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1. He was a fine open-faced boy…

This sentence is rich in epithets. The epithet is a word or a group of words, giving an expressive characterization of the object described. Grammatically epithets commonly appear as attributes. They disclose the emotionally colored individual attitude of the writer towards the person or thing qualified. Thus Thackeray speaks of little Rawdon as a “fine open-faced boy”, calls him “generous and soft in the heart”.

2. … Molly, the cook, who crammed him with ghost stories at night, and with good things from the dinner”

“Ghost stories” and “good things from the dinner” are treated here by the author as word combinations of the same rank. The parallel use of these word combinations so different in meaning helps the author to reach a humorous effect.

3. He was a fine open-faced boy… fondly attaching himself to all who were good to him – to the pony – to Lord Southdown… - to Molly, the cook… - to Briggs… and his father especially…[11]

Note the reverse way, in which little Rawdon’s attachments are listened. First comes the pony, then Lord Southdown, who gave him this pony, then Molly, the cook, the Briggs, who actually brought him up, and finally his father. This reverse innumeration helps in creating a humorous effect.

4. Here, as he grew to be about eight years old, his attachments may be said to have ended…

Make a note of the use of the Subjective Infinitive Construction. The Perfect Infinitive shows priority of the action expressed by it.

5. It was a little boy’s heart that was bleeding

A common deceive to achieve emphasis is to place “it is” or “it was” before the member of the sentence that is to be accentuated. It is usually followed by a clause introduced by “that” or “who”.

6. What mayn’t hear her singing? Why don’t she ever sing to me…?

The violation of grammar rules that we see here may occur in children’s speech.

7. The cook looked at the housemaid; the housemaid looked knowingly at the footman – the awful kitchen inquisition…

The stylistic device used in this sentence is known as parallelism. It consists in the similarity of the syntactical structure of successive phrases, clauses or sentences. Parallel constructions are often accompanied by the repetition of one or more words. In the sentence analyzed these words are “cook” and “housemaid”. The latter word completes the first clause and is repeated at the opening of the second clause. The sameness of the structure and vocabulary accentuates the fact that everyone in the servants’ quarters was drawn into gossip.

Scandal lived in the kitchens as well as in the parlours. According to Thackeray, the servants gossiped about their masters, criticized them and passed their sentence on them. The satirical effect is heightened by juxtaposing the words “kitchen” and “inquisition” so different in sphere of usage.

8. Bon Dieu! It is awful, that servants inquisition!

Thackeray here digresses from the narration expressing his views on contemporary society. Such digressions from the thread of narration could be traced throughout the novel and are very characteristic of Thackeray’s manner of writing. Here the author comments on the events described, reflects on the vices of the bourgeois world, expresses his philosophical views on life.

9. Discovery walks respectfully up to her… with Calumny…

The abstract nouns “discovery” and “calumny” are used instead [12] of the names of the persons who were living embodiments of these vices, who were engaged in slander (calumny), in discovering the particulars of other people’s life. This transfer of the name of one object to another with which it is in some way connected is known as metonymy. Here it comes very close to allegory and serves to create a physically pal[able image of slander and gossip.

10. Madam, your secret will be talked over… If you are guilty, have a care of appearances…

The use of the direct address as well as the use of the second person pronoun involves the reader into events of the book and lends a greater generalizing force to the passage.

“Vanity Fair” is the name Thackeray gave to English aristocratic and bourgeois society. The title of the book is highly symbolic and shows Thackeray’s attitude towards the contemporary society. He brands it as vain, mean, vicious and corrupt. The title can be traced back to the novel “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan (1628 - 1688). The pilgrims come to the city of Vanity and there at Vanity Fair “houses, lands, trades, places, honours… and delights of all sorts as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children… could be sold and bought”.

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