Vanity Fair: Chapter 51,52,53,54,55

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Summary - Chapters Fifty One, Fifty Two, Fifty Three, Fifty Four and Fifty Five

In Chapter Fifty One, we are told that after being invited to Lord Steyne’s parties, ‘some of the very greatest and tallest doors in the metropolis’ were now open to Becky. At first her success excites her, but then it begins to bore her.


A description of a game of charades ensues and Becky impresses (and frightens) the gathering when she performs the part of Clytemnestra. After a successful evening for Becky, Rawdon walks home with Mr Wenham but is stopped by bailiffs and taken away. Wenham says he does not have enough money to spare him from this action.


Chapter Fifty Two takes the readers back to events leading up to Rawdon’s arrest. With Lord Steyne’s influence, little Rawdon is to be taken on at the prestigious Whitefriars boarding school. Rawdon misses him and this sentiment amuses Becky, but his sister-in-law Jane shows him kindness.


Having been instrumental in little Rawdon’s move to school, Lord Steyne determines to find out how much Briggs is still owed by Becky. He discovers the amount is (and always was) £600 (whereas Becky had earlier told him the amount was over £1,000). Lord Steyne laughs at his own naivety and Becky rises further in his estimation. When he asks her about the discrepancy, she blames Rawdon and says he took the money and claimed he paid Briggs. After a discussion with the lord, Becky tells Briggs she is no longer needed as a companion and Lord Steyne has a position for her at Gauntly Hall.


Jane and Sir Pitt Crawley think it is wrong to dismiss Briggs and suggest Rawdon chaperones Becky more closely. Sir Pitt also believes Lord Steyne visits too often and Rawdon makes sure he is present when he appears. Becky claims she prefers Rawdon’s company to ‘old Briggs’, but when he falls asleep her face is ‘haggard, weary and terrible’. It is shortly after that Rawdon is arrested by the bailiffs.


Chapter Fifty Two continues with an explanation of where Rawdon is taken. He is being held at Mr Moss’s establishment and writes to Becky the next day with instructions on how to pay his debt. The day passes, though, and her reply does not come until tea time. She is light-hearted in the note and says ‘Milor’ will see if he can lend her the money tomorrow. Rawdon writes to Sir Pitt and Jane, and Jane comes to his rescue. He walks home and hears laughter inside. There are no servants about and Lord Steyne and Becky are alone together upstairs. He is about to kiss her hand and she is covered in jewels.


She tells Rawdon she is innocent and asks Lord Steyne to say the same. The lord thinks a trap has been set for him and damns her. He says she is not innocent and he has paid for all the trinkets she is wearing. He adds that he has given her thousands, which he thinks Rawdon has spent, and then calls Rawdon a bully.


Rawdon calls Lord Steyne a liar, a coward and a villain and hits him. He tells Becky to remove her jewellery and he then throws a diamond ornament at him. Rawdon demands Becky’s keys to find the money that has been referred to and eventually discovers the £1,000 bill and more in her secret desk. He says how she could have spared £100 to release him from the bailiff. He then informs her he will pay back Briggs what is owed to her as well as some of the debts and he will send the rest back to Lord Steyne. Becky repeats she is innocent, but he leaves.


In Chapter Fifty Four, Rawdon visits Sir Pitt and tells him his relationship with Becky is over. He thinks she and the lord set the bailiffs on him and implies he is going to duel with him. He asks Sir Pitt and Jane to be a friend to his son and Sir Pitt agrees. They part by shaking hands after he gives Sir Pitt £600 to pay back Briggs and some money for Becky.


Rawdon visits Lord Steyne’s home next and leaves his calling card. He tells the servant to inform his master that he will be in the Regent Club any time after 1 pm. After this, Rawdon goes to Knightsbridge Barracks to see his friend and comrade, Captain Macmurdo. He acts as Rawdon’s second and writes to Lord Steyne to arrange a duel. The chapter ends with a man being sent to Rawdon’s home to retrieve some clothes. The man returns with nothing as the landlord is keeping the possessions and the servants are revolting over not being paid.


Becky’s maid, Fifine, leaves the house with many of Becky’s possessions (including jewels) in Chapter Fifty Five. Fifine goes on to set up a milliner shop in Paris under the patronage of Lord Steyne.


There is then a description of the servants rebelling against Becky and Raggles says how she has ruined him. She blames Rawdon and says he left with £1,500. They let her go to find Rawdon and she arrives at Sir Pitt’s at 4 pm. She tells Sir Pitt she knew of Lord Steyne’s partiality, but was using it for the family’s advantage. She claims she used it to ‘look for’ a peerage for him. Jane enters and criticizes Becky, and says he must choose between them.


The narrative shifts back to Rawdon and Macmurdo in the club. Rawdon discovers, through a newspaper report, that he has been appointed the Governor of Coventry Island. (This has been brought about with Lord Steyne’s influence). Wenham then talks to Rawdon and Macmurdo on behalf of the lord. He claims he and his wife were also invited to Becky’s on the night Rawdon found her with the lord, but had been unable to attend. Rawdon does not believe him but feels as though his prey is escaping him.


After Wenham leaves, Sir Pitt comes to the club to try to reconcile Rawdon with Becky. Rawdon refuses, but he goes on to accept the position of Governor and makes Becky a ‘tolerable annuity’. He writes regularly to his son, who is never visited by Becky and spends his Sundays and holidays with his aunt Jane.


Analysis - Chapters Fifty One, Fifty Two, Fifty Three, Fifty Four and Fifty Five

The criticism of the aristocracy continues through the depiction of Lord Steyne as his machinations to have Becky to himself are detailed. She is seen to play a part in this, of course, and it is left open as to whether she is as ‘innocent’ as she declares.


Chapter Fifty Five marks the end of Rawdon and Becky’s marriage as he is seen to take the moral high ground for the first time. By accepting the position of Governor, he leaves Becky and the carefree (with the emphasis on ‘free’) lifestyle behind.

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