I’ve been reading Vanity Fair, by William M. Thackery. It is a large, long book and I hesitated to pick it up at first. Still, it is considered a classic, and I have a personal goal to read as many classics as I can. I took a deep breath and began, and have been delighted ever since. After a few chapters, I began to notice a pattern and, just as Charlton Heston’s character learns the terrible truth in Soylent Green, so I excitedly proclaimed to my baffled husband my suspicion that Gone with the Wind was Vanity Fair.
While I have not read Gone with the Wind (yet), I have enjoyed the film many times, much to my husband’s chagrin. He is in for a disappointment, because I am about to enjoy it again.
I had my suspicions when first reading about the characters of Rebecca Sharp and Amelia Sedley, or should I say, Scarlett O’Hara and Melly. Just as with Scarlett, Rebecca is a strong, power-hungry, conniving little woman who can hold her own, and how! She is not entirely evil, but is certainly a very selfish person. Rebecca, like Scarlett, plots to become popular and rich, and sets her pretty, flirtatious eyes on any man who might fit the bill. Rebecca is rather shameless, always flirting with men young and old, single and married alike, thoroughly enjoying the attention and praise lavished upon her. The ladies are less thrilled with Rebecca’s charms.
Amelia’s character is highly contrasted with Rebecca’s, just as Melly’s is with Scarlett’s. Amelia and Melly are both very quiet, kind, and gentle souls who give their all to everyone else, hardly ever thinking of themselves. There are some significant differences between Melly and Amelia, for instance, Melly’s character seems very strong, although quiet, while Amelia nearly always seems childlike. Still, the caricature between the two is quite similar, even their names are alike. Both love with all their hearts, charm people by their goodness, submit to duty, refuse to gossip, lead quiet lives rather than flaunting about in high society, and, they pray sincerely.
The famous party scene at Twelve Oaks in GWTW, might have been lifted right from the pages of Vanity Fair. Another interesting similarity is that GWTW is set right before the outbreak of the American Civil war, while Vanity Fair is set right before the Battle of Waterloo, and although VF doesn’t go into it, Thackery mentions that the town of Brussels had been turned into a military hospital, just like Savannah, GA in GWTW. Thackery describes too, the anxiety and pain of reading the list of wounded, missing, and dead, a poignant scene in GWTW.
All these might have been mere coincidences until, about halfway through the “novel without a hero” (VF), Rebecca utters the famous flippant phrase of Scarlett O’Hara, “fiddlededee”. My suspicions were confirmed. I squealed to my sleeping spouse, “She said, fiddlededee!!!” Case closed.