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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Preface to Vanity Fair

In his preface entitled "Before the Curtain," Thackeray describes what the reader is about to encounter in Vanity Fair. His description is similar to Bunyan's when he says that there exists

a great quantity of eating and drinking, making love and jilting, laughing and the contrary, smoking, cheating, fighting, dancing and fiddling; there are bullies pushing about, bucks ogling the women, knaves picking pockets, policemen on the look-out, quacks (OTHER quacks, plague take them!) bawling in front of their booths, and yokels looking up at the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers, while the light-fingered folk are operating upon their pockets behind.

He further describes the place as "not a moral place certainly; nor a merry one, though very noisy." No one is happy there, though everyone is seeking temporary forms of happiness. Though there are humorous instances, Thackeray describes the mood as more melancholy than mirthful.

This preface gives the novel a play-like quality, identifying Thackeray as the stage manager and providing a panoramic of what is in store for the reader while the characters are referred to as puppets. These characters are prototypical hypocrites, actors on a stage wearing masks. As an omniscient narrator, Thackeray allows the reader the remove the masks of these complex characters and examine each character's motive for his actions.

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