In Search of the Hero of Vanity Fair
Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Vanity Fair–a Novel without a Hero (1947–48) by William Makepeace Thackeray is a novel that exposes the vanity of society and of mankind. The subtitle, however, draws our attention to a discussion on what a hero is. Setting out from an argument by Sebastian Faulks “Jane Eyre is a heroine; Becky Sharp, […] is a hero”, this essay investigates the ambiguous concept of heroines and heroes. It is established what Thackeray’s contemporary literary role models of heroines and heroes implied, and how the attributes of these were separated in the Victorian era. They were no longer connected to heroic deeds or supernatural forces of mythical heroes, but rather to the ideal woman or man of the contemporary society. According to a more modern theory by Didier Coste, Becky Sharp is proved to fulfil the three requirements of “the heroic function”: the dynamic, the panoramic and the focal functions. Although Coste’s theory may be gender neutral, the analysis shows that the functions work differently for heroines and heroes, as the hero is an actant, the driving force of the narrative and looked upon with a different gaze than a heroine. Faulks’s intuitive statement about Becky Sharp being a hero and not a heroine, is thus proven right. That Becky fulfils the heroic function by Coste, implies that the readers of the novel recognise her as a role model. Thackeray’s novel and his protagonist Becky mock not only society’s vanity, but especially its gender norms. By creating a woman hero that is allowed to act as a man, Thackeray paved the way for a more realistic role model for readers of literature and also for women writers.
Keywords: Vanity Fair; Thackeray; Rebecca Sharp; Becky Sharp; Victorian literature; gender norms; hero; heroine; heroic function
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 27 p.
Vanity Fair; Thackeray; Rebecca Sharp; Becky Sharp; Victorian literature; gender norms; hero; heroine; heroic function
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131781OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-131781DiVA: diva2:942589
Ludwigs, Marina, PhD
Whiteley, Giles, PhD