'I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year.' Becky Sharp is sharp, calculating, and determined to succeed. Craving wealth and a position in society, she charms, hoodwinks, manipulates everyone she meets, rising in the world as she attaches herself to a succession of rich men. Becky's fortunes are contrasted with those of her best friend Amelia, who has none of Becky's wit and vitality but whose gentle-heartedness attracts the devotion of the loyal Dobbin. Set during the Napoleonic wars, Vanity Fair follows Becky as she cuts a swathe through Regency society. Thackeray paints a panoramic portrait of the age, with war, money and national identity his great subjects. The battle for social success is as fierce as the battle of Waterloo, and its casualties as stricken. The satire is at once biting and profound, sparing none in a clear-eyed exposure of a world on the make. Thackeray's scepticism of human motives borders on cynicism yet Vanity Fair is among the funniest novels of the Victorian age. This new edition includes all Thackeray's original illustrations.
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Helen Small is the author of The Long Life (2007), winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism (2008) and the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize from the British Academy (2008). For Oxford World's Classics she has edited George Eliot's The Lifted Veil and Brother Jacob, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds and The Last Chronicle of Barset. Her most recent book is The Value of the Humanities (2013).