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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Comparing Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley

Thackeray opens the novel at Chiswick Mall, where Becky and Amelia are preparing to leave Miss Pinkerton's academy for girls. In presenting the girls, Thackeray describes contrasting figures. Amelia is the ideal student who is friendly to everyone and a favorite of her intructor. She is the daughter of a wealthy London merchant and is taken home in a carriage by her black servant Sambo.

Becky, on the other hand, is the daughter of an artist and an opera singer, though orphaned by the start of the novel and forced to make her own way in the world. She is pompus and disrespectful, bidding goodbye in French to Miss Pinkerton, who does know the language, in order to show her superiority. Though poor, she claims relation to the noble Mortmorencys. As she is leaving the school to accompany Amelia to her house before taking a position as a governess, she tosses a dictionary given to her by Miss Pinkerton out of the carriage.

Nevertheless, Amelia considers her a friend and encourages Becky in her pursuit of Amelia's brother Joseph. Though Amelia has certain pecuniary advantages, Becky is the more talented and more cunning figure. Whereas Amelia needs lessons to hone her artistic ability, Becky is naturally talented. Becky later proves to better fit to solve problems and handle adverse situations. Instead of feeling sorry for herself like Amelia, Becky is proactive and schemes in order to provide for herself. In the world of Vanity Fair, Amelia plays the role of victim while Becky is an active participant, fighting to survive.

Painting above is Miss Pinkerton's Academy, Chiswick Mall by George Goodwin Kilburne.

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