Vanity Fair: Top Ten Quotations

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  1. ‘Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural,’ answered Miss Rebecca. ‘I’m no angel.’ And, to say the truth, she certainly was not. p. 11 This reference encapsulates Becky’s combative understanding of herself and human relations generally. The satirical, teasing tone is similarly maintained throughout the novel.
  2. She had previously made a respectful virgin-like curtsy to the gentleman, and her modest eyes gazed so perseveringly on the carpet that it was a wonder how she should have found an opportunity to see him. p. 22 In this instance, Becky’s flirtation with the preposterous Joseph Sedley is described.
  3. Vanity Fair is a very vain, wicked, foolish place, full of all sorts of humbugs and falseness and pretensions. p.98 This quotation exemplifies how the readers are constantly nudged by the omniscient narrator. Here, the narrator reminds us of the novel’s intent to satirise all of the characters.
  4. Her heart was dead long before her body. She had sold it to become Sir Pitt Crawley’s wife. Mothers and daughters are making the same bargain every day in Vanity Fair. p. 185 The custom of marrying for money and prestige are critiqued here.
  5. From a mere sense of consistency, a persecutor is bound to show that the fallen man is a villain - otherwise he, the persecutor, is a wretch himself. p. 227 This quotation explains why Osborne senior is so intent on ostracizing Sedley once he has lost his fortune.
  6. Next to conquering in war, conquering in love has been a source of pride, time out of mind, amongst men in Vanity Fair, or how should schoolboys brag of their amours, or Don Juan be so popular. p. 380 At this point, George Osborne’s flirtations with Becky have been described and denounced. The narrator makes the broader point that Osborne is not alone in his vanity and interest in infidelity and secret liaisons are reflected in the wider culture.
  7. I wonder is it because men are cowards in heart that they admire bravery so much, and place military valour so far beyond every other quality for reward and worship? p.400 This reference appears as Dobbin, Osborne and the rest of their regiment are ordered to leave the town to fight Napoleon’s army. The case is made here that it is cowardice rather than courage that incites wars.
  8. And who knows but Rebecca was right in her speculations, and that it was only a question of money and fortune which made the difference between her and an honest woman? p. 575 Although Becky is always denounced as avaricious and untrustworthy, the case is made that she is not alone in her outlook. This is made more specific here, as it is implied that her lowly class position means that she is deemed a worse sinner than those with greater wealth and opportunity.
  9. Those who know the English colonies abroad know that we carry with us our pride, pills, prejudices, Harvey sauces, cayenne peppers, and other Lares, making a little Britain wherever we settle down. p. 885-6 Here, the narrator makes an open reference to English colonisation. The tone is as satirical as ever and deconstructs the inflated importance of the Englishman and woman abroad. It is also a reminder of how this colonisation fed off the colonies that were being ‘settled’.
  10. He had placed himself at her feet so long that the poor little woman had been accustomed to trample upon him. She didn’t wish to marry him, but she wished to keep him. p. 925 This reference appears when Dobbin finally decides that he must separate himself from Amelia as she is still in love with her dead husband, Osborne. This also demonstrates how Amelia is not as naïve in her treatment of Dobbin as she is with others (such as Becky). She, too, is guilty of vanity.

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