Summary, Chapter 61 - 67
Mr. Sedley passes away, telling his daughter before he dies that he is sorry wasn't fair to her. Mr. Osborne is also doing his best to reconcile with those he mistreated. He tells Georgy that Mr. Sedley was a much better man than he. He even sends a letter to the late Mr. Sedley. Dobbin visits him, and it is revealed that Dobbin supported Amelia and Georgy all these years. Mr. Osborne dies from a stroke before he can make amends with Amelia.
Mr. Osborne, much to his son-in-law Mr. Bullocks' dismay, has left half of his inheritance to Georgy, and the other half he has split equally between his daughters, Jane and Maria. He has given Amelia an allowance and custody over Georgy and has made Dobbin executor of his will. He has also given Dobbin enough money for a promotion to colonel. Amelia finds out that Dobbin has been taking care of her all these years, but she still cannot love him.
Jos, Amelia, Dobbin and Georgy decide to take a pleasure trip to Europe. On many occasions, people assume that Amelia is Mrs. Dobbin. She does in fact start to appreciate Dobbin more while they are on this trip, and it seems that they are both the happiest they have ever been. Amelia discovers opera, enjoys painting and, for the first time, begins to let go of George's memory. They settle in Germany, where they are very happy.
One night, the group is out at a festival, and Georgy slips away from his babysitter to join the gambling table. He ends up sitting next to a masked woman dressed in black, who is losing quite a bit. Recognizing Georgy, she asks him to play for her, and he wins the round. Dobbin notices what Georgy is up to, grabs him away from the table, and gives him a harsh scolding. Meanwhile, Jos has joined the table, and he recognizes the woman in black. It is Becky Sharp, who has been masquerading as Madame de Raudon. Becky asks Jos to walk with her.
The narrator claims that he does not want to go over the details of Becky's absence, because everything she has been engaged in has been unpleasant. However, contradicting his intentions, he proceeds to provide an account of Becky's activities up until her encounter with her old friends.
Rawdon divorces Becky, and he leaves her with a small alimony. She tries to regain Sir Pitt's favor, but Lord Steyne has sent his messenger to inform Pitt about the person Becky really is, and he does not forgive her. She is forced to leave the continent because of her bad reputation and in order to escape creditors.
She tries to stay in hotels, but many turn her away, remarking that hotels are meant for respectable people. She meets her grandmother in Paris but is disgusted by her poverty and abrasive disposition. She tries several times to form a social circle, but always she is found out by someone who is connected to the people who know about her reputation. In Rome, she attends a ball and runs into Lord Steyne, who tells her that if she doesn't leave, she will be in danger. She finds out later that he has died in Naples.
Becky has been staying in a bohemian hotel, living quite modestly. Jos listens to Becky weave a false tale of her trials and tribulations. She inevitably blames her friends for everything. Jos is moved by her story, but he does not confess to the others that he has run into Becky. Finally, he tells the rest of the group about her being in Pumpernickel, and he exhorts them to go see her.
At first, they refuse, but Jos persists, finally mentioning that the terms of the divorce demanded that Becky's son be taken away from her. This is what finally moves Amelia, since she cannot stand the thought of a mother losing her child. She decides to go see Becky with Dobbin. The two women are quite emotional when they see each other. Amelia asks questions about Becky's son, which Becky can't really answer.
Becky then launches into a fabrication. She claims that the marriage to her husband was looked upon as a disgrace, and that she suffered because of it. She claims that her sister-in-law treated her terribly, and that Rawdon demanded that she engage inappropriately with Lord Steyne just so he could further himself. She claims that she was eventually forced to ask him for a divorce. Meanwhile, Dobbin speaks with two men in the hotel lobby about Becky, and his fears are confirmed: she is once again up to no good.
Since Amelia believed Becky, she tells Dobbin she wants Becky moving in with them. Dobbin is outraged, making the mistake of alluding to the fact that Becky is clearly no friend of Amelia's since she had an inappropriate relationship with her deceased husband. Amelia, furious that he would allude to such a thing and taint her husband's good name, storms out of the room and shuts herself up in her bedroom.
Dobbin leaves to find out everything he can about Becky. She arrives at Amelia's place and Amelia sets up the guest room for her. When Dobbin returns, he attempts to tell Amelia everything that he found out, and he desperately warns Jos and Amelia about her. But they still refuse to believe him.
