One of the most tantalizing aspects of Henry Esmond is that we never know how aware he is of his manipulations and self-contradictions. We know he manipulates his story of himself to ensure his heroism, but how far does he succumb to Sternism and believe his own distortions? But this ambiguity only appears to us if we read with the implied author, outside of Henry's narration. Narratorial reading traps us within Henry's own distortions. A skeptical reading suggests that Esmond's only way toward a stable identity is to eradicate realities and passions that disrupt the integrity of the identity created by his words. But the Thackerayean narrators in The Newcomes, The Virginians, and The Adventures of Philip are not interested in presenting stable narrative presences, if by that we mean a determinate narrative persona. On the contrary, the play of narrative stances within the narrative voice and between narrators and characters seems only to emphasize the futility of essentialism as a philosophy of either narration or characterization. These novels achieve their skepticism by exploiting the very fixed sociolects that would seem to ensure the stability of the characters. Fixed sociolects read against each other and against the backdrop of the protean narration force us to read both narration and sociolects skeptically because we experience both the efficacy and inadequacy of language to describe and so create the world.