William Thackeray's character, Becky Sharp, wants to have a great life and a great position.  She cares about appearances and what others think of her.  She doesn't want to be a governess, teaching someone else's children, but her opportunities are limited by her own social standing. She desperately wants to change her social standing, but there is little she can do.  She was not, after all, “into the manor born.” This image appears in the 10th chapter, of the 1848 edition of Vanity Fair, with the following caption: “Miss Sharp in her School-room.”


William Makepeace Thackeray illustrated his own book. Universities have made those 150-year-old Vanity Fair pictures freely available on-line. A representative sampling will help to clarify scenes in the movie which may otherwise seem confusing.

  • Joseph (“Jos”) Sedley, Amelia’s heavyset brother, works for the East India Company. Smitten with Becky Sharp, he would marry her save for concerns about her social standing.

  • Becky’s trunk, filled with her belongings, is one of the constants on her life’s journey.

  • As a governess, “Miss Sharp” employs rather unconventional teaching habits.

  • Engaged to Lt. George Osborne, Amelia Sedley does not realize her fiancé is a cad. Unknown to Amelia, George pays scant attention to her love letters.

  • Thackeray depicts class distinctions in the clothing of his characters.

  • Becky Sharp marries Rawdon Crawley whose family lives at "Queen’s Crawley." Sir Pitt, Becky’s father-in-law, once courted her and wills his entire inheritance to his son, Pitt (depicted as standing "aloof" in Thackeray’s drawing).

  • Rawdon Crawley, like so many others in the 19th century, is temporarily locked up in a debtor’s prison. One such place - Fleet Prison - is depicted in Rudolf Ackermann’s Microcosm of London (1808).

London, at the time of 19th century novelists like Thackeray and Charles Dickens, was a great city. It was also home base for one of the most influential businesses which ever existed: The East India Company.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jul 07, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"ILLUSTRATIONS in VANITY FAIR" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 01, 2004. May 27, 2020.
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