Summary, Chapters 7 - 12
Rebecca is excited about meeting a baronet but is disappointed to learn what Sir Pitt Crawley is actually like. She meets him and his housekeeper, Mrs. Tinker, at his town house on Great Gaunt Street. Sir Pitt Crawley is a boisterous, crude and stingy man, but he belongs to a house that is higher than that of the Sedleys. That night, Rebecca sleeps in the first Lady Crawley's deathbed with Mrs. Tinker, fantasizing about her upcoming employment at the Crawleys'. But she soon realizes it is not going to be anything like she thought, and she writes to Amelia, criticizing the household.
The narrator the launches into descriptive portraits of the members of the family who have thus far been introduced.
Sir Pitt Crawley enjoys the "low life", so to speak, and criticized his first wife for her high station and swore never to marry another of her sort. She died, and he married the beautiful Rose Dawson, but he got drunk too often and beat her. He lived in the debt incurred by his father, Walpole Crawley, who was also a drunk. He might have improved his position had he been able to acquire a position in law, but both his name and estate hampered his efforts, since it was considered inappropriate for a man of his station to work. He translated this unsatisfactory situation into bitterness, remarking, for example, that there would be no point to a Parliamentary position without the ability to make his creditors miserable.
Lady Crawley, once Rose Dawson, is a tragic figure. She married Sir Pitt Crawley for his money and abandoned the man she loved, Peter Butt. She is scorned by the people in her new social rank because she was the daughter of an ironmonger, and she lost her old friends because they were not fit to be received by a woman of her station. She used to be an attractive woman, but in her grief, she lost her beauty.
Mr. Crawley, Sir Pitt Crawley's elder son from his first marriage, is a polite and proper gentleman. He became Lady Crawley's only friend and protector. He taught the servants of the home proper rules and manners. He entered the diplomatic profession for a few years but then left and became more of a country gentleman. Later, he became involved in the "Negro Emancipation question" and eventually served as a magistrate and active religious speaker. His father owes him a large sum of money from "the jointure of his mother."
Rebecca sets out to win favor among the members of the household. She knows that her plight as an orphan means that she must fend for herself. With Lady Crawley, she reads a number of English and French works. With the two girls, Violet and Camilla, she promises them that she won't tell their parents about their constant fighting and mischief. She consults Mr. Crawley about French passages that she already knows how to translate well. For Sir Pitt, she reads law papers, corrects his writing, and learns everything about his estate, so that eventually she becomes his constant, indispensable companion.
Sir Pitt's two sons, Mr. Crawley and Rawdon, hate each other and are never at the house together. Their aunt favors Rawdon and paid for him to go to Cambridge. She also takes care of his debts after duels. She considers Mr. Crawley, on the other hand, a "milksop," and he in turn thinks of her as a godless woman who cavorts with "atheists and Frenchmen." She does indeed love everything French: philosophy, food, novels, wine.
Bute Crawley, the baronet's closest neighbor, and his wife, Mrs. Bute, are nosy and greedy. They have their eyes set on the family fortune, and Mrs. Bute does some research on Rebecca's past life. Bute and Sir Pitt despise each other, but they are always on their best behavior when Miss Crawley visits. They are both interested in inheriting her money, and so they wait on her hand and foot, all the while anticipating her death with great excitement. They act exactly like Rawdon and Mr. Crawley, who also hope to win the bulk of the inheritance.
Rebecca, meanwhile, has successfully managed to impress Miss Crawley and in so doing earns herself another fan in the house. She writes to Amelia about the goings-on in the household, which she jokingly refers to as "Humdrum Hall." She mentions that Rawdon seems to be paying her a great amount of attention. The butler mentions to Sir Pitt that Rebecca is a good match for Rawdon, implying silently that she'd be a good match for Sir Pitt as well.
The author turns his eye upon Amelia. He remarks that readers find her unimpressive; the author retorts by observing that criticism from other women is often the best compliment a woman can receive. In fact, things aren't going too well for her; George's sisters make fun of her, and George hasn't been around lately. Also, his letters are painfully brief and indifferent.
Captain Dobbin feels sorry for Amelia and neglects to tell George's sisters that George has in fact not been visiting Amelia. Amelia makes a visit to the Osbornes' and also keeps this bit of information to herself, and because it makes her so distraught, and confirms the sisters' judgments by appearing stupid.
Analysis, Chapters 7 - 12
Sir Pitt Crawley has no redeeming qualities, yet he is held in extremely high regard for the sole reason that he was born into a rich and noble family. The narrator is clear about his distaste for the man, highlighting his interest in the "low life" as a way to suggest that it is in fact where the man belongs.
He continues to moralize in the case of Lady Crawley. She is Sir Pitt's second wife, but she married him as a young and beautiful woman and is now aged beyond her years and thinks only of her lost beauty. This sad case is meant as a message from the author, since Lady Crawley married a rich man instead of the one she loved. It is in fact the loss of her young lover that she mourns, and the beautiful, youthful lifestyle she could have had with him.
Marriage is a big theme in the novel, for the institution is very much a part of Vanity Fair's perpetual game. Marriage can either make or break you, and the narrator seems to think that you can hardly ever get everything you want out of marriage. It is also not something that is treated with any sort of reverence, and is instead considered somewhat of a business transaction.
There is also the recurring image of the rich man with huge debts. The narrator seems to believe that being rich automatically incites an individual to an irresponsible lifestyle, and that the only thing that sustains a rich person after he spends all his money is his reputation. It seems that actual money is not as important as image in Vanity Fair, as the reader comes to see in the case of Becky.
There is also interesting foreshadowing in the image of Becky sleeping in the late Lady Crawley's bed. This tells the reader two things. The first is that Sir Pitt considers wives (and women in general) highly replaceable. Secondly, it tells the reader a little something about the development of the relationship between Becky and Sir Pitt.
Becky's letter to Amelia about her new home is ruthlessly critical. She calls her new wards names and she passes judgment on Lady Crawley's insecurity. She also bemoans the inadequate reality of serving a baronet as compared to her expectations. The letter is very much in accordance with Becky's ambitious, merciless nature.
Thackeray makes the association between objects and death with his introduction of Miss Crawley, or Aunt Matilda. The woman serves primarily as a source of wealth in the novel, and she spends her entire existence in the story as an ill woman. Miss Crawley is almost, in fact, death itself. "Picture to yourself--O fair young reader, a worldly, selfish, graceless, thankless, religionless old woman, writhing in pain and fear, and without her wig." This is Thackeray moralizing again; he is emphasizing the destructive power of greed.
Thackeray emphasizes that destructive power in the relationships between Young Pitt and Rawdon and Bute and Sir Pitt. When Aunt Matilda is around, they are civil to each other in an effort to win her over. Otherwise, they hate each other and make no efforts to act like family.
Thackeray also comments on the terrible way that women treat each other. He remarks that there is a great bit of deception in the way women behave, and for that reason, a compliment offered by one women to another cannot be trusted. George's sisters and their treatment of Amelia is a prime example of this.
The author employs anthropomorphism to discuss what motivates his main characters. "We have talked of shift, self, and poverty, as those dismal instructors under whom poor Miss Becky Sharp got her education. Now, love was Miss Amelia Sedley's last tutoress, and it was amazing what progress our young lady made under that popular teacher."
Dobbin is already showing signs of loving Amelia. When George's sisters ask about George and mention all the time he is spending at Amelia's home, he neglects to mention that George is in fact not there at all. He does not want her to be embarrassed.