In his novel Vanity Fair, William Thackeray exposes and examines the vanities of 19th century England. His characters pursue wealth, power, and social standing, often through marriage or matrimony. The present essay looks at Thackeray’s use of the institution of marriage in Vanity Fair to comment on how these vanities often come at the expense of the true emotions of passion, devotion, and love. Parental Ambitions
In Vanity Fair, money is central to nearly all of the characters’ relationships. Thackeray connects England’s merchant families, the lesser nobility, and the high aristocracy through money and matrimony, and parents are frequently the chief negotiators in these business transactions. Mr. Osborne is perhaps the novel’s most avaricious parent; money and social eminence are all-important to Mr. Osborne, and he is willing to sacrifice his children’s happiness to connect his family name with these vanities. He forbids his daughter Jane to marry an artist with whom she has fallen in love with, swearing to her “that she should not have a shilling of his money if she made a match without his concurrence” (p416). For Mr. Osborne love has little to do with matrimony, and marriage is simply a transaction that should increase family wealth and prestige. This concept was by no means uncommon during the 19th century: the rise of industrialism and colonialism meant an influx of wealth into England, and marriage was seen by many as a way of either rising in station or cementing business ties. This latter theme is seen in Mr. Osborne’s interference in his son George’s relationship with Amelia. Their courtship is arranged, the “two young people [having] been bred up by their parents” (p38) …
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…und them, and not look in. She eluded them, and despised them — or at least she was committed to the other path from which retreat was now impossible. (p410-11)
Thackeray points out that Becky could have led a simple, happy life, but for her relentless desire to achieve wealth and social status. She never comes to this realization, however, and through Rebecca the author shows us how our desires for the vanities can blind us to more truer, simpler emotions. Conclusion
The marriages and mésalliances of the characters in Vanity Fair show us the folly and futility of chasing wealth, power, and social eminence at the expense of love and passion. Thackeray’s novel reminds us that there are frequently hidden costs when we make such a bargain, and the true expense is often more than we can afford.
Thackeray, William (18 ). Vanity Fair.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a Portrait of Evil
Frankenstein as a Portrait of Evil
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is more than just a story of a creation gone bad; it is rather a story of evil that compares Victor Frankenstein to Prometheus and his monster as a God-like figure. Mary was able to do this by all of the influences that she had. These influences made her able to write a new, “modern”, Prometheus that did not directly call upon God, but, however, it did directly call on evil.
The influences that Mary Shelley had were enormous. They were her husband, her parents, her friends, and her mind. Her husband, Percy Shelley, was also a great writer. To her he personified the genius and dedication to human betterment that she had admired her whole life (G.E.W.). And it was probably for this reason why Mary let him watch so closely over her while she wrote Frankenstein (Levine, 4) and why she gave him carte blanche to revise the book (5).
Her parents were also a big influence on her. Her father was William Godwin and her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft. William Godwin was a philosopher and a novelist. Mary Wollstonecraft was a feminist. From an early age she was subjected to famous philosophers, poets, and writers. She was always treated as if she was a unique individual and her parents put high expectations on her and her potential (G.E.W.). Because of all this she had a lot of her mother’s and father’s political ideas go into her book (Levine, xiii).
It was probably because of her friends that she wrote Frankenstein. They were all at a party at Lord Byron’s villa when the played the famous game that motivated her to write Frankenstein (Patterson). Supposedly she was the only one that took the game seriously (Levine, xi…
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…eing an excellent example of the portrayal of evil writing that is often found in the writing of the Romantic Period in Europe.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bloom, Harold. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. New York: Chelsea, 1987.
G.E.W. Biographical Sketch. Http://www.cc.columbia.edu/acis/bartleby/shelley/shel110.html
Levine, George. The Endurance of Frankenstein. Los Angeles: Moers, 1974.
Patterson, Arthur Paul. A Frankenstein Study. http://www.watershed.winnipeg.mb.ca/Frankenstein.html
Smith, Christopher. Frankenstein as Prometheus. http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/class/sf/books/frank/papers/FrankCS.html
Spark, Muriel. Mary Shelly. New York: Dutton, 1987.
Spark and Stanford. My Best Mary. New York: Roy,1944.
Williams, Bill. On Shelley’s Use of Nature Imagery. http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/class/sf/books/frank/papers/FrankWJW.html