A&E Original Movie
Vanity Fair: Part 4
Overview: Vanity Fair, a Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray, is a novel of English society in the early 1800s set during the Battle of Waterloo. Published in serial form in 1848, Thackeray poked fun at the vanity of man; most of the novel’s characters are pompous people who are motivated by greed; humility is in short supply. The novel follows the lives of two women, Becky Sharp and Amelia (Emmy) Sedley. Becky and Emmy are in marked contrast throughout the novel. Becky is destined to become a governess, but she is clever and schemes her way out of her humble beginnings. In Becky, Thackeray has created one of the most bold and determined female characters in an early Victorian novel.
History: The year is 1815. Napoleon, Emperor of France from 1804-1815, escapes from his banishment on the island of Elba, and rebuilds his army (Tape 2, VIS CODE 45:00). The Battle of Waterloo is imminent. Thackeray’s characters Rawdon, George, and Dobbin prepare to leave for battle from Brussels, where the English army awaits marching orders. The Battle of Waterloo was fought in a village south of Brussels on June 18, 1815. At Waterloo Napoleon received a crushing blow from the Allies (British, Dutch, German, and Prussian troops), who were led by Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. The Allies lost about 22,000 men and the French about 37,000. The word “waterloo” has come to mean a disastrous or crushing defeat. The French never regained the power they once enjoyed under Napoleon. The English king during this time was George IV. Queen Victoria, queen when Thackeray wrote Vanity Fair, gained the throne in 1837 and ruled for 64 years.
1. History (Era 7, Standard 32) – Students will gain a general understanding of early 19th century life in England (country estates, seaside resorts, and London). Events leading up to the Battle of Waterloo are illustrated, including the pageant-like preparations of the English in Brussels; the Battle itself is shown in colorful montages.
2. Geography (Standard 2) – The following places figure in the film: London, England; Brighton, England; Brussels, Belgium; Waterloo, Belgium; India; Coventry Islands.
3. Language Arts (Standard 9 & 10) - William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, a Novel without a Hero, (1848), is a captivating story of English society during the Napoleonic Wars. The novel was published in monthly parts, 1847-48. It is considered a masterpiece, peopled with characters from all walks of life – kings, rogues, swindlers, gamblers, ladies, officers, and gentlemen – hence the novel’s title, Vanity Fair.
VIS CODE 8:00 - Many English prepare to flee Brussels as rumors circulate that Napoleon will be in Brussels any day. Lady Bareacres tries to buy Beckys horses, but Becky will not sell to her. Why not? (Because Lady Bareacres cut Becky socially, and Becky will not forget it. She has the upper hand, she knows it, and she uses it gleefully.)
VIS CODE 23:20 34:00 - The English army defeats Napoleons French troops at Waterloo. The victors march into Brussels. Rawdon and Becky are ecstatic to see each other; meanwhile Dobbin tells Emmy that George is dead. Dobbin prepares to go to Calcutta with the army. Why doesnt he ask Emmy to marry him? (Emmy is consumed with being a widow. She has put Georges memory on a pedestal, and she worships it. Dobbin knows this, and although he loves Emmy, he knows he cannot compete with her affections for a dead man.)
VIS CODE 38:00 - Discuss the manner in which the Becky and Rawdon manage to live well on no money. (Becky and Rawdon live by their wits -- her ability to both scheme and charm, and his ability to win money at cards and billiards. People like Raggles, from whom they rent, assume that because they are Crawleys they have the money to pay. Beckys charm keeps the bailiffs at bay, but it is Rawdons social standing, as a gentleman and a newly made Colonel, that gets them into the social situations in which they can ply their swindling schemes.)
VIS CODE 40:00 Becky saucily plays the piano for a room full of men including Lord Steyne while Rawdon wins their money at cards. What is the Crawleys game? Where are the women? Discuss this scene. (It would be considered impolite to have women present while men gamble. It is quite scandalous that Becky is the sole woman there, but no one objects; the men probably do not tell their wives that Becky is in attendance. Rawdon and Becky work together to get what they want money and society. Becky wants to climb the social ladder as high as she can which she does when she meets King George IV, in Tape five. Rawdon knows that as long as his pretty wife captivates the men they will play cards and, hopefully, lose money to him.)
VIS CODE 41:00 - We see Becky, Rawdon and little Rawdy. Is Becky a good mother? (Becky is indifferent to her child, entrusting her nursemaid to take care of him. She never kisses or holds the boy; he is starved for his mothers love. Rawdon loves his son, and it pains him to see Becky neglect the child: the boy does not eat meals with his parents, he is not in attendance when his parents are presented at court, and his mother does not travel with him to boarding school to say goodbye. In Tape five VIS CODE 25:17, Rawdy tells his father that he doesnt think his mother loves him.)