This installment begins with a description of the style of living practiced by George and Amelia. When Amelia wants to visit her mother, George goes to the theater. Here Thackeray interposes an essay on mothers.
Amelia, married nine days, feels apprehensive rather than happy. "Something which, when obtained, brought doubt and sadness rather than pleasure . . . harmless lost wanderer in the great struggling crowds of Vanity Fair." George gets his money from his father's solicitor; the clerks there prophesy no good end for him. Certain that the outcome of the war will be good, George sends Amelia out to buy dresses and gimcracks. Dobbin's fine military appearance causes Jos to feel friendly, and George's regiment thinks more highly of him after meeting his attractive wife. Mrs. O'Dowd takes Amelia under her protection and begins to connive how she can marry Glorvina to Jos. As usual she talks about Ireland.
The regiment departs for Belgium, Jos and the ladies following in grand style. Jos' pseudo-military appearance makes a great impression, the impression he desires. The gaiety of Brussels with its gambling, feasting, and dancing, entertains Amelia until Crawley's regiment arrives. For reasons she cannot define, Amelia's heart fails.
With the coming of the Rawdon Crawleys, the banterings and courtesies so often a prelude to love begin between George and Becky. Though Amelia does not understand exactly why, she is unhappy. Meanwhile, Becky also plays up to General Tufto.
Dobbin tries to persuade George to quit gambling. At a brilliant ball, George, enamored of Becky, leaves a note in her bouquet. Wretched and depressed, Amelia has gone home to bed. That night the marching orders come. George, overcome by remorse, wishes he hadn't flirted with Becky, hadn't wounded Amelia, hadn't spent money so recklessly, nor quarreled with his father. In shame and remorse, he embraces Amelia.
With such an interrelated play of characters in this section, the reader will find it simpler to regard each individual without concern for chronology.
Amelia's viewpoint is not that of Vanity Fair; her happiness is centered neither in turtle soup nor pompous show. "Love has been her faith hitherto . . . [she] took her opinions from those people who surrounded her, such fidelity being much too humble-minded to think for itself." Later the author calls her a parasite. Popular with the regiment, Amelia blossoms until Becky comes, begins flirting with George, and shows even the gentle Amelia that Becky cannot be trusted.
Even minor characters reflect Vanity Fair. The valet is ashamed of Amelia's address. Greed appears in Bullock, whose "yellow face was over a ledger . . . happened to be in the banking room when George entered. His yellow face turned to a more deadly colour . . . " The family of Bareacres "flung off that happy frigidity and insolence of demeanour which occasionally characterizes the great at home . . . and . . . condescended to mingle with the rest of the company whom they met there . . . 'we needn't know them in England, you know.'"
A true son of Vanity Fair, George insists that Amelia attend the O'Dowd party, although he is ashamed of Mrs. O'Dowd. He cultivates the Lady Bareacres, who will cut him if she ever sees him in London. Later George boasts to Rawdon of his friendship with the Bareacres and tolerates Mrs O'Dowd because she keeps Amelia out of his way. He lets the General assume that he George Osborne is of the Peciage Osbornes. He feels himself kind because he lets Amelia buy new clothes
But George has better moments When the call to battle comes he regrets his involvement with Becky: "Oh how he wishes that night's work undone! and that with a clear conscience . . . he might say farewell to the tender and guileless being by whose love he has set such little store."
Another loyal citizen of Vanity Fair, Joseph is proud to speak to Dobbin when the latter appears important in military uniform. Joseph assumes an air of authority, gives out military information and bravado. He likes the Belgian servant to call him "my lord."
The plot moves forward when Becky conquers General Tufto and begins to flirt with George. Meanwhile she hoodwinks her husband, who condones his wife's behavior and thinks himself too dull for her.
Rawdon shows his better qualities by friendliness to the Osbornes when they first arrive — Becky barely nods — and by talking to Amelia when she is otherwise neglected.
Becky hints at her Montmorency ancestry, criticizes Amelia, works at climbing toward that booth in Vanity Fair. It makes no difference that Amelia is the victim. "Women only know how to wound so. There is a poison on the tips of their little shafts, which stings a thousand times more than a man's blunter weapon. Our poor Emmy, who had never hated, never sneered all her life, was powerless in the hands of her remorseless little enemy."
To reinforce the wholesome character of Amelia, as opposed to Becky, Thackeray brings in Dobbin, the foil for George and Joseph. Dobbin befriends Amelia, tries to influence George to stop gambling, and acts as a balance wheel for tfle whole group. Dobbin, undoubtedly, is the hero of the novel, but since this is Vanity Fair, Thackeray points out that Dobbin's feet are too big; he has neither the physical charm nor the duplicity required of the dwellers in Vanity Fair.