Dobbin takes Amelia into a room and gives her a long speech about how terrible it is that she is not able to make a distinction between honest and dishonest people. He tells her how painful it has been to love someone who cannot see him for what he is and see the people who have abused her for the disgraceful characters they clearly are. Dobbin prepares to leave, and Amelia does not stop him. She won't even let Georgy say goodbye, but he sneaks away. Becky, who listened to the speech at the door, feels bad, and she gives Georgy a note for Dobbin.
When Becky and her friends move in, Amelia feels threatened and writes to Dobbin to come back. Becky finally repents and gives Amelia the letter that George wrote to her on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. In it, George asks Becky to run away with him. Amelia finally realizes what her dead husband was like, and she realizes that she is in love with Dobbin. He returns and they get married. They have another child, Janey.
Becky, meanwhile, tries to manipulate Jos Sedley. He is terrified of her, but somehow, she ends up getting most of his money. He also dies prematurely, and it is suggested that Becky had something to do with it. Rawdon and Sir Pitt also die. Little Rawdon becomes the master of Queen's Crawley. Amelia and Dobbin move in next to Little Rawdon and Lady Jane, and the families become close friends. No one associates with Becky any longer, but her son sends her an allowance.
Analysis, Chapters 61 - 67
The archway that hints at death to come is another of Thackeray's symbols. This time, his expository break from the story at the beginning of the chapter is meant to foreshadow events within the story. Mr. Sedley and Mr. Osborne pass away. Mr. Osborne very neatly makes up for all of his wrongs before he dies from a stroke.
Like a married family, Dobbin, Amelia and Georgy all go off to Europe. Thackeray does some foreshadowing here as well. He discusses how happy the couple is, and people are constantly mistaking Amelia for Mrs. Dobbin.
Thackeray shows his reader his humorous side in the names he chooses for characters he wishes to mock The man who offers miracle cures for Jos' obesity is Lord Tapeworm, and the woman who wants to date Jos is Fanny de Butterbrod, a name that hints at her appearance.
It is interesting also that Becky takes a name that closely resembles her ex-husband's name. Becky has always played with fire, and perhaps this is just another example of this dangerous attitude. Or perhaps this is Thackeray's way of saying that she hasn't let him go. Indeed, he was very much in love with her and would have remained faithful to her, but it just was not enough for the conniving, ambitious Rebecca.
It is also extremely unlikely that the characters would meet up in Germany. Rebecca has been on the run, and the rest are on vacation, yet Georgy happens to run into Becky in a gambling club. As unlikely as it is, Thackeray needs it for his plot, so he makes it happen. Rebecca is not finished meddling in their lives yet.
Rebecca has not changed at all since she was last seen, snubbed by both her husband and Lord Steyne. As always, she does what she needs to in order to survive, some of which the narrator confesses is too unpleasant to discuss.
And when she runs into her "friends" once again, she sets out to manipulate them. She lies about her situation, then she regains Amelia's trust. But then she realizes that it is love of George that is preventing Amelia from moving on and from living happily with Dobbin. So she ends the charade to save her friend.
It might seem that Rebecca has turned a new leaf, but she still has to survive somehow. So she manipulates Jos out of a great deal of his insurance money, and he fortuitously dies soon after. The narrator remarks that Rebecca eventually becomes a church-goer, but she is inevitably alone, for all of her "friends" refuse to see her. Even her son is content never seeing her again and sending her an allowance.
All of the husbands die by the end of the book. Rawdon dies on Coventry Island of yellow fever, Jos dies under mysterious circumstances, and Sir Pitt dies, leaving the estate to Rawdon. The book ends as it began, focusing on the fates of Amelia and Rebecca. And just as a moralizing book is expected to end, Amelia has found happiness while Rebecca is alone.
At the same time, the Thackeray's last words call this into doubt. "Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is
satisfied?--come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out."
"Vanity of Vanities!" cries out the author. Because all of his characters live in Vanity Fair, Thackeray reminds his readers that it is impossible ever to know if they are expressing their true feelings. Life is a play, for which everyone has his role. But at least there are a few lessons to be gleaned from the show.