Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Summary and Analysis Chapters 36-38

Summary

Thackeray starts this section with an essay on how people live on nothing. He then talks about Rawdon and Rebecca, who are settled in Mayfair, entertain all the time, yet have no money, except what Rawdon makes by gambling.

The story reverts to the time in Paris when Rawdon has gambled with other soldiers. Colonel O'Dowd has warned Spooney about gambling with Rawdon, at which Becky and Peggy O'Dowd have quarreled. Only Rebecca's intervention with General Tufto has prevented Rawdon's being returned to England.

Rebecca makes Crawley sell out of the Guards so they can return to England to pursue his fortune. Becky spreads the news that Rawdon will inherit from his dying aunt; she orders mourning for herself and little Rawdon. She then skips out on her hotel bill, goes to England, and arranges with her husband's creditors to settle for a percentage of what is owed. Becky then goes back to the Continent, rejoins her son and husband; and the three return to London.

They hire a house from Mr. Raggles, formerly Miss Crawley's butler. This business arrangement is Raggles' downfall, for he is not able to collect the rent and ends up in Fleet Prison because he can't pay his debts. Here Thackeray moralizes on how the gentry rob the servants. Rawdon and Rebecca patronize all Miss Crawley's former tradesmen and pay nobody.

When Pitt inherits Miss Crawley's fortune, Becky insists Rawdon congratulate him and ingratiate himself into his brother's good graces. Rebecca determines that Lady Jane shall sponsor her in London society.

Rebecca secures a woman for her "house-dog" and companion. She neglects little Rawdon but hires a French maid to take care of him. The boy becomes a great favorite with his father, who brings him toys and plays with him. Rawdon takes the boy to see his old trooper friends. One Sunday morning Rawdon and the boy meet Georgy Osborne, who is walking with his grandfather, Mr. Sedley. Georgy and little Rawdon become friends.

The reader is now brought up to date on Amelia, Dobbin, and Jos. After leaving Brussels, Jos has returned to India, where, because of his many tales, he has earned the name of "Waterloo Sedley."

Amelia has continued to pine for George and has devoted all her time and thought to little George whom she sees as an improved edition of his father. When Mrs. Sedley has attempted to give Georgy some medicine, Amelia has objected and the two women have quarreled.

Mr. Sedley has suspected Dobbin of trickery over the money that has been supposedly left at George's death. Actually the money has come from Dobbin's own pocket because of his love for Amelia. Amelia has accepted whatever Dobbin has told her and has not known how much she owes him. Dobbin is always sending gifts for her and Georgy. Dobbin's sisters have told Amelia that Dobbin is to marry Glorvina O'Dowd. Amelia has protested her happiness about it, but tears have clouded her eyes. Mrs. Sedley knows that Dobbin loves Amelia, but Amelia won't talk of it.

Analysis

The subterfuges Becky has learned from her poverty-stricken father come into play here, not only in her dealing with creditors but in her beginning affair with Lord Steyne. She foresees the necessity of protecting her reputation by hiring a female companion. The greatest flaw in Becky's character (and the one which will contribute to her downfall) is her neglect of little Rawdon. She has no affection for him and scorns Rawdon's paternal love for the boy. Thackeray presents both the dark and the light aspects of his characters. In answer to those critics who think Thackeray too cynical, one should examine the development of Rawdon from a coarse soldier to a devoted husband and father, albeit not a provider. He considers himself too dull for his wife and lets her have her own way. Although he does not realize it, he has become known as "Mrs. Crawley's husband." Thackeray also shows the better side of the braggart Jos. He does provide money for his parents, but his pride and better judgment do not permit him to be taken in by his father's attempt to force him into participation in the questionable wine business. Even the gentle Amelia rises to an unsuspected height of spirit when she defies her mother's medication of Georgy. And although Thackeray does not permit the reader inside Amelia's mind, he lets him see the tears when she hears Dobbin will marry Glorvina. The honest Dobbin, although not of Vanity Fair, practices deception in keeping the Sedleys from knowing how much he has done for Amelia.

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