Vanity Fair | Study Guide

William Makepeace Thackeray

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Vanity Fair | Characters

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Character Description
Becky Sharp Becky Sharp, or Rebecca, is an intelligent and ruthless adventuress. She marries Rawdon Crawley, with whom she has a son, is a long-lived but insincere friend to Amelia, and eventually becomes the companion of Jos Sedley, controlling him and possibly hastening his death. Read More
Amelia Sedley Amelia Sedley, or "Emmy" as her family calls her, is a pretty but passive and naive young woman. She marries George Osborne with whom she has a son, Georgy. Read More
Jos Sedley Joseph Sedley, called "Jos" by family and friends, is an overweight, vain, buffoonish young man who is nevertheless fond and protective of his sister, Amelia. Read More
George Osborne George Osborne is a handsome young man who is charismatic and fun-loving, but also self-centered and shallow, with fickle affections. He marries Amelia because he wants to think of himself as honorable, but his selfishness and lack of good judgment prove devastating for his wife and child. Read More
William Dobbin William Dobbin, George Osborne's army buddy, is a capable and modest army officer who is both George's and Amelia's protector. His seemingly unlimited loyalty to Amelia is finally rewarded when, in the end, he marries her, although by then his love for her has diminished. Read More
Rawdon Crawley Rawdon Crawley, Sir Pitt's younger son, is a large, imposing, and handsome man. While genial and affectionate, he is somewhat dull-witted, and unlike Becky, he prefers playing with his son, and gambling and fun with fellow soldiers, to social climbing. He thinks the world of his wife, Becky, although he is frustrated by her lack of affection for Rawdy, their son. Read More
Lady Bareacres Lady Bareacres and her daughter belong to a British family temporarily living in Brussels. Lady Bareacres befriends George in Brussels, where higher-class people are few, but intends to ignore him back in England.
Reverend Mr. Binny Reverend Mr. Binny proposes to Amelia after her husband's death, but his proposal is rejected.
Mrs. Blenkinsop Mrs. Blenkinsop is the longtime housekeeper for the Sedleys.
Miss Briggs Miss Briggs is Miss Matilda Crawley's companion. Although easily taken in by Becky's wiles, she never comes to despise Becky, and repeatedly tries to help her regain Miss Crawley's favor.
Frederick Bullock Frederick Bullock marries Maria Osborne.
Mary Clapp Mary Clapp is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clapp, the Sedleys' landlord.
Mr. Clapp For years, Mr. Clapp was a clerk—an office worker—whom Mr. Sedley employed. After the Sedleys' bankruptcy, he and his wife take the family in.
Mrs. Clapp Mrs. Clapp, along with her husband, takes the Sedleys in after their bankruptcy.
Reverend Bute Crawley A convivial, athletic man, Reverend Bute Crawley, brother to Sir Pitt Crawley, is esteemed in Queen's Crawley and never misses a social event. However, his gambling habits keep him in debt.
James Crawley Son of Reverend Bute and Martha Crawley, James Crawley becomes rector of Queen's Crawley after his father's death.
Lady Crawley Lady Crawley, formerly Rose Dawson, is Sir Pitt's frail and sad wife, and the mother of Rosalind and Violet.
Lady Jane Crawley Lady Jane Crawley (formerly Jane Sheepshanks) is Pitt's wife and the capable mistress of Crawley estate. She is not susceptible to Becky's ploys, but welcomes Rawdon's son kindly despite his mother's behavior.
Mrs. Bute Crawley Mrs. Bute Crawley, whose first name is Martha, is the wife of Reverend Bute Crawley. Mrs. Crawley works hard to advance her fortunes and those of her daughters, mainly by trying to turn Miss Matilda Crawley against her nephew Rawdon, who was her favorite relative.
Miss Matilda Crawley Miss Matilda Crawley is the demanding, prickly spinster aunt whom others in the family try to please in hopes of getting her money. She favors Rawdon at first, until he disappoints her by marrying Becky.
Pitt Crawley Before he inherits Crawley estate, Pitt is self-obsessed and cold, but he proves to be a savvy politician and responsible manager of his wealth. He inherits his father's estate and becomes Sir Pitt.
Sir Pitt Crawley Sir Pitt Crawley hires Becky as governess for his daughters, Rosalind and Violet. Later he proposes to Becky but is rebuffed.
Rosalind Crawley Rosalind Crawley, also known as "Rose," is the eldest daughter of Sir Pitt Crawley, and is fond of books.
Violet Crawley Violet Crawley is the youngest daughter of Sir Pitt Crawley, and her father's favorite.
Cuff Cuff is a gentleman's son at Swishtail Seminary where William Dobbin attended school. He tries to bully George Osborne.
Tom Eaves Tom Eaves is a character whom the narrator refers to as "my informant." The narrator learns about Lord Steyne through Tom.
Mrs. Firkin Mrs. Firkin is one of Miss Matilda Crawley's maids.
Lady Fitz-Willis Lady Fitz-Willis is a woman of high society who visits the Crawleys, and defends Becky against those who resent her.
Lady Gaunt Lady Gaunt is Lady Bareacres's daughter.
Georgy Georgy is Amelia and George Osborne's son. His existence reconciles Amelia to the Osbornes and secures her financial stability at last.
