The cover of Vanity Fair depicts the novel's main characters as marionettes being controlled by a puppeteer, the author. Through cliff hangers due to breaks in the serial publication of the story, that puppeteer can control his readers' reactions as well. William Makepeace Thackeray does not merely function as a narrator; he is the puppet-master who manipulates not only his characters, but also his readers.
Thackeray is an omniscient and omnipresent narrator. He describes himself as looking into characters' bedrooms, at one point saying "I know where [Amelia] kept that packet... I will only act Moonshine and peep harmless into the bed where faith and beauty and innocence lie dreaming." (XII). The narrator also has the power to overhear prayers, further showing that he has a god-like presence in the story. However, sometimes he deems it fit to withhold this kind of information from the reader, such as when he asks, "Have we a right to repeat or overhear [Amelia's] prayers?" (XV). Though he has revealed such personal thoughts before, Thackeray insists that prayers "are secrets, and out of the domain of Vanity Fair" (XV). The most maddening time the narrator plays coy with the readers is after Rawdon leaves Becky, having walked in on what he thinks is an affair between his wife and Lord Steyne. Thackeray asks, "What had happened? Was she guilty or not?" (LIII), but does not answer the question. The readers must form their own opinions on the matter.
Thackeray is also the omnipotent narrator of Vanity Fair. One way he shows this is by stating a condition contrary to fact, such as "If George and Miss Sedley had remained..., in the farther room, Joseph Sedley's bachelorhood would have been at an end, and this work would never have been written." (IV) and "If Rawdon Crawley had been then and there present... the pair might have... avowed al, and been forgiven in a twinkling. But that good chance was denied to the young couple, doubtless in order that this story...
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