Summary, Chapter 43 - 48
Dobbin and his regiment are doing well in India, and Glorvina flirts with him constantly. But Dobbin cannot get Amelia out of his head. He receives a letter from her, in which she writes that she is happy for him that he is getting married, which makes him extremely upset. Then he receives a letter from his sister. It says that Amelia is to marry an old reverend, and that Mr. Osborne is going to have custody of Georgy. Dobbin, instigated by these developments, prepares to go back to London.
Rebecca decides to renovate her house on Great Gaunt Street. She believes that this will help her rise in society. Sir Pitt visits the home and comes to like Becky more as he sees her doing fine work with the renovations. At one point, she hints that she and Rawdon are in need of money.
Rebecca often entertains noblemen at her home, and the servants are actually starting to become suspicious of her behavior. While she is singing to the marquis one day, her son walks in on them, and she hits him for spying on her. But little Rawdon is quite charming, especially with Lady Jane at Christmas, when he reveals sweetly that his mother makes him eat in the kitchen.
Becky offers Sir Pitt a great deal of help, for she counsels him and talks with him about his pamphlets and speeches. He thinks to himself that she understands him much more than his wife does, in that she senses his "commanding talents" and "secret ambition." Indeed, the Lady Jane and Rebecca are beginning a rivalry. Lady Jane has become wary of Rebecca. One evening, Rebecca, in an attempt to show affection for her son in front of everyone, kisses his cheek. In response, Rawdon asks her why she never kisses him when they are at home. This just makes Rebecca hate him even more.
Things are not going well for the Sedleys. Jos has stopped sending money and Amelia's pension money is running out. There is hardly any food to eat. Amelia does not notice the extreme poverty of her family; all she sees is George. For a while she tries to homeschool him, but eventually she sends him to Reverend Binney's school, where he does quite well.
The Osbornes are not doing well either. John Osborne is still a bitter old man, and Jane is miserable living with him. She wishes Georgy could visit more. However, John Osborne is angry that she gave Georgy a gold watch and chain and he demands that she go out and buy herself a new one. Maria visits the house with her new child. The Osborne daughters are generally jealous of Amelia for her uncomplicated way of life.
Georgy eventually meets his grandfather, and John Osborne offers Amelia a deal. He wants Georgy to be the heir his son should have been. He offers her the chance to remarry, and he encourages her to give the child to him so that Georgy can have a proper childhood. He demands, however, full custody of Georgy and very limited visiting rights for Amelia. Amelia is so upset that she refuses to respond to his correspondence. At Christmas, Amelia spends extravagantly on Georgy, which enrages her mother.
Tom Eaves, a man who knows everyone in London, tells the narrator about Lord Steyne and his wife. Lord Steyne comes from hundreds of years of nobility, as does his wife. His wife broke with the Catholic faith in order to marry him, and she feels that this has become a curse upon her.
One of the manifestations of this curse was her son, George. He inherited the family's mental illness. Lord Steyne made his own son his enemy. He tried to drown his worries in drinking and socializing, but every night before going to sleep he would fret about why his son had contracted it while he had not. The family tell others that their son went to continental Europe and then to Brazil, but in reality, he just disappeared.
Sir Pitt rises to the position of High Sheriff of the County, and he decides that he wants to present Becky at Court. Meeting the king is the climax of social mobility, and so Becky is ecstatic that she has achieved her life's ambition. Lady Jane and Sir Pitt present her. She wears an extravagant dress, for which she has stolen pieces of material from Sir Pitt's house while she was helping him with renovations. Rawdon looks shabby next to her in his old, tight military uniform. Lady Jane inquires about her beautiful jewels; Becky, ashamed, because they were given to her by Lord Steyne and Sir Pitt, lies and claims that she rented them.
Becky's presentation makes the papers. All Becky can talk about is her presentation at Court. In response to this great honor, the Marchioness of Steyne and Countess of Gaunt have invited her to dinner. Lord Steyne worries that Becky cannot hold her own against these women without a lot of money, and he is concerned that she will never be able to hold a place in Vanity Fair. He tells her this, and encourages her to get rid of Miss Briggs. But Becky confesses that she owes the woman money and manages to get Lord Styne to give her double what she needs. She puts most of the money away in her secret box.
Analysis, Chapters 43 - 48
Dobbin is rather like Amelia in the sense that he has an extremely one-track mind. Chapter 43 discusses Glorvina's attempts to woo Dobbin, but even though she is an attractive, talented woman, she cannot sway him. The author notes that he has in his head one idea of a woman, and that is Amelia.
Amelia's letter congratulating Dobbin on his engagement is strangely forceful, as if she had a difficult time writing it but does not know exactly why. Amelia is used to having Dobbin fawn over her; the idea of another woman coming first in his life is probably rather foreign and uncomfortable for Amelia, even though she does not recognize any sort of love for the man.
Letters are a very important motif in Vanity Fair. They exemplify to the extreme everything that Vanity Fair is about, and at the same time, they are important plot-movers. This letter from Amelia inflames Dobbin's passions in a rather negative way, and he begins to despise Glorvina and the female sex in general. But then a letter arrives informing him of Amelia's impending marriage to a pastor, and this is enough to get him on a boat from India to England. Even though both letters mentioned are falsely composed, they set important events of the plot in motion that might not have happened without their influence.
Becky begins to weave her dangerous web around Sir Pitt by entertaining him while Miss Briggs and little Rawdon do inventory at the Crawley estate. In so many ways, Becky is once again the puppet-master; she is in theory the chief of renovations at the Crawley estate, managing from afar by sending her son and servant to take care of it. And she courts the malleable Sir Pit, who begins to despise his brother and his wife for not being able to live up to this brilliant creature. "How mum and stupid his own wife was compared to that brilliant little Becky. Becky had hinted every one of these things herself, perhaps, but so delicately and gently that you hardly knew when or where."
However, there is a hitch in her plotting. Because she is so busy scheming to capture the men, she does not pay attention to her son, who confesses to his aunt that he has to eat in the kitchen while he is at home. His evaluation of the Crawley estate as a place of "enchantment and wonder," despite being hyperbolic, hints at events yet to unfold.
Not only does Lady Jane begin to notice how Rebecca treats her son, but she also begins to notice the relationship developing between Mrs. Rawdon and her husband. She worries because they seem to discuss subjects that Sir Pitt would never bother to bring up with her, and she worries mostly because she realizes that while Rebecca is witty and interesting, she would have nothing to say. This is rather reminiscent of Amelia, who would watch Becky flirt and engage with her husband in her own home. And like Amelia, Lady Jane is becoming miserable at the thought.
"In these quiet labours and harmless cares the gentle widow's life was passing away, a silver hair or two marking the progress of time on her head and a line deepening ever so little on her fair forehead. She used to smile at these marks of time."
But time has never been Amelia's friend. She was forced to wait for George when he shunned her, too proud to reveal to his military friends that they were betrothed. And then as soon as they got married, she had absolutely no time to be happy. Before she knew it, Rebecca was upon them, and then war, and then death.
But little Georgy allows Amelia to turn back time. He is a way for her to seize all the happiness that was taken away from her by George's death. So she devotes her life to making sure that he has the best of everything and indulging his every wish. And like George, he exhibits very little gratitude for her sacrifices.
The follies of Vanity Fair come to a peak in chapter 48, in which Rebecca is presented to the king of England. This is a necessary achievement for life in high society, and so upon earning it, Rebecca is ecstatic. And of course to show her elation, she wears a gaudy and outrageous dress, for which she is remembered years later. It is preposterous to think that one's legacy might ride upon a dress worn at one occasion, but in Vanity Fair, this is possible.