Wednesday 30 August 2006

Vanity Fair enough

In the CASE Great Books courses, we've been studying Thackeray's novel, Vanity Fair. In the recent film version starring Reese Witherspoon, the ending is changed so that Becky Sharp (the opportunistic heroine of the story) has a 'happily ever after' ending in India rather than the book's pointed final comments about her pointless social climbing. It struck some of the group that this was a sign of the times--the filmmaker could not cope with the hopelessness of the book, where the true vanity of the characters is left to hang over the reader like a warning sign. I wonder whether this is something we need in apologetics today--the capacity to let hopelessness and vanity echo forth around people's empty lives, so that they might seek out something more substantial than wealth and social status.

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byron smith said...

Yes, I found it both fascinating and disappointing to watch the DVD 'extras' and hear the director's take on the movie: a story of female empowerment and self-actualisation! Has no one read Pilgrim's Progress to pick up the connotations of Thackeray's title?

Greg Clarke said...

If the director read Bunyan, she decided he was wrong! The movie is very much a feminist and postcolonial interpretation, but in order to provide it, she had to disrupt the story rudely. One alternative view offered in the Great Books group was that Becky was now off to India to wreak havoc in the same way--another continent to exploit!

byron smith said...

Mmm, nice thought - though this would certainly be a reading against the director's intentions. (Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that).