Illustration by Thackeray to Chapter 4 of Vanity Fair: Becky Sharp is flirting with Mr Joseph Sedley.
Becky Sharp is the anti-heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray's satirical novel Vanity Fair (1847–48). A cynical social climber who uses her charms to fascinate and seduce upper-class men, Sharp is contrasted with the clinging, dependent heroine Amelia Sedley. She befriends Amelia at an expensive girls school where she is given a place because her father teaches there, and uses her as a stepping stone to gain social position. Sharp functions as a picara — a picaresque heroine — or by being a social outsider who is able to expose the manners of the upper gentry to ridicule. Her name ("sharp" having connotations of a "sharper" or con-man) and function suggest that Thackeray intended her to be unsympathetic, and yet she became one of his most popular creations.