetous of his father’s seat in parliament.


Sir Pitt’s meanness with money is elaborated on and he still owes his eldest the money left to him by his mother. The narrator reminds us of all Sir Pitt’s failings, including his ignorance and boorishness, and that he is a ‘pillar of the state’. The chapter ends with a reference to Sir Pitt’s wealthy unmarried half sister (Miss Crawley) and how pleasant he is when she visits.


Chapter Ten begins with Becky planning for her future once more and resolving to make friends with her benefactors and charges. She is respectful to Pitt Crawley and tells him her French mother was high born (and so does not tell him she worked on the stage). She gains Sir Pitt’s confidence and shows an interest in his estate.


An explanation is then given of how Sir Pitt’s two sons are rarely at home together as they ‘hate each other cordially’. The youngest, Rawdon, usually comes when his aunt makes her annual visit. She favors him and says he is worth more than his hypocritical brother. She hates Pitt Crawley’s sermons and has almost adopted Rawdon.


Analysis - Chapters Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten

Chapter Five introduces the readers to Dobbin and it is clear, even at this early stage, that he is one of the few morally upright characters in the novel. In the descriptions of his friendship with Osborne, it also made transparent that he is the kinder and more generous of the two.


As Becky is ousted from the Sedley home, she decides to continue planning for her future and appeals to the vanity of her benefactors. She plays up to the hypocrisy of others and tells them what they want to hear. It has been demonstrated at the Sedleys that if she does not do this she will be made the scapegoat if anything untoward occurs.


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