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"For all her energy and wit, Becky is selfish, destructive and ultimately evil". Discuss.

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"For all her energy and wit, Becky is selfish, destructive and ultimately evil". Discuss. William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair initially gives a bad impression of Rebecca Sharp - amorality, apathy, avarice and "artfulness" are all part of the nasty picture. Indeed, a reader would be forgiven for simply saying "she's evil" or "she's nice" - the narrator's meaning seems so ambiguous, with Becky coming across as a simultaneously likeable but clearly ruthless character. This essay aims to form a more balanced view of Becky. Indeed, you would certainly be forgiven for forming this opinion of Becky based on a summary of the play. If at first the reader's view of Rebecca is softened slightly by her wit and charisma - especially when compared to the pathetic Amelia Sedley. However, as the book goes on, Rebecca appals the reader with her abandonment of her background, her friends and even her child for her goal of social climbing in Vanity Fair". The latter is possibly the turning point of the reader's view of Becky - the way she completely ignores her own son, Rawdy ("He is hidden upstairs in a garret somewhere or has crawled below into the kitchen for companionship"), ridicules her own husband for being so "soft" as to be bothered with him, and leaves all his care to a maid. ...read more.


Compare this to Becky, who is always either flirting or exerting another form of control over the men around her. While Amelia seems weak, Becky seems strong, and her character is almost overpowering. Why Thackeray chose to make the most seemingly "bad" character the most likeable is an enigma. Perhaps he was supporting her. However, it seems to me that he was trying to get the reader to sympathise with - and pity - her. In forsaking her child, she hits a raw nerve in the reader's psyche -namely the traditional stereotype of the female as the housewife who looks after the children. Amelia conforms to this stereotype, and her child is smothered by her overzealous caring - does this suggest that Thackeray was against it? This stereotype is still very much in place today - although the trend of women who, like Becky, prize success above family is growing, many of them are still vindicated as Becky was. Back in the nineteenth century a lot of the same sort of thing did go on - although it was rather more Rebecca-style social climbing than the high- flying female executives of today - but society at large didn't want to face up to the reality of their corrupt world and so became obsessed with the stay-at-home female stereotype. Imagine the outrage, then, when Thackeray unveiled Vanity Fair to the same morally vacant society that was described in his book ...read more.


I'm unclear as to whether she actually did it or not - there seems to be a lack of evidence, but I'm sure she would be capable of it. Whether she was evil is the true crux of the matter. Despite my confirmation of the first two ills, I feel that Rebecca can be forgiven a lot of her behaviour (some of which was appalling) because of the way she seems to understand so little of what she's doing. It would be very hard to do the evil she does in cold blood. I believe she genuinely isn't aware of the way she hurts people. Her emotional naivety leads her to regard emotions as worthless, possibly because he has never experienced emotions like the rest of the world has. She seems to have emotional experience and knowledge at the same level as a small child. I would speculate that the reason she seems to have no conscience or morals is because she genuinely doesn't. Her psychological morals and conscience/guilt system has not developed properly, and she tries to make sense and succeed in the world around her without it - it's no surprise that her world collapses around her at the end. I am inclined to see Becky as the not-so-innocent victim of a society which couldn't admit its own flaws, and quite a tragic figure as well, as she was something of an omen for the future in Thackeray's eyes - "everyone will be like this if society does not reform". ...read more.

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