I think imagining different fictional people in their jobs, why they are there, what kind of personalities they have and what brought them to where they are is really fun. So I thought, today we are going to talk about Becky Sharp, the fictional governess in Vanity Fair. Becky is thought to be a composite inspired by several real women. And that isn’t really surprising to me, what do you think?
Becky Sharp is the first time a governess was the main character of a story, she was poor without social status, and typically at the time her friend Amelia would have been the main character.
So Becky does something that with the tweaks and twirls of time and culture still happens today, doesn’t it? From a cynical point of view we can read her as being a ruthless opportunist who uses people as stepping stones in her quest to climb the social ladder to riches and glamour. I have seen it in the CVs I get from people from marginalized countries with no childcare experience who say “I will take any job in Monaco”. (just a side note, we do not work with people who are not in it with the same values we have, quality is king with us, so no thank you.)
From a less cynical and more modern and entrepreneurial perspective she disregards the social norms of the time and goes out to get what she wants. I see that too in CVs I get from people who tell me, I know I don’t have any childcare experience, can you please help me build my CV to be a nanny. For those people, I am happy to see if I can help.
We touch on this in different scenarios of nanny placement. Everyone loves a love story, but I personally don’t love opportunism, and the way I read Becky Sharp is as an opportunist, mostly, who doesn’t care too much, if at all, who she hurts along the way to what she wants, or thinks she wants. Being a governess is a serious and really important job, not a stepping stone to marry the dad in the family. Or is it?
Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about families who want to hire an ugly nanny. Lots of you were outraged on Instagram, and this is probably one of the reasons we ever get requests like that. If there weren’t men naive and stupid enough to cheat on their wives ever chance they got, and if there weren’t women who didn’t think twice about destroying a family, going for what they want, would we get requests like that?
You can always trace it back at least one step backwards, and just for fun, let’s do it. In Becky’s case, I think she was driven by a combination of unfulfilled fantasies and a desire to be all the things she dreamed of and thought she should have. In a modern marriage there are a lot less definitive no gos as long as all parties are aligned, so somehow the request for unattractive childcare for your kids should sometime soon become anachronistic and not really fit in with how we communicate and collaborate as couples and families. But I get it, I have seen Becky’s and I don’t like it. At the same time with honest intentions I do think people and women especially should go out and follow their dreams. So where do we land?
The point is that you can read Becky in different ways, and there is lots of literary analysis done on her persona and on the work itself. If you haven’t read the book or seen the film, I would recommend it.
I would love to hear what you think of Becky’s and other personality types :) email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put podcast in the subject line.
Thank you for spending some time with me today. This week’s episode is brought to you by Mamatoto Nannies, the sister company to Riviera Nannies that places domestic staff to VIP families worldwide. Visit mamatoto.info to learn more about both registering as nannies and families.
Don’t forget to rate us if you like the podcast and to follow us on social media @rivieranannies Next week we are going to talk about what to ask when you are interviewing. See you then :)