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Thackeray's Vanity Fair and Commodities in Circulation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2011 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

While William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair is a satire, a humoristic account of the vanities of the different characters in the fictitious society of Vanity Fair, it is also a social criticism of early nineteenth century British society. The essay examines Thackeray’s social critique, which is sometimes explicitly expressed and sometimes more implicit. His criticism is aimed both at the new commodity culture where everything is reducible to money—even people and human relations—and at the class system of the up-and-coming middle classes and the established gentry and aristocracy. When Thackeray sends Becky Sharpe off in a vain pursuit of wealth and social status, he also uses her to expose the vanities of the other characters in Vanity Fair. Their vanities derive from the prevailing commodity culture and are mainly connected to wealth and social status. The essay discusses Becky’s progress from a sociological perspective through the theories of Pierre Bourdieu. His concepts of field, habitus, capital and distinction deal with the power structure in society and what distinguishes different social classes.  Here his theories are used to demonstrate how the different characters in Vanity Fair engage in competition for social status, by using their different forms of capital, and the essay emphasizes the convertibility of these kinds of capital. Bourdieu’s theories contribute to the understanding of how Becky who comes from nowhere, manages to climb to very top rung of the social ladder, but they also demonstrate that her chameleon-like ability to fit in everywhere is an exception to Bourdieu’s general model. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 21 p.
Keyword [en]
Thackeray, Vanity Fair, commodity culture, social critique, field, capital, habitus, distinction, Bourdieu
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-72369OAI: diva2:495212
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2012-08-27 Created: 2012-02-08 Last updated: 2012-08-27Bibliographically approved

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Ahola, Ulrika
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