The Virtuous and Vixenish Dichotomy in Literature - How the composers of Vanity Fair, The Taming of the Shrew and Sense and Sensibility felt about the dichotomy between good and bad women

Essay by ochibiHigh School, 11th grade August 2005

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- Although texts across time have portrayed women in terms of a dichotomy between "good" and "bad", it is frequently unclear exactly how composers feel about that dichotomy.

To what extent are the composers of the texts you have studied ambivalent towards their female characters? -

Many texts across time have portrayed their women in terms of a dichotomy between "good" and "bad", or "virtuous" and "vixenish". However, it is frequently unclear how the composers feel about that dichotomy, and the women can be seen as both good and bad, depending on the opinions of each individual reader. This blurring of the line separating the good and bad women is evident in examples such as Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

Out of those three texts, William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair stands out as the strongest example of a composer's ambivalence towards their female characters.

In Vanity Fair, Thackeray often remarks about his female characters, or having other characters comment on them. The dichotomy between "virtuous" and "vixenish" is most unclear regarding the main female characters of the novel, Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley.

Becky Sharp, compared to Amelia Sedley, is portrayed as the "bad" woman. She speaks her mind, she is not afraid of men, and she does whatever she has to do to climb up the social ladder of Vanity Fair, e.g. flirting with men in front of her husband Rawdon, to gain status. She uses people if she sees fit, such as ingratiating herself with the Sedleys, stealing Amelia's jewellery, and leaving when she sees that she has no chance marrying Jos Sedley, but not before she has gotten some money from the sympathetic Mr. Sedley using her status...