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A Brief Note on Henry Fielding

A Brief Note on Henry Fielding

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A Brief Note on Henry Fielding'sNarrative Style
Examining the Realism That Would Prefigure TomJones
©Michael Davis Mar 3, 2009 The dynamic relationship between the substantive and formal qualities of HenryFielding's novel, Joseph Andrews, may inform the realism of Tom Jones.Ian Watt claims, in
The Rise of the Novel 
, that Fielding’s “patent selectiveness of visiondestroys our belief in the reality of report, or at least diverts our attention from thecontent of the report to the skill of the reporter” (377). Although Watt uses
Tom Jones
asan example in his essay, to what extent does
 Joseph Andrews
both anticipate and definethis tension between Fielding’s style and subject matter?When Adams is attacked by a squire’s hounds, Fielding begins to describe how Joseph jumps to the parson’s defense. But the author pauses for a moment: “Reader, we wouldmake a Simile on this Occasion, but for two Reasons: The first is, it would interrupt theDescription, which should be
rapid 
in this part. . . . The second, and much greater Reasonis, that we could find no Simile adequate to our Purpose.” (208)
Rhetorical Flourishes and Asides
Fielding’s purpose is not only -- not even primarily -- to describe Joseph and how he beats back the hounds with his cudgel. Rather, the author uses a discussion of theinadequacies of language to indirectly emphasize the “Friendship, Courage, Youth,Beauty, Strength, and Swiftness . . . which blazed in the Person of 
 Joseph Andrews
(208), inserting a rhetorical flourish where figurative language would normally seemmost appropriate.In this way, Fielding shifts the narrative emphasis from what is happening in the story tohow hard it is to describe someone as excellent as Joseph, diverting our attention fromcontent to style. Later in the text, Adams, Fanny, and Joseph obligated to have dinner with the squire who owned the hounds.
 
Fielding's Brand of Realism
When one of the squire’s butlers spikes Adams’ ale, Fielding notes: “had it not been for the Information which we received from a Servant of the Family, this Part of our History . . . must have been deplorably imperfect; tho’ we must own it probable, thatsome more Jokes were (as they call it)
cracked 
during their Dinner; but we have by nomeans been able to come at the Knowledge of them" (213).
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At first, this aside seems akin to the sort of realism-strengthening moves Defoe makes in
 Robinson Crusoe
, in which ship’s papers, star charts, and other “reliable” sources areused to maintain a sense that it is a documentary novel. Similarly, Fielding claims thatthis part of 
 Joseph Andrews
was almost lost to spiked ale and time, suggesting (as hedoes intermittently throughout the text) that the novel was constructed largely from eye-witness accounts.These two brief instances reflect the sort of emphasis Watt talks about, the sense thatFielding is as concerned with how his story is presented as he is with the content of thestory, its events and characters. While Fielding’s work does not show a completedeparture from the “new” realism of authors like Defoe and Richardson, his infatuationwith style and rhetoric produces fiction that is as much about the author as the story.Read more:http://victorian-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/a_brief_note_on_henry_fieldings_narrative_style#ixzz0SgycLTNU
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling 
 
An Introduction
 
 
Henry Fielding's
Tom Jones
is both one of the great comic masterpieces of Englishliterature and a major force in the development of the novel form. By 1749, the year
Tom Jones
appeared, the novel was only beginning to be recognized as a potentiallyliterary form. Samuel Richardson's novel
Clarissa
had appeared only the year before,and for the most part in intellectual circles prose fiction was not considered a worthypursuit. Despite the publication by Jonathan Swift, a member of the literary elitesurrounding Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, of 
Gulliver'sTravels
in 1726, the sanctioned genres of the first half of the eighteenth centurywere verse and drama. The novels of Daniel Defoe, seen by many as purelyadventure tales, were not regarded as worthy of serious consideration. They were,however, instrumental in the development of a suitable reading public, without whichFielding probably would not have attempted any form of sustained prose fiction.But while Defoe still followed the seventeenth century tradition of claiming his fictionwas fact, and Richardson professed that his tales were moral tracts, emphasizing theinstructional rather than the fictional aspect, Fielding was the first major novelist tounabashedly write fiction. At the same time, he undertook an initial critical theory of the new fictional form he was creating: together with the preface to
 Joseph Andrews
(1742), the introductory chapters preceding the individual books in
Tom Jones
constitute the first extended body of work in English which attempts to define andexplain the novel as a literary genre. In the preface
 Joseph Andrews
, Fieldingdescribed his own fictional form as "a comic romance" or a "comic epic poem inprose," and in
Tom Jones
as a "heroical, historical prosaic poem" (IV, 1); a form of "prosai-comi-epic writing" (V, 1). In defining the novel as an epic genre, Fieldingemphasized its function in presenting a broad picture of an era, but one, unlike verseepic, in which primarily the weaknesses of humanity are put on display. Although hetermed his new style of writing "history," his definition of the budding genre stillinfluences our understanding of novelistic fiction. According to Fielding, theappropriate subject of the novel is human nature (often in its more ridiculous guises)rather than ghosts and fairies; he sees no excuse for the "modern" writer tointroduce supernatural agents (VIII, 1). His insistence on conforming to the rules of 
 probability 
rather than mere
 possibility 
is integral to the development of the novel aswe know it. Fielding knew what he wanted to do in prose fiction and understood thenovelty of his undertaking in a way many of his predecessors had not. He is notmodest about pointing this out either:[...] I shall not look on myself as accountable to any court of critical jurisdictionwhatever; for as I am, in reality, the founder of a new province of writing, so I am atliberty to make what laws I please therein. (II, 1)Although these claims to originality are largely justified,
Tom Jones
contains manyconventional narrative elements as well which Fielding had already made use of in
 Joseph Andrews
(1742), including an ostensibly picaresque form, inserted narrativeand the discovery of true identity. But while the character Joseph, with his origins inparody, suffers from an element of the ridiculous, Tom emerges as a deepercharacter who even goes through a certain amount of superficial moral development.Tom Jones exemplifies serious aspects of Fielding's concept of benevolence and goodnature, his generous personality reflecting Fielding's moral philosophy. At the same

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