4

I was recently rereading William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, Vanity Fair as it follows the lives of two distinct female characters, Becky Sharp and Emmy Sedley.

I also have read that Thackeray himself had set out to describe his work (and was once subtitled) as "a novel without a hero" and wanted to defy convention of the Victorian novel.

Rebecca Sharp, called Becky, is Amelia's opposite, an intelligent young woman with a gift for satire. She is described as a short sandy haired girl who has green eyes and a great deal of wit. Becky is born to a French opera dancer mother and an art teacher and artist father Francis. Fluent in both French and English, Becky has a beautiful singing voice, plays the piano, and shows great talent as an actress. Without a mother to guide her into marriage, Becky resolves that "I must be my own Mamma". She thereafter appears to be completely amoral and without conscience and has been called the work's "anti-heroine". She does not seem to have the ability to get attached to other people, and lies easily and intelligently to get her way. She is extremely manipulative and, after the first few chapters and her failure to attract Jos Sedley, is not shown as being particularly sincere

Wikipedia, 'Vanity Fair'

However, when I tend to think of works that allegedly don't have heroes or heroines, I tend to think that many of the characters are anti-heroes and that perhaps some of them are Byronic heroes.

The Byronic hero is a variant of the Romantic hero as a type of character, named after the English Romantic poet Lord Byron. Both Byron's own persona as well as characters from his writings are considered to provide defining features to the character type.

The Byronic hero first reached a very wide public in Byron's semi-autobiographical epic narrative poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812–1818). Historian and critic Lord Macaulay described the character as "a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection"

Wikipedia, 'Byronic hero'

Becky Sharp is a character that seems to almost be miserable through constent discontent, and is often seen as unlikable, because her obsession with wealth and schemes only affords her to show little to no kindness to others, unless it suits her self interest. However she does get hurt, even if she washes it off; and she does tend to defy convention, especially for a women depicted in this era.

So I was wondering if Becky Sharp meets the criteria of a Byronic heroine or if her disposition to not really like others keeps her from being labeled as such?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.