Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book 24-Vanity Fair

It took me forever to finish Book 24 which is Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray but in the end the feat was accomplished and I actually enjoyed the process. I didn't doubt that I would, because although I didn't know much about the content of the book, by the title it seemed like my kind of sctick!

The book dubs itself  "A Novel without a Hero" and in a sense it is true. All the characters have the fatal flaw or "hubris" that Shakespeare so often potrays in his novels. Though each characters flaw is different in the end you see that they all made mistakes or lived selfishly at the expense of others.

For most of the novel I was convinced the dear old Dobbin, a devoted puppy dog following around Amelia, one of the novels two main characters, was a hero since he loved selflessly. I had to laugh after reading Daniel S. Burt's view on the book and also after coming to the end of the novel because I took a good hard look at myself. Of COURSE I would love Dobbin, because I too have been guilty of being someone who blindly follows people about who have no idea I exist. Amelia who Dobbin loved was also guilty of blind love as well, since she loved her unfaithful husband beyond reason. I think this quote best describes the flaw in their natures and mine: "The crime she had long ago been guilty-the crime of loving wrongly, too violently against reason"

And another: "And the business of her life, was to watch the corpse of Love"

The novel really focused on how Amelia did not see her husband for who he actually was, but for the exalted image of him she had created. When she witnesses him in unfaithfulness she stuffs the knowledge down inside of herself to avoid seeing it. I thought this extremely long quote showed the fate of a lot of women and men:

"Did she own to herself how different the real man was from that superb young hero she worshipped? It requires many, many years and a man must be very bad indeed before a woman's pride and vanity will let her own to such a confession"

You don't hear about idol worship in the church very often anymore, but I once had a professor at the Christian university I went to stop class to speak at great length about two troubled types of relationships one being Relational Idolatry and the other soemthing along the lines of Relational narcissism. I will always remember reacting violently to that message and seeing myself in it so clearly. If there is anything that people put on a pedastal and worship in this world it is often the idea of Love and sometimes another person.

It isn't until the end of the novel that Dobbin cracks and admits that his Idol has fallen off of her pedastal: " I knew all along that the prize I had set my life on was not worth the winning"

What is so great about literature is that when our flaws, or values are seen outside of ourselves in literary form you can really see them clearly for what they are and their end results. It is much easier to digest them first as fiction and then apply them to our lives, then it is to see them clearly in ourselves.

I love how this novel starts as a walk through the Vanity Fair and that it really plays up the idea of life as a trip to a fair.

"Yes, this is Vanity Fair; not a moral place certainly, nor a merry one, though very noisy"

"The world is a looking-glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face"

"Are not there little chapters in everybody's life, that seem to be nothing, and yet affect all the rest of the history?"

I absolutely adore the idea that our lives our a story with chapters, climaxes, villians, heros, etc. Perhaps that is why I love fairytales so much.

The novels lighthearted nature allows for very hard things to be said. Apparently Thackeray turned to the use of the novel as a teacher after facing much  hardship in life.  Daniel S. Burt talks about the fact that this novel was written "informed by  his sense of the world  made up of fellow sufferer's and sinners".

There are so many other quotes that I loved, but the last thing I will end with is one German concept the book talks about that I super excited about. I nearly died when I googled what it meant since I thought the concept was spot on!

The term was, "Sehnsuch nach der Liebe" which loosely translated means "yearning or longing for love". The book describes it this way, "yearning after the Ideal, and simply means that women are commonly not satisfied until they have husbands and children on whom they may centre their affections, which are spent elsewhere, as it were in small change"

Although the book uses the concept to talk wittily about how women have the closest bosom friends until they marry and turn their backs on all but their husbands and children after,  I actually think the term applies to so much more. So many of our addictions, obsessions, delusions and attempts at self soothing are all pale reflections of what we are really longing for which is to intimately know and be known by God. I have a magnet I picked up in Portobello Market, London which also talks about this too. It states, "We are all prostitutes and junkies". I love it because that statement basically means that we all sell our selves for something and all chase after other things as well". Kind of a harsh way to live life, but I actually find it makes me more compassionate towards others when I realize I am just as flawed as everyone else.

The next book is Book 25-Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, I am not so patiently waiting its arrival through the library system. Methinks I will not LOVE this book, but I am determined to read through the list and expose myself to new ideas.

1 comment:

bigskygirls said...

I certainly like your view on this book. I was frustrated the whole way through thinking something redeeming had to materialize. I'm not sure why I did since the author so clearly titled the book Vanity Fair: A Book Without a Hero. I guess despite reality we still always long for a hero, which I too wanted to be Dobbin. I think the thoughts you pulled from this story are wonderful, however, I certainly won't be reading it again. =Deanna