Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Summary and Analysis Chapters 54-56

Summary

When Rawdon goes to see his older brother, Pitt thinks him drunk, then believes Rawdon wants money and offers many excuses. When Rawdon says he does not want money, Pitt sighs with relief. Rawdon tells all that has happened and says he may be killed in a duel with Steyne. Rawdon asks only that little Rawdon be cared for and Pitt promises. Rawdon secures an old soldier friend, Macmurdo, as second. Macmurdo tries to convince Rawdon that there is a reasonable doubt of Becky's guilt, but his words are wasted.

Meanwhile Becky sleeps until afternoon. When she rings for her servants, no one answers. She goes downstairs to find the servants sitting around drinking. Insolent, they refuse to obey her. Only Raggles is courteous; he laments because of his financial ruin.

Becky leaves the house and tries to get Sir Pitt to promise a reconciliation with Rawdon. Becky is kneeling before Pitt, kissing his hand when Lady Jane comes in. Irate at last, Jane tells Sir Pitt he can choose between them and sweeps out of the room. Sir Pitt promises to try to mediate peace between Rebecca and Rawdon. She has told Sir Pitt of Rawdon's appointment and how it was to be a surprise and how she knew Lord Steyne favored her; but she accepted and encouraged his attention only for Rawdon's sake. She says she couldn't trust Rawdon with money, as he is a spendthrift.

The scene shifts to Rawdon breakfasting with Macmurdo and other officers. When the two go the club, men start congratulating Rawdon. They have been talking about him and his wife's influence. Rawdon discovers he has been appointed governor of Coventry Island. Lord Steyne's man, Wenham, comes to talk to Rawdon, avoiding the subject of the duel as long as possible and regretting that he and his wife were unable to accept an invitation to the Crawleys that fatal night because Mrs. Wenham had a headache and couldn't go. He says Lord Steyne wants to forget the whole thing. Rawdon doesn't believe the story, but Macmurdo urges him to accept it.

Rawdon takes the position provided by Lord Steyne because he thinks it will infuriate Steyne to have Rawdon living off his influence. Once established, Rawdon sends gifts to his friends, makes an annuity to Becky, and writes his son regularly, meanwhile sending money to his brother for Rawdon's keep. Little Rawdon spends his holidays with Lady Jane and rides to the hounds at Queen's Crawley. His mother makes no attempt to see him.

Little Georgy, established in his grandfather's home, merits all the pride his father had won. Old Osborne plans to make little Georgy an educated gentleman. While both his grandfather and Aunt Jane adore him, his aunt, Mrs. Bullock, hates him for having taken the inheritance she has coveted for her own children.

Georgy's mother makes friends with the schoolmaster in order to see Georgy, who, quick of mind, well dressed, and flush with money, domineers everyone. In Russell Square everyone fears old Osborne, but he fears Georgy. He tries by over-indulgence to make amends to his grandson, trying to forget the harshness to his son.

Mrs. Sedley, who has been under Amelia's constant care, dies. Now Amelia devotes all her time to her father. One day two gentlemen come to school to see Georgy. They are Major Dobbin and a stout gentleman. Georgy recognizes Dobbin who asks him if his mother has mentioned Dobbin. Georgy assures him that his mother has talked of Dobbin hundreds of times.

Analysis

Sir Pitt reacts with his father's stinginess when his first thought is that Rawdon's trouble must be money. When his pocketbook isn't touched, he can relent and promise protection to little Rawdon, although after Rawdon goes to Coventry Island, he remits regularly to his brother, a consideration which shows how much Rawdon has grown in character.

Rawdon wins the reader's sympathy when he shows Macmurdo the thousand pound note and says:

This is what he gave her, Mac: and she kep' it unknown to me: and with this money in the house, she refused to stand by me when I was locked up!" The captain could not but own that the secreting of the money had a very ugly look.

The reader wonders if the withholding of the money proves to Rawdon his wife's infidelity with Lord Steyne. In Vanity Fair, the money would come first, and although Rawdon's values have changed, Rebecca's have not.

One of the most touching word pictures of the whole book is: "He [Rawdon] covered his face with his black hands; over which the tears rolled and made furrows of white . . ." Rawdon has been too disturbed to think of washing, or even of changing from his party clothes, which he was wearing when thrown into detention. Lady Jane, sympathetic, can't bear going to church after seeing Rawdon's agony.

In keeping with the pretense of Vanity Fair, Becky tells Sir Pitt a logical and convincing story of the tragic night. Wenham makes a virtuous case for Lord Steyne and Becky when he talks to Rawdon. Later, he will tell Pitt enough to estrange him forever from Becky.

In spite of the fact that Macmurdo and Rawdon are planning a duel with Lord Steyne, they pretend gaiety with their companions. Thackeray's comments, "Feasting, drinking, ribaldry, laughter, go on alongside of all sorts of other occupations in Vanity Fair . . ." A good example of contrast between those of and those not of Vanity Fair shows in Hester's care of the dying Sir Pitt and Amelia's care of her parents.

Thackeray uses a Biblical metaphor in his reference to Georgy's visiting his mother: "but when her Samuel came to see the widow . . ." Amelia has felt it a religious duty to let old Osborne have little Georgy.

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Amelia considers George’s death the greatest tragedy that could befall her. Had he lived,




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