Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair Summary and Analysis of Chapters 37 - 42

Summary, Chapter 37 - 42

Rawdon and Rebecca live in a mansion that belonged to the Crawleys' former butler, Mr. Raggles, who they extort and eventually drive to financial ruin. Becky again works her way up in society. She becomes quite popular with many of the noblemen, including Lord Styne.

Aunt Matilda finally dies. She leaves 5000 pounds to the Bute Crawleys, only 100 pounds to Rawdon, and the rest to Young Pitt. Becky encourages her husband to make amends with her brother, and she is convinced that Lady Jane will be her ticket into society. Lady Jane does in fact encourage Young Pitt to give half of the inheritance to his brother, but he refuses.

While Rawdon and little Rawdon are walking in the park, they notice a man with a child about little Rawdon's age. They discover that this is in fact John Sedley and his grandson, Georgy. The two boys become fast friends.

The story turns back to Jos, Amelia, the Sedleys and Dobbin. Jos decides not to return to London, perhaps because he is ashamed of his flight from Waterloo. He returns to India instead, where he spins numerous tales about his adventures in the Battle of Waterloo. He sends 120 pounds to his family every year, which is their only means of support.

John Sedley is not working, but he is doing everything he can to get back his job in the stock market. Dobbin helps Mr. Sedley promote his wine business but ends up buying most of the wine.

Amelia is so obsessed with her son that she is totally oblivious to all the men who are falling in love with her. She receives many proposals, but she refuses them all, still mourning her beloved George. All this time, Dobbin has been taking care of her. He paid for her living accommodations in Belgium and now in London, and he sends gifts constantly. He arranged George's funeral and burial, and he even fabricated a 500 pounds inheritance from George. John Sedley, suspicious, questions Dobbin about this, and Dobbin confesses that George died debt-ridden, but he maintains that the money is not from him but in fact pooled by a group of George's close friends.

Amelia's family tries to convince her that Dobbin is in love with her, but she refuses to discuss the matter. The Osborne daughters visit her at one point to tell her that Dobbin is getting married to Glorvina O'Dowd. She claims to be happy about this news, but to her surprise, she finds that she is tearing up.

This chapter returns to the story of the Crawleys. Sir Pitt has fallen into complete ruin. He has let his mistress, Ms. Horrocks, take over the estate. She has made new appointments, and he dresses her up in his dead wife's clothing. He will not allow her to take the jewelry, however.

Mrs. Bute, meanwhile, is panicked about the meager portion of the inheritance that she received. She has four daughters she has to marry off, and she was hoping for the entire 30,000 pounds. She visits Sir Pitt one day only to find Ms. Horrocks rummaging through his things, trying to steal the jewelry he denies her. Mrs. Bute runs her off, threatening to have her arrested. By this time, Sir Pitt has become ill from his excessive drinking, and Mrs. Bute and Young Pitt decide to stay with him. He never recovers, and passes away, leaving Young Pitt in control of the estate.

Rebecca and Rawdon receive the news of Sir Pitt's death, and the new Sir Pitt invites them to the funeral. Lady Southdown is opposed to this maneuver, since Becky is involved, but since she has nowhere else to live, she is forced to deal with the arrangement. Rawdon is not excited about the visit, since it will cost them money to go back and forth, but Becky is excited about the prospects such a visit might offer. She fantasizes about getting Sir Pitt's seat in Parliament for Rawdon and about the advancement in society it might earn her.

Meanwhile, the author notes that Ms. Briggs, Aunt Matilda's former servant, has come to live with Rawdon and Rebecca. She has given them much of her life savings, and they have promised (falsely) to invest it. She remains at home with little Rawdon while they go off to the funeral.

Lady Jane and Becky get along, and Lady Southdown is predictably cool towards the couple.

Becky tries to warm up Lady Southdown by telling her that she is ill so that the Lady will share with her some of her medicines. Becky and Lady Jane were earlier speaking about her obsession with medications, and Lady Jane confessed that she feels they all might be better off without them. Becky agrees to take one of Lady Southdown's concoctions.

Before Becky and Rawdon leave, Lady Jane offers them many gifts for little Rawdon. Pitt notices that Rawdon's marriage has made him a better person, so he offers to pay for little Rawdon's education. Becky begins, for the first time, to regret her lifestyle, wishing she had the means to pay back all the people that she owes.

Mr. Osborne has become more and more bitter over time. He treats his daughters extremely poorly. He negotiates aggressively the marriage between his daughter Maria and Mr. Bullocks. Mr. Bullocks originally says he won't marry Maria unless she receives half of her father's fortune. Maria ends up despising her father for this and does not want him in her home.

His daughter Jane has secretly been seeing her art tutor, Mr. Smee. Mr. Osborne finds out about the affair, and he is enraged. He fires the artist and tells Jane that she is never to see the man again. Further, she is not allowed to have any relationships at all, and she must grow up alone, watching over the house with her father.

