Critical Essays Satire in Vanity Fair


Samuel Chew notes that Thackeray spent much of his time "parodying and satirizing romantic sentiment" and that he "possessed a terrible power to detect and expose men's self-deceptions, shams, pretenses and unworthy aspirations."

Also, Thrall and Hibbard in the section on satire in their Handbook refer to Thackeray as one of the "later satirists," along with Byron, following in the great tradition of the "golden age of satire" characterized by the writings of Dryden, Swift, Addison, Steele, Pope, and Fielding. Thackeray as satirist, then, should not be overlooked even in a cursory review of Vanity Fair.

Considered standard among a good many students and teachers of literature is the Thrall and Hibbard definition of satire — "A literary manner which blends a critical attitude with humor and wit to the end that human institutions may be improved." Accepting this definition the student of Thackeray would do well to examine some of the ways Thackeray employs satire—mainly by (1) the use of names, (2) irony, and (3) humorous situations.

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