Satire: the thread connecting Lord of the Flies, Catch-22, 1984, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As it turns out, most of the greatest novels (and tv shows) in recent history are centered around satire of some kind, usually with the intention of disgracing society into improvement.
Today marks the 200th birthday of William Makepeace Thackery, the masterful author behind Vanity Fair, a classic work of satire. Vanity Fair tells the story of social-climbing Becky Sharp, as her ambition to reach the pinnacle of 19th Century English society overshadows any moral or emotional obligations. She’s cut-throat, basically, and Thackery is less than polite in villainizing her social ambitions. Maybe he was trying to say something? (the novel, not the magazine).
Vanity Fair is noted for being an especially harsh depiction of English society during the 1800’s. Thackery made his opinion clear, as all of his characters are shroud in heavy coats of vanity and all of their ambitions fueled by selfish motives. In fact, his novel was originally titled, Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero. It paints an ugly picture, and yet, it makes for a classic, universally praised story.
What this story lacks in a happy ending with happy people, it makes up for with honesty. It was popular when first published and continues to be popular now because it tells a true story, exposing the greed and corruption that took over England during the Napoleonic Wars. Things appeared pretty, veiled with a bustling social scene, but society was headed towards self-destruction with moral flaws. Perhaps it was so popular because Thackery addressed these issues in the context of an intriguing work of fiction, which could be nicely enjoyed during a morning cup of tea.
His 200th birthday is a big one, and we thought there was no better way to commemorate than highlighting Thackery’s most noteworthy, critically acclaimed, fancy-society-party-filled work, Vanity Fair.
(You can always watch the movie, but that’s kind of missing the point)