Mrs. Haggistoun Mrs. Haggistoun is Miss Rhoda Swartz's guardian.
Mr. Hodson Mr. Hodson manages Sir Pitt Crawley's sprawling estate.
John Horrocks John Horrocks is Sir Pitt's butler.
Miss Horrocks Miss Horrocks is butler John Horrocks's daughter, and a servant of Sir Pitt.
Isidor Isidor is Jos Sedley's greedy, resentful valet in Brussels.
John John is the Sedleys' groom who shows little respect for Becky.
Captain Macmurdo Captain Macmurdo is a veteran officer, and Rawdon's friend and comrade.
Narrator The narrator of Vanity Fair is, in some critics' opinion, an extension of William Makepeace Thackeray himself, or at least of Thackeray the satirical writer and commentator on British life. The narrator's powerful voice dominates the novel. The characters speak far less than he does, as he performs various roles. He casts himself as the puppet master, pulling the characters' strings. Yet he also provides a running commentary—at times scathing and at other times gently sympathetic—of the characters' choices, triumphs, and sufferings. The narrator addresses readers directly, confides in them, warns them, and colludes with them as he laughs at his puppets. He even steps into the action from time to time.
Glorvina O'Dowd Glorvina O'Dowd is Major O'Dowd's sister. She is seeking a husband, and for a while, William Dobbin seems a likely choice.
Major O'Dowd A likeable man who adores his wife and has the trust of his soldiers, Major Mick O'Dowd is commander of George and Dobbin's regiment.
Mrs. O'Dowd Wife to Major O'Dowd, Mrs. Peggy O'Dowd is a sprightly and capable woman, proud of her Irish ancestry, and kind to Amelia during her time in Brussels, especially after George's death.
Miss Jane Osborne One of George Osborne's two sisters, Miss Jane Osborne is given to ideas of romance. She sees Amelia's child Georgy's resemblance to her brother and alerts their father.
Mr. John Osborne Mr. John Osborne, George's stern, wealthy father, is proud and protective of his family's wealth and status. He is angry when George marries Amelia, but secures his grandson's upbringing and future, and saves the Sedleys from starvation.
Miss Maria Osborne One of George Osborne's two sisters, Miss Maria Osborne plots—as does Becky—to increase her wealth through marriage. Unlike Becky, Maria is an eligible catch, coming from a wealthy family, and marries Frederick Bullock.
Parisian great lady A friend of Miss Crawley's, the Parisian great lady is very fond of Becky, and sends a letter to Miss Crawley praising her wit and charm.
Miss Barbara Pinkerton Miss Barbara Pinkerton is the proud head of Chiswick, an academy for young ladies. She claims to be a friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson and often clashes with Becky, her strong-willed charity pupil.
Miss Jemima Pinkerton Miss Jemima Pinkerton is the easily flustered, big-hearted assistant at the academy for young ladies. She is appalled when Becky scoffs at her kind actions.
Charles Raggles Charles Raggles is Miss Crawley's butler. He is yet another victim of Becky's scheming.
Rawdy Rawdy is Becky and Rawdon's son, who is doted on by his father. He inherits the Crawley estate and becomes close friends with Georgy Osborne.
Mr. Sambo Mr. Sambo is the Sedleys' family servant.
Mr. John Sedley Mr. John Sedley is Amelia's father, an irresponsible man whose slide out of the middle class speaks to the instability of wealth not secured by property and titles.
Mrs. Sedley Mrs. Sedley is Amelia's mother, a woman ill-equipped to deal with the downturn in her fortunes.
Mr. Smee Mr. Smee is Jane Osborne's art teacher. They engage in a secret romance, which infuriates her father.
Lady Southdown Lady Matilda Southdown, also known as Countess Southdown, is the mother of Lady Jane Crawley, Pitt's wife.
Lady Steyne Lady Steyne is the Marquis of Steyne's wife, whom he torments until she withdraws into silence. She is kind to Becky, and calls forth more affection from Becky than perhaps any other character.
Lord Steyne Vicious, licentious, and vindictive, Lord Steyne (the Marquis of Steyne) uses Becky as his protégé to impress other men of power, buying her expensive gifts and inappropriately spending time alone with her. After Rawdon's assault, Steyne punishes Becky by destroying her reputation wherever she goes.
Tom Stubble Tom Stubble is an ensign serving under Major O'Dowd. His injury gives Mrs. O'Dowd someone to care for while her husband is away at war.
Miss Swartz Miss Rhoda Swartz is a wealthy young woman from St. Kitts (an island in the Caribbean). She is biracial, probably the daughter of a slave, and her last name indicates Jewish descent. Although she completed school under Miss Pinkerton, her dark skin puts off suitors. Because of her money, Mr. Osborne wants George to marry her.
Lord Tapeworm Lord Tapeworm is a friend of Jos Sedley, and tries to woo Amelia during their stay in Germany.
General Tufto General Tufto, whom Rawdon serves as aide-de-camp, is one of the victims of Becky's flirtations while she and Rawdon are stationed in Brussels, awaiting orders.
Wenham Wenham is a lawyer and Lord Steyne's close friend.
Miss Wirt Miss Wirt is governess to the Osborne sisters, Maria and Jane.
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