Summary, Chapter 25 - 30
Dobbin worries about Amelia discovering the danger of going to war. She tries to get the soldiers to talk about it as if it is just every day routine. Amelia is annoyed by Dobbin; she finds him unattractive, and his feelings for her make her uncomfortable. Becky also dislikes Dobbin, but here the feeling is mutual, because he senses how dishonest she is.
George reads the letter, which is from his father's lawyer, and he blames Dobbin for being a bad manager. He asks Dobbin how he is possibly supposed to live off 2000 pounds, which is all that was left for him (a third of his mother's inheritance). Dobbin suggests living honestly off his paycheck, but George scoffs at that, remarking that he is used to a certain lifestyle and that he has already lost 140 pounds to Rawdon in gambling.
Becky and George are hitting it off, which is making Amelia extremely uncomfortable. Becky is actually just being nice and charming to George because she wants him to pay Rawdon before they go off to war. The women decide to accompany their husbands to war, which worries Dobbin, since he doesn't want Amelia in danger.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bute Crawley has had to leave Aunt Matilda's service because her husband broke her collarbone. Rawdon and Becky see this as an opportunity to ingratiate themselves, so Becky sends a letter to her. Aunt Matilda refuses to see them, but after much pressuring she agrees to a meeting between Rawdon and her lawyer. Rawdon, expecting a great deal of money, is frustrated to see that she has only left him twenty pounds through the lawyer.
The friends return to London before going to Belgium. George puts himself and Amelia up in a nice hotel room and goes off into the city to spend money. He confidently picks up the meager inheritance he was left and later sends his wife and her mother on a shopping trip. His military buddies wonder how he is going to sustain his lifestyle. Amelia, meanwhile, visits her family and frets about the budding relationship between Rebecca and her husband.
George and Amelia go back to the hotel to meet his regiment. Amelia meets Mrs. O'Dowd and Major O'Dowd, who is the commander of the regiment. The two are from Ireland, and the men of the regiment make fun of them for their boisterous, loud ways. Mrs. O'Dowd takes an immediate liking to Amelia, and before they have even spent 30 minutes together, she manages to tell the young woman her entire history. Mrs. O'Dowd is actually interested in getting Jos to marry her sister, Glorvina.
Dobbin is the only one who is not cheerful at this event. He watches Amelia and George with increasing sadness. At night, when they return to their room, he watches the lights go on, and remains awake the entire night, unable to fall asleep because of his depression.
The characters set off for Brussels. Jos has a terrible time on the boat, and is constantly seasick. Dobbin, always the caretaker, makes sure to watch after his luggage, and when they finally arrive in Brussels, he procures for the extravagant man a servant who doesn't speak English. Many wealthy Britons have come over on boats to Brussels. The author describes the scene as a "military festival." They are all confident that the Duke of Wellington can win the war, as the Austrians, Russians and Prussians are on their way to join the forces. Meanwhile, Napoleon waits in his fortresses, ready to lay waste to the partying folks.
The group of protagonists is having a grand time. Jos dresses up in military attire, even though he is a civilian, and causes an uproar. He is constantly drunk. Amelia and George go out every night; he takes her dancing, to the theater, drinking, to art galleries, etc. Amelia is as happy as can be, but George is his usual flirtatious self. She remains happy until the arrival of the Crawley regiment.
The Crawleys and Osbornes meet each other in the park. The Crawleys, especially Becky, are doing their best to win the favor of General Tufto, who accompanies them on their ride. They pay little attention to the Osbornes. At the theater, Rebecca charms a Belgian noble, to whom she introduce George. George is excited to be meeting noblemen, and Rebecca believes that she has charmed and tricked both men. She gets George to escort her to the Osborne box, where she charms everyone, much to Amelia's dismay. Dobbin tries to tell George that Becky is dangerous, but George retorts that she is the nicest woman he knows.
The Osbornes, Crawleys and Dobbin all receive invitations to the Duke's lavish ball. Rebecca is, of course, the star of the occasion; she spends much of the night dancing and flirting with George, criticizing Amelia for her behavior, and charming everyone with her perfect French. George, not interested in Amelia, sits her on a bench outside, alone. Amelia asks Dobbin to escort her back to her room. George, in the meantime, slips a note into some flowers that Becky takes home with her.
