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And who on earth, after the daily experience we have, can question the probability of a gentleman marrying anybody? How many of the wise and learned have married their cooks? Did not Lord Eldon himself, the most prudent of men, make a runaway match? Were not Achilles and Ajax both in love with their servant-maids? And are we to expect a heavy dragoon with strong desires and small brains, who had never controlled a passion in his life, to become prudent all of a sudden, and to refuse to pay any price for an indulgence to which he had a mind? If people only made prudent marriages, what a stop to population there would be!

OMG, you guys. Becky Sharp? Penniless, manipulative governess Becky Sharp?

MARRIED. Secretly married. And not just married, married to the son of her employer!

The chapters dealing with this revelation and its aftermath, which I’m still reading, are full of interesting witticisms and observations on social climbing, manipulation, and wounded pride in many different forms.

It’s a social structure problem, this marriage. First, she’s not just a governess. She’s the possibly illegitimate daughter of an eternally-poor painter and a woman who worked as an opera dancer, no matter what claims to impoverished French nobility her daughter may make. Second, she and Rawdon Crawley married without the permission of his family, who are her employers and social superiors.  Third, Rawdon’s a moron. Which isn’t really a social structure problem, but it probably made him much easier to manipulate and seduce. And I felt it was important to mention.

The other thing is how the secret comes out. Sir Pitt Crawley and Lady Crawley hired Becky as the governess for their daughters. Eventually Becky ends up back in London as unofficial companion to the elderly and very rich Miss Crawley, an aunt of her actual employer. Lady Crawley then dies, and Sir Pitt comes to see Becky to a) demand her return to Queen’s Crawley and her governessing duties and b) suggest she marry him and be Lady Crawley.

Which of course she can’t do, because she’s already married. And legally his daughter-in-law.

So yeah. The two of them are being ostracized by his family at the moment, and indeed, Miss Crawley took to her bed for some time, since Rawdon was her favorite and intended heir.

Meanwhile, the rather tediously sweet Amelia Sedley is going through challenges of her own. Her family has been financially ruined by the vagaries of the stock market during Napoleon’s brief return from Elba, and George Osborn, to whom she has been all-but-engaged since infancy, practically, has been ordered by his father to avoid her entirely and consider their engagement at an end.

Of course they end up married, but it’s a worrying marriage. Amelia adores George, but it’s clear that he is a weak-willed individual. He is overcome by the persuasiveness of his friend Captain Dobbins and the romance and sweetness of the situation, as well as the excitement of rebelling against his father’s direct orders. So they are married and he asserts himself with his family, but how will it end? They are happy during the honeymoon, but how long until George’s irresponsibility and fickleness poison the relationship?

Two risky marriages. Three individuals driven by romance, and the fourth, our anti-heroine Becky, taking a calculated risk. She’s gambling on Rawdon not being cut off by his family, and on her newly-elevated position allowing her greater opportunities for further social climbing.

And I’m still only up to page 250! How far will she manage to rise?

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