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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Charades of Becky

Thackeray uses two allusions to help the reader understand Becky's character. One of these characterizations is as Delilah, the biblical temptress that ensnared Samson and secured his capture by the Philistines. Thackeray first uses this allusion after the marriage of Becky and Rawdon is revealed:

"how she sings,--how she paints!" thought he. "How she rode that kicking mare at Queen's Crawley!" And he would say to her in confidential moments, "By Jove, Beck, you're fit to be Commander-in-Chief, or Archbishop of Canterbury, by Jove." Is his case a rare one? and don't we see every day in the world many honest Hercules at the apronstrings of Omphale*, and great whiskered Samsons prostrate in Delilah's lap? (Chapter 16)

Delilah, like Becky, was deceptive and cunning and uses Samson for monetary gain. Becky later acknowledges the pecuniary motive when she says, "I'll make your fortune," she said; and Delilah patted Samson's cheek. (Chapter 16)

Moreover, Delilah knew how to manipulate and get what she wanted.

He (Rawdon) was beat and cowed into laziness and submission, and Delilah had imprisoned him and cut his hair off too. The bold and reckless young blood of ten years back was subjugated, and was turned into a torpid, submission, middle-aged, stout gentleman.

Becky basically stripped Rawdon of his masculinity and takes his strength (in Samson's case, his hair) from him. He has become totally dependent on Becky for income, which she obtains from Lord Steyne. However, Delilah also provides the element of being ensnared; does Thackeray mean to suggest that Becky ensnares Rawdon? One must remember that Rawdon (like Samson) realy does love Becky, though Becky's feelings for Rawdon are not so evident. Becky seems incapable of love, as she does not even love her own son.

*Hercules was made subservient to Omphale for a year for his murder of Iphitus.
The painting above is Samson and Delilah (1625) by Gerrit van Honhorst.

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