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Monday, January 18, 2010

Backdrop of Vanity Fair

The novel is written against a backdrop of Napoleonic England, beginning just before Napoleon's return from Elba. Napoleon does not play a role in the novel, though he is mentioned a few times by certain characters. The allusions to Napoleon reach their apex during the party in Brussels on June 15th when the Duke of Wellington receives word of the rapid advance of Napoleon. The party is forced to break up and the soldiers immediate prepare for battle at Waterloo.

Vanity Fair does not fit the category of war novel, however. The war is rarely at the forefront and the novel continues many years after the Battle of Waterloo. One purpose behind the presence of the war in the novel is to highlight the war among the characters, fighting for social significance. There is a constant struggle for money and power, and Becky is right in the midst of the fight. The theme seems to agree with a certain critic's assessment of Samuel Butler's philosophy: The lack of money is the root of all evil.

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