Thackeray's use of irony in characterizing women in his major novels

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dc.contributor.advisor Jennings, C. Wade en_US Croxton, Carol Royalty, 1930- en_US 2011-06-03T19:24:32Z 2011-06-03T19:24:32Z 1978 en_US 1978
dc.identifier LD2489.Z64 1978 .C76 en_US
dc.description.abstract William Makepeace Thackeray's irony is largely responsible far the ambiguity which roused strongly conflicting opinions about his female characters. Critics have argued about why he wrote so ambiguously, but most likely he was expressing his artistic vision that life is full of incongruities and ironies. A study of specific examples of irony in the portrayal of "good" and "bad" women in his major novels clarifies how he uses it to make his characters life-like. It also illuminates the moral viewpoint and the structure of Thackeray's masterpiece, Vanity Fair.Irony in the characterization of Becky and Amelia in Vanity Fair is rich and complex. Following Thackeray's earlier disposition toward parody, he made both women serve as ironic satires on the stock heroines of popular novels in the early 1800's. Besides parody, there is a great deal of simple verbal irony, which is usually comic, and also much dramatic and situational irony, which is often more serious in tone. The verbal irony is usually at the expense of Becky and Amelia, whereas the other types use the women at the expense of society. Even more frequent are complex combinations of verbal, dramatic, and situational techniques, double meanings, afterthoughts, shifts of the ironist/victim functions, and romantic irony, in which the author seems capriciously to build and destroy his readers' illusions, as well as his own in his role of narrative persona. Both women are used as agents of Thackeray's irony at the expense of the readers, but in different ways. In her parodic function and in Thackeray's shifts of tonein describing her, Amelia is used directly to upset readers' expectations and complacency about their values. Although Becky also serves that function, she is more often used indirectly, as a clever ironist at the expense of the other characters in the book. But these characters, of course, represent an important proportion of the readers.In the novels following Vanity Fair, Thackeray gradually reduces both the quantity and the variety of all ironic techniques in characterizing women. In general he uses a little less irony to characterize "good" women than to characterize "bad." However, as the irony decreases that ratio narrows, and the differentiation between "goodness" and "badness" also narrows. At last, in The Newcomes, Rosey and Ethel, who begin as "good" and "bad," actually switch roles: Rosey deteriorates into "bad" and Ethel grows into "good." Parodic and comic irony are reduced; in Pendennis, Blanche and Laura are occasionally comic, but none of the later major women are. Dramatic and circumstantial techniques used seriously to expose social evil and human weakness are also reduced, but to a lesser degree, so that they seem to become relatively more prominent. Early in the sequence of novels, almost all verbal and romantic forms of irony are eliminated in which Thackeray is the direct ironist. He continues the dramatic method of using fate or circumstance as agents at the expense of the characters and the characters as agents at the expense of themselves or other characters. Only in characterizing Ethel during her "marriage market" years does Thackeray resume the techniques of verbal irony and of author as direct ironist.The increase of direct and verbal irony to make Ethel "bad" indicates that Thackeray uses such direct techniques to characterize bad qualities, as opposed to"bad" people. This fact supports those critics who interpret neither Becky not Amelia favorably. Despite the novel's contrastive structure described by Tillotson it is not necessary to view them as diametrically opposed. Becky's wickedness does not command Thackeray's secret admiration, and the sentimental effusions over Amelia are not serious; in different ways both have bad qualities, ironically revealing the shortcomings of Victorian values. en_US
dc.format.extent 3, 237, leaves ; 28 cm. en_US
dc.source Virtual Press en_US
dc.subject.lcsh Irony in literature. en_US
dc.subject.lcsh Women in literature. en_US
dc.subject.other Thackeray, William Makepeace, 1811-1863 -- Characters -- Women. en_US
dc.title Thackeray's use of irony in characterizing women in his major novels en_US Thesis ( D.Ed.) en_US
dc.identifier.cardcat-url en_US

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  • Doctoral Dissertations [3248]
    Doctoral dissertations submitted to the Graduate School by Ball State University doctoral candidates in partial fulfillment of degree requirements.

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