Glare of Fashion in Vanity Fair
I fancy the doors to society guarded by grooms of the chamber with flaming silver forks with which they prong all those who have not the right of the entrée...the honest newspaper fellow....dies after a little time. He can't survive the glare of fashion long. It scorches him up, as the presence of Jupiter in full dress wasted that poor imprudent Semele&emdash;a giddy moth of a creature who ruined herself by venturing out of her natural atmosphere. (657)
With this sentiment in mind, Thackeray expresses his conception of the danger present when one attempts to step outside of their inherent social strata. Through depicting a world devoted to upholding the inflexible codes of society, Thackeray creates an appropriate backdrop for his humorously satirical novel Vanity Fair. At the heart of this work, the avaricious Becky Sharp, born of common blood, fights against traditional precincts by "venturing" (657) outside of her proper environs and entering into an elevated climate where the credulous yield unquestioningly to her will and the skeptics scorn her with cold indifference. Determined to secure a place in genteel society, Rebecca, disregarding the standards of society, manipulates the naive by engaging in hypocrisy and subterfuge while blinding those who doubt her with an unconquerable charm.
Clearly a perfectionist in the art of deception, Becky Sharp, a young woman with serpentine sentiments, slithers her way into the aristocratic society that composes the hollow cortex of Vanity Fair. With unremitting cupidity, Becky exploits all those she encounters for the sole purpose of ameliorating her own situation, both financially and socially. Commencing her mission for status as a mere governess at the Crawley household, the fortune seeking Becky marries Rawdon Crawley, "a heavy dragoon with strong desires and simple brains," (122) and then continues to entice members of his social sphere in a perpetual pursuit of a position among England's nobility. Attempting to break into the highest ranks of Vanity Fair, Becky indifferently uses countless innocent souls and then disposes of them after she's reeped the benefits, until she eventually loses her husband, child, and friends. Through his sarcastic humor, witty dialogue, and amusing irony, Thackeray exhibits how Becky squirms her way to the top of 19th century, class conscious English society where she ultimately finds herself rebuffed as well as alone with impassive opulence.
However, this final state of Becky's existence results from her endeavors to defect from her appropriate sphere and join a class of people who shun her because of her lack of wealth and genteel blood. During this time the common folk, who have no influence in government, obediently accept their subservient station while the aristocrats possess all the power and wealth of the nation, viewing those beneath them with severe contempt. Families with a coat of...