The orders to march are given while the ball is taking place. When George discovers that he is about to go off to war, he feels sudden shame, so he writes an apologetic letter to his father and attempts to apologize to Amelia.
Rawdon is worried that he has not left his wife in financial security. He reflects on how happy Becky makes him, and notes that her company is the company he most enjoys. He regrets not having provided her with more so that she could have risen further in society. He wears his shabby uniform so that he can leave behind his new one for her to sell. He advises her to sell jewelry, furniture, and most importantly, horses for people interested in leaving Brussels. Becky remains quite stoic through all this, since she is only concerned about her financial security.
Amelia, on the other hand, is depressed over her husband's departure. Dobbin is sad to see her this way, and he makes Jos give his word that he will look after his sister. Jos is confused as to why her husband is not the one telling him these things. George, on the other, hand is very enthusiastic about the upcoming war, and he bids farewell to his wife.
Analysis, Chapters 25 - 30
George really reveals his true colors in the beginning of this chapter. Dobbin joins the group in Brighton, and when George sees how much money he is to receive from his father, he goes on a rant. He criticizes Dobbin for his poor handling of the transaction, and he also accuses Dobbin of getting him married in the first place, which is the cause of all his troubles.
But Thackeray uses this opportunity to insert a bit of irony. Dobbin encourages George to calm down, assuring him that he might get a mention in the paper and therefore increase his chances of getting a larger income. George denies the possibility, saying he will only land himself in the paper as one of the dead or wounded.
Thackeray once again criticizes Dobbin for his hypocrisy, even though it is in the interest of his friends. "Conducted to the ladies, at the Ship Inn, Dobbin assumed a jovial and rattling manner, which proved that this young officer was becoming a more consummate hypocrite every day of his life. He was trying to hide his own private feelings, first upon seeing Mrs. George Osborne in her new condition, and secondly to mask the apprehensions he entertained as to the effect which the dismal news brought down by him would certainly have upon her."
The cavalier attitude that the characters have towards the impending war further supports Thackeray's evaluation of society. Vanity Fair is all about deception and superficiality. Life is a constant play, and people are never true to themselves. Only the characters of Vanity Fair could so easily pass off a war.
It is worth noting that Rebecca is not the only example of a dominant female in Vanity Fair. Peggy O'Dowd is another worthwhile example, and the author introduces her to his readers in chapter 27. Thackeray's characterization is not at all generous; he calls her an "odious" woman, and he criticizes Major O'Dowd for being "meek."
It is interesting that in the chapters focused on the characters making their way to war, Thackeray decides to center on Amelia in his titles. Instead of the soldiers, Thackeray remarks that it is Amelia who "invades the low countries." Perhaps this is foreshadowing; George does not survive the excursion, while his poor neglected wife does. Perhaps Thackeray is making a joke at George's expense, which wouldn't be totally unanticipated, considering the pitying tone he consistently employs when discussing her situation.
Thackeray does not restrict his allegory to the title of his book. He is constantly reminding his reader that wherever his characters go, the society of Vanity Fair follows. When his characters go to Brussels, he remarks that "all the Vanity Fair booths were laid out with the most tempting liveliness and splendour." It is an allegory within an allegory.
Hints of George's infidelity abound in these chapters. Rebecca flirts shamelessly with him at the Opera, and later, she gets him to admit that he was as jealous of General Tufto as the General was of him. Rebecca knows the perfect balance between indifference and flattery to ensnare George. Immediately after speaking about flirting and criticizing his wife, she claims that she cares about neither Amelia nor him. Dobbin is quite right; Rebecca is a "snake."
Rebecca continues her flirting at the ball, where Amelia finds herself alone on a bench watching her husband dance the night away with her former friend. "'It is curious, when a man is bent upon play, by what clumsy rogues he will allow himself to be cheated,' Dobbin said; and Emmy said, 'Indeed.' She was thinking of something else. It was not the loss of the money that grieved her."
At the beginning of chapter 30, Thackeray reveals that he will not spend time detailing the war. "We do not claim to rank among the military novelists. Our place is with the non-combatants." This is an interesting perspective, considering his criticism of his character's avoidance of the impending war. However, Thackeray's admission is bitingly honest; war is utterly devoid of superficiality and deception. War is a place of harsh reality, and it has no place in Vanity Fair.