Becky Sharp is presented as a cynical social climber who uses her charms to fascinate and seduce upper-class men.
48 Facts About Becky Sharp
Becky Sharp has been portrayed on stage and in films and television many times, and has been the subject of much scholarly debate on issues ranging from 19th-century social history, Victorian fashions, female psychology and gendered fiction.
Sedley is a "dull and colourless foil"; she has all the positive traits that Becky Sharp lacks, yet these bring her none of the benefits that Becky Sharp experiences.
Structurally, Amelia and Becky are joint-main characters, but as John P Frazee points out, readers instinctively identify the latter as the sole protagonist due to her energy and forcefulness, while Amelia's colourlessness pushes her into the background.
Becky Sharp is shown to be continually on the lookout for a wealthy but simple husband who will indulge her while turning a blind eye to her associations.
Becky Sharp is a strong-willed, cunning, and moneyless young woman determined to make her way in society.
Becky Sharp goes into service with the crude and profligate baronet Sir Pitt Crawley, as governess to his daughters; she soon gains his favour.
The battle can be heard from Brussels, but Becky Sharp is indifferent to the result, making plans for whoever wins.
Becky Sharp has a son, to whom she is cold and distant, being far more interested in first Paris and then London society where she meets the wealthy Marquis of Steyne, by whom she is eventually presented at court to the Prince Regent.
Rawdon finds Becky Sharp's hidden bank records and leaves her, expecting Steyne to challenge him to a duel.
Becky Sharp, having lost both husband and credibility, leaves England and wanders the continent, leaving her son in care.
Becky Sharp decides that Amelia should marry Dobbin, notwithstanding that Dobbin is Becky Sharp's nemesis, the only person to ever see through her before it is too late.
For much of the book, due to her lower-class origins, Becky Sharp is not treated as a social equal to her associates, who are at least middle if not upper class.
Becky Sharp "manages to cheat, steal and lie without getting caught by the agents of social, moral and economic order who pursue her", which she does by creating for herself a new set of circumstances each time.
Becky Sharp is waif-like and attractive although not necessarily beautiful.
Becky Sharp has been described as "ever-adaptable" with a will to live and a vitality.
Becky Sharp has, says the Narrator, "wit, cleverness and flippancy", and a gift for "fun and mimicry".
Forster describes Becky Sharp as being "on the make"; for example, when she first sees Amelia's brother Jos, who is a revenue collector for the East India Company in Calcutta, she immediately asks Amelia whether he is very rich, because, "they say all Indian Nabobs are enormously rich".
Clothes, though, for Becky Sharp, are an essential tool; they enable her to blend in with her upper-class associates.
Becky Sharp is sufficiently socially adaptable as to be able to blend in with the Bohemians she later meets in Germany.
Becky Sharp starts on her career with the degenerate English gentry, and moves in with Sir Pitt Crawley as governess to his daughters.
Becky Sharp makes herself indispensable to the soon-to-be-widowed Sir Pitt as his amanuensis, by doing his accounts and other paperwork.
Becky Sharp soon realises the limitations of Crawley's position, and moves out when invited to London by Crawley's rich half-sister.
Meanwhile, for Becky Sharp, "he has become her last straw, not her first".
Rawdon and Becky Sharp have wed and have a son, named Rawdon, but his role in her life is more in the manner of being a prop for Becky Sharp to demonstrate her marital bliss.
Becky Sharp's marriage to Rawdon Crawley is a major step up the social ladder, although, comments Bloom, this "ladder was a magic one and could withdraw itself at will".
Becky Sharp was not sleeping with Steyne; rather, she reckoned that she needed what she calls a "moral sheepdog", and that that was to be Steyne.
Becky Sharp has been married and unmarried; she has risen above the Sedley's social scale only to fall beneath Jos again.
Becky Sharp has seen King George, been Lord Steyne's friend, lost Rawdon, left her son, gone to Paris, and lived in a Bohemian garret, accosted by two German students.
Becky Sharp is unmotivated, says Claudia Nelson, "by either heart or libido".
Thackeray took a degree of risk in presenting a character such as Becky Sharp, says Michael Schmidt, but he remained within boundaries, and whilst he was satirical, he broke no taboos.
Becky Sharp, then, was a new phenomenon in Victorian fiction, which until Vanity Fair knew only of insipid heroines bound by convention or Smollett-esque grotesques.
Amelia herself was one of the former, but Becky Sharp was an original creation.
Becky Sharp has been called a "love to hate her and hate to love her" character, and this was radically different from previous representations of young women in literature.
That Becky Sharp survives, and at times, thrives, despite her moral ambiguity indicates that Thackeray believed society was no longer able to cure wrongdoing.
Becky Sharp was, according to Hughes, "a measure of how debased society had come".
Similarly central are their roles as governesses, but whereas for Emily and the two Janes it symbolised class distinctions and the gap between the governess and her employers, for Becky Sharp it was a means of role reversal.
Unlike Jane Eyre, Becky Sharp is aware of the ways of the world from a very young age.
Such women as Becky Sharp, writes Frazee, contributed "nearly as much to the pungent flavour of the period as did the regent himself".
Becky Sharp compares Sharp to Edith Wharton's Undine Spragg in The Custom of the Country: both live on their wits "and use men as ambulatory bank accounts", although the latter did not have the spirit or sense of humour that Sharp is portrayed with.
Thackeray personally disapproved of Becky Sharp's behaviour, and contemporaries would have understood how, from Becky Sharp's actions, she was a bad woman.
Thackeray himself compared Sharp's career as "resembling the slitherings of a mermaid", and Bloom says that she is enough of a character to make her fundamentally likeable, to the extent that "any reader who does not like Becky is almost certainly not very likeable herself or himself".
Meade, in her biography of Parker, says Becky Sharp became Parker's alter ego, and that it was from her that Parker learnt "the rules of the game".
Oscar Wilde said that he asked a female friend of Thackeray's whether Becky Sharp had any real-life basis.
Becky Sharp said that although the character was strictly fictional, her general character had been suggested to Thackeray by a governess in Kensington Square, who was a lady's companion to a wealthy but irascible elderly woman.
Gordon Ray suggested that the character of Becky Sharp had no single source; rather, it was the combination of aspects of different women that Thackeray had observed and read about.
Becky Sharp too had profited from her liaisons with important society men, and had become mistress to the Earl of Craven at the age of 15; her memoirs went through over 30 editions in their year of publication.
The first spoken-word release was Chester M Franklin's 1932 film of Vanity Fair, with Sharp played by Myrna Loy; her marriage scene was filmed in Boston's Louisburg Square, representing Russell Square in London.