Dobbin tries desperately to restore the relationship between Mr. Osborne and his grandson and daughter-in-law. So he sends his sisters to visit with the Osborne women. He encourages Amelia to send Georgy out with them, and reluctantly she listens to his advice. She grows more jealous over his impending marriage. Jane, charmed by Georgy, remarks to her father that he looks just like George. Mr. Osborne is extremely shaken by the comment.

Analysis, Chapters 37 - 42

Rebecca's flirting is a major part of the support that she provides for Rawdon and herself. One night, while sitting around with a bunch of gentlemen, she makes a joke about needing a sheepdog to keep the wolves away from her. One of the men encourages her, asking if the shepherd is not enough. Playfully, she responds that he is always away playing cards at his clubs.

Rebecca is of course referring to Rawdon and suggesting that one of these men become her new companion. But Rawdon does not pick up on the metaphor. Indeed, even if he were to notice that she was making fun of him, there isn't much he can do about it; he has admitted to himself that everything he has earned in his marriage he owes to Rebecca.

Amelia's situation is growing steadily worse. She accuses her mother of poisoning little George when she tries to secretly administer "Daffy's Elixir" to the child. Amelia obviously did not mean to call her mother a murderer, though Mrs. Sedley is determined to interpret it that way. It is clear that the family is at its breaking point. And it does not help matters that Jos only sends a small amount every year.

Once again, the narrator clearly wants his readers to pity the poor Amelia and her family, because he entreats his readers to imagine that they may too fall into financial misfortune. He paints a rather pathetic picture of Mr. Sedley, who has only become prouder in his poverty.

Amelia's obsession with her child is a reflection of her infatuation with her husband and her inability to let him go. She spends the dates of her marriage and widowhood as she would religious holidays, locked up in her room, "consecrating them." Because she does not have George around to pamper, she pampers their child instead, even though this requires her to live much beyond her means.

Dobbin continues in his hypocritical ways, even though George is dead. Despite his love for Amelia, he does not reveal any of the truths of her late husband's character. He does his best to help the Sedleys and pay George's debts so that they do not have to know how very irresponsible he was in life. "Sedley was very contrite and humbled, though the fact is that William Dobbin had told a great falsehood to the old gentleman; having himself given every shilling of the money, having buried his friend, and paid all the fees and charges incident upon the calamity and removal of poor Amelia." It is interesting that the Sedleys never think to ask how it is possible that all these things were taken care of; perhaps they fear what awaits them in reality.

In chapter 39, Sir Pitt's behavior finally catches up to him. He has been cavorting with his butler's daughter, Miss Horrocks, who has taken over his household. Mrs. Bute catches the young woman trying to steal some of his diamonds, while the butler is upstairs trying to bleed Sir Pitt, who has just suffered from a stroke.

When Young Pitt discovers that his father has died, he does not grieve. He immediately begins to calculate the division of the estate. His reaction is incredibly mechanical. "What was it that made Pitt's pale face flush quite red? Was it because he was Sir Pitt at last, with a seat in Parliament, and perhaps future honours in prospect?" But it is noteworthy that the author does leave room for speculation about Pitt's attitude. At the same time, it is possible that his question is humorously rhetorical.

When the new Sir Pitt decides to reach out to his brother, Lady Jane's mother disapproves. She refuses to listen to him dictate the letter to Lady Jane. The author takes this opportunity to allude to Shakespeare by calling her the "Lady Macbeth." Lady Macbeth is the wife of the protagonist in Shakespeare's Macbeth. She becomes the Queen of Scotland after her husband commits regicide, partly due to her goading. The parallel is clear; Lady Southdown wants to be the queen of the estate and does not want another family intruding on her power.

Lady Jane dismisses Briggs, Aunt Matilda's former servant, as soon as she gets the opportunity, and Briggs, finding herself with no other choice, ends up with Rebecca. "Briggs was the house-dog whom Rebecca had provided as guardian of her innocence and reputation." It is interesting that the people in Rebecca's life are more than once in the book referred to as dogs. It indicates the dynamic of the relationship she has with many people: they are beneath her, yet they for some reason remain hopelessly devoted and faithful to her.

Rebecca and Rawdon go back to the Crawley estate for the funeral of Sir Pitt. Despite apprehensions about their visit, Rebecca manages to make the best impression on her former wards, Rosalind and Violet, and on Lady Jane, who falls for her charms while they discuss theirs and their children's ailments. Rebecca is doing what she does best: winning the trust of people she hopes to manipulate.

Thackeray does not reserve the most flattering words for Sir Pitt's funeral. "As long as we

have a man's body, we play our Vanities upon it, surrounding it with humbug and ceremonies, laying it in state, and packing it up in gilt nails and velvet; and we finish our duty by placing over it a stone, written all over with lies." To him, even the reverence accorded the dead at a funeral is a despicable manifestation of Vanity Fair.