As the coach pulls out of Miss Pinkerton's academy carrying two young ladies, one leans out the window and flings her parting gift back into the garden of the school. This defiant act introduces, dear reader, Miss Becky Sharp.
Becky Sharp is one of the unforgettable characters of English fiction, the model adventuress. Witty, clever, and accomplished, she is also poor, having been orphaned in her teens and left to scheme her way in the world. In Vanity Fair, a title taken from John Bunyan, we follow her singleminded progress against the backdrop of Napoleonic England. The canvas is broad, with its picture of Waterloo as a social event, allusions to colonial India, and thorough passage through English society.
Over all this Thackeray the imniscient novelist presides, manipulating his characters to display the vanity of society - "not a moral place certainly; nor a merry one, though very noisy." This is the drama Thackeray unfolds, with a heroine whose vitality and vividness inform every scene.