Vivian Grey follows its eponymous hero from childhood through his attempt to succeed in the world of politics. The various systems of education through which Vivian Grey passes are analysed. The final system of education is experience, which proves the most instructive and the most shattering. Vivian chooses politics as his career and the novel traces his abortive attempt to gain political power through manipulation of an influential but ineffectual member of parliament. Vivian attempts to organise a party around the Marquess of Carabas, and is ultimately thwarted by his inexperience and naivete in dealing with the political machine. Vivian emerges as a misguided and arrogant young man who is ruthless in his pursuit of power. The catastrophe at the conclusion provides Vivian with a brutal but essential lesson in human behaviour. The novel offers a comment on the political and social temper of England in the early 1820s, and is specifically concerned with the question personal advancement in a rigidly restrictive social structure.