Vanity Fair | Study Guide

William Makepeace Thackeray

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William Makepeace Thackeray

Years Published






Perspective and Narrator

Vanity Fair is written from the third-person omniscient point of view. However, the narrator's voice is rarely absent from the novel. He sometimes directs the action and sometimes observes the action, but he always comments in his opinionated voice on everyone and everything. He swings repeatedly from being an omniscient narrator to having a limited perspective, to being a bystander in some of the novel's events.


Vanity Fair is narrated in the past tense.

About the Title

William Makepeace Thackeray took his title Vanity Fair from English writer and preacher John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678), an allegorical journey of a man named Christian through earthly life to heaven. Christian encounters temptations and detours, including the road through a city called Vanity, where a yearlong fair is held. Citizens and visitors to Vanity lose sight of eternal good as they jostle and fight for the temporary—and often corrupt—delights of the world. The book was enormously popular and read in many English and early American households alongside the Bible, so Thackeray could be sure many readers would understand the title's allusion to The Pilgrim's Progress, with its theme of humankind's self-destructive attraction to worldly delights (vanities).


This study guide and infographic for William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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