Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Summary and Analysis Chapters 57-60

Summary

Old Osborne likes to think of Sedley's being forced to accept charity from him. He hints to Georgy that his mother's father is a wretched old bankrupt, whereupon Georgy patronizes the old man.

Amelia's nature is to sacrifice herself and to think herself guilty of selfish love, thereby accounting for her punishment through loss of the first George and surrender of the second. She devotes herself to her mother. After her mother's death, she takes care of her father, who becomes very fond of her. Amelia has the consolation of doing her duty.

Major Dobbin, upon getting leave to go home, has become ill and at Madras the attendants despair of his life. He has made his will with a request that a hair chain of Amelia's hair be buried with him. Finally, he has been put aboard a homeward bound ship, which has Joseph Sedley as a passenger. Jos, wealthy, is returning to England for his health. Dobbin continually discusses Amelia with Joseph. When Joseph proves to Dobbin's satisfaction that Amelia is not planning on marriage, Dobbin swiftly recovers. He exults in high spirits and is depressed only when the ship is delayed.

Dobbin and Joseph descend from the boat amid cheers. The major wants to leave immediately for London, but Jos wants a good night's sleep. Dobbin, ready to leave early the next morning, departs without the sleepy Jos. Dobbin flings money about to hurry the trip. He goes to his old haunt, the Slaughters', where the old waiter remembers which room he always had and his other preferences. Dobbin recalls his days there with George. The old waiter asks about Mrs. George Osborne.

Dobbin dresses carefully, thinking that if the old waiter recognizes him, Amelia will. Dobbin trembles as he nears Amelia's home. The little girl who used to call him Major Sugarplums comes to the door and recognizes him. He hugs and kisses her; he is so glad to be back. The Clapps bring him up to date on news, but he is afraid to ask if Amelia is married. Miss Polly Clapp offers to take him to find Amelia and her father in Kensington Gardens. On the way they meet the Reverend Mr. Binney walking with his wife and sister. At Polly's explanation that the reverend has married Miss Grits, Dobbin is delighted.

When they see Amelia and her father, Dobbin sends Polly ahead to tell Amelia he is there. At first Amelia thinks there is something wrong about Georgy. Then, when she sees Dobbin, she begins to cry, runs to him. They hold hands. Dobbin misses his cue to take her in his arms and reports he has another arrival to announce. She asks if it is his wife. Horrified at this suggestion, Dobbin says it is Jos. Emmy runs to tell her father, who is much delighted.

Although Dobbin has claimed to be in a hurry, he has time to go back to tea, his eyes always on Amelia, dreaming of her as he has always done. Amelia shows him Georgy's miniature and praises the child. Dobbin tells Mr. Sedley that Jos has come home particularly to see him, because Dobbin wants the Sedley family on good terms among themselves. When Mr. Sedley dozes, Amelia talks more about Georgy, claiming that he is the image of his father. Dobbin won't allow himself to be jealous of her eternal devotion to George but believes that George didn't prize her enough.

Old Mr. Sedley can't rest for putting his papers in order for Jos. On his part Jos is delayed because he has to buy a couple of splendid, colorful vests before he goes to London. On the third day the fashionably attired "Waterloo Sedley" drives to London, stopping to eat and drink every time he has a chance. Dobbin has made Jos promise he will make a home for Amelia and their father, and Joseph tells them they will never want again.

When they move to the new home, Amelia takes her pictures and the piano that she thought George had sent, after the family's financial failure. Dobbin is delighted with her attachment to the piano, even though Amelia thinks George, instead of Dobbin, sent it. Amelia guesses the truth from his expression, and thereafter the piano loses its value for her. She apologizes to William for not appreciating his gift, and he can't stand it any longer. He declares his love, but Amelia loves only George.

After Jos comes home, fortune smiles on the Sedleys. Little Georgy likes and respects Dobbin and learns some new values — not those of Vanity Fair. Georgy mimics Uncle Jos, who doesn't appreciate the humor.

Analysis

Thackeray comments on life:

. . . think how mysterious and often unaccountable it is — that lottery of life which gives to this man the purple and fine linen, and sends to the other rags for garments and dogs for comforters.

And so, if you properly tyrannize over a woman, you will find a halfp'orth of kindness act upon her, and bring tears into her eyes, as though you were an angel benefiting her.

Oh, be humble, my brother, in your prosperity! . . . whose virtue is a deficiency of temptation, whose success may be a chance, whose rank may be an ancestor's accident, whose prosperity is very likely a satire.

Some examples of Thackeray's figures of speech are: "To a traveller returning home it [the English landscape] looks so kind it seems to shake hands with you as you pass through it." Dobbin's dream of Amelia is a "bread-and-butter paradise." Joseph's Indian servant's brown face is the "colour of a turkey's gizzard." William sighing over Amelia's indifference is like ". . . the poor boy at school who has no money may sigh after the contents of the tartwoman's tray."

Thackeray uses names to characterize. Some of the names in this section are: Little Ricketts, who has fevers; Fogle, Fake & Cracksman, a business firm; Baron Bandanna; The Reverend Felix Rabbits, who has fourteen daughters.

"Waterloo Sedley," unchanged since the reader met him, shows his character by vanity in dress and in the tales of himself and great personages, and in his love of nobility; but he is generous with his family when he is forced to see their need. He can't stand Georgy's making fun of him. He has books but never reads them, gifts for people he hasn't yet met. He loves to eat, sleep, and talk.

Dobbin shows his ability to manage little George when the latter doesn't want to go into the pit at the theatre because it's vulgar. Dobbin leaves Georgy where he wants to sit and goes into the pit himself. Soon shamefaced Georgy joins him. Georgy is growing up — a cause for optimism.

Thackeray says of Dobbin, "I am ashamed to say that the major stretched the truth so far as to tell old Mr. Sedley that it was mainly a desire to see his parent which brought Jos once more to Europe." The difference between Dobbin's deceptions and those of Vanity Fair is that Dobbin acts out of unselfish motives, whereas citizens of Vanity Fair think first of themselves. Dobbin even lacks personal vanity to the extent that he is not jealous of the attention young officers pay Amelia. He thinks they are showing good judgment.

Of Amelia the author says, "Emmy was very ignorant, and that is a pity, some people are so knowing." Although Amelia is still the gentle comforter who wipes away her father's tears and kisses him, she has acquired more character. Mrs. Clapp, one of the lower class who still lives in Vanity Fair, wants to fawn on Amelia, but "in the vulgar sycophant who now paid court to her, Emmy always remembered the coarse tyrant who had made her miserable many a time."

In regard to Thackeray's technique, his time sequences are not always clear — sometimes his flashbacks aren't identified, as in Chapter 59 Joseph assures his father and sister they shall never want again. Five paragraphs later, Amelia gets a letter from Jos saying he will be delayed. He hasn't yet left Southampton.

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