Thackeray's major novels: a Kierkegaardian view

Barry, Mary Elizabeth (1972) Thackeray's major novels: a Kierkegaardian view. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF (Migrated (PDF/A Conversion) from original format: (application/pdf)) - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (4Mb)
  • [img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
    (Original Version)

Abstract

A student of Thackeray will understand him best if he considers the man's fiction in conjunction with his personal biography before drawing conclusions. Certain philosophic patterns will then emerge that tend to make Thackeray look like a man of existentialist interests. His views about the chaotic nature of this world, the isolation in which individuals live cut their lives, and the ambiguity of man's nature, make him sound almost Sartrian, while his acceptance of Divine Order and a loving God in the next world make this parallel impossible. Examined more closely, the approach that Thackeray finally adopts to life and fiction seems akin to that taken by Soren Aabye Kierkegaard, an ascetic Danish philosopher who lived at the same time as Thackeray. Kierkegaard maps out three stages of life which he sees as the steps to becoming a true Christian - the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage, and the religious stage. Curiously, Thackeray^ novels seem to follow a similar pattern: Vanity Fair lends itself readily to examination as an artistic exploration of the Kierkegaardian aesthetic stage: Pendennis, Henry Esmond and The Newcomes seem concerned with the same problems encountered by one in the ethical stage of life; and Philip seems to carry Thackeray even closer to Kierkegaard*s religious stage, although because of the essential "inwardness" of the religious stage, this last must remain a matter for speculation rather than proof. Turning from the themes of Thackeray's novels to an examination of his literary techniques, one discovers a further likeness to Kierkegaard. Both men make extensive use of irony and humour, especially in their adaptation of the ironic narrator for a didactic purpose, and in their constant repetition of a common theme, in Thackeray's case Vanitas vanitatum, the war cry of Vanity Fair. -- Taken together these likenesses seem interesting material for a new view of Thackeray in Kierkegaardian existentialist terms, not to prove that the two men are identical, but simply to illustrate that philosophic affinities, not previously recognized, do exist, and make an interesting addition to the corpus of criticism already extant on the subject of Thackeray's life and writings.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8001
Item ID: 8001
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [148]-152.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1972
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Thackeray, William Makepeace, 1811-1863--Criticism and interpretation; Kierkegaard, Soren, 1813-1855

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Downloads

Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics