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Joseph Andrews Summary

In Joseph Andrews, Fielding the author, magistrate, and moralist refuses to accept much of what he sees around him; in Book III, he states that his purpose is "to hold the glass to thousands in their closets, that they may contemplate their deformity, and endeavor to reduce it." But just as Fielding excludes the burlesque, which makes up the entirety of Shamela, from his "sentiments and characters" in Joseph Andrews, so too does he progress beyond a mere criticism of the "ridiculous" to a positive statement and portrayal of the values in which he believed. We find that we are no longer merely laughing at people and situations, but also laughing with them; we are taking delight, rather than laughing in scorn. Our sense of delight at the close of Joseph Andrews is in no sense destructive, but represents one of the many aspects of this book which can be considered under such headings as form, characterization, style, and moral tone. Joseph Andrews is a picaresque novel of the road; the title page tells us that it was "Written in Imitation of the Manner of CERVANTES, Author of Don Quixote." Despite its looseness of construction, however, Joseph Andrews does make a deliberate move from the confusion and hypocrisy of London to the open sincerity of the country; one might perhaps apply Fielding's own words in a review he wrote of Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote: ". . . here is a regular story, which, though possibly it is not pursued with that epic regularity which would give it the name of an action, comes nearer to that perfection than the loose unconnected adventures in Don Quixote; of which you may transverse the order as you please, without an injury to the whole." This journey is undertaken in more than a simply geographical sense. Fielding takes his characters through a series of confusing episodes, finally aligning them with their correct partners in an improved social setting, from which the most recalcitrant characters are excluded; the characters, for the most part, have all measured and achieved a greater degree of self-knowledge. Thus the marriage of Fanny to a more experienced Joseph takes place in an ideal setting the country and is facilitated by the generosity of an enlightened Mr. Booby. Lady Booby, unchanged and unreformed, returns to London, excluding herself from the society which Fielding has reshaped. It is often the business of comedy to correct excess, and Fielding has not spared the devious practices of a lawyer Scout, or the boorish greed of a Parson Trulliber. But his comedy includes a sense of delight, and the order into which he molds Joseph Andrews is a positive affirmation of the qualities of love, charity, and sincerity, expressed by Adams, Joseph, and Fanny. It is the active virtue (in Adams' case, it is flawed by just the right amount of vanity and inconsistency) of Adams, Joseph, and Fanny that redeems this book from the flock of hypocrites that peoples its pages. Indeed, Fielding explains in his preface that he has made Adams a clergyman "since no other office could have given him so many opportunities of displaying his worthy inclinations." It is important we realize that

despite Joseph and Fanny remaining types, as do all the other characters, Adams emerges as an individual. He is a positive force not only as a clergyman who puts his principles of charity into practice, but as a man who applies himself to Aeschylus for comfort, as well as to his pipe and ale, manages to confront the physical obstacles of the world in the most awkward ways, prides himself rather too much as a teacher of Latin and as a writer of sermons, and takes people absolutely at face value. He not only fits into the positive side of Fielding's comic pattern, but emerges as a "round" and fully developed character that reinforces his goodness by his humanity. The other characters are "flat"; they are types, rather than individuals, and are depicted by an emphasis on a single characteristic; greediness sums up Mrs. Towwouse, while Mrs. Slipslop comes to life through her malapropisms. "I describe not men, but manners; not an individual, but a species," Fielding states in Book III, Chapter 1; portraying people as types enables him to include them more easily in his comic visions; we can more easily survey the eccentricities of the rest of the species, using our detachment (Adams' detachment) to place and criticize them. There are two important points to be made about Fielding's method of characterization. First, when asked about the province of the novel as a genre, most people would probably reply in terms of "the real, the actual, and the everyday." Consider what Fielding does. All of the characters in Joseph Andrews, with one exception, reveal themselves in a realistic and vividly portrayed setting. The exception, of course, is Parson Adams, who exists in the same world, but does not relate to it and, in this way, he becomes a positive force. It is the task of the novelist to convey the actual flavor of life, but there is a place for idealism as well as realism. Just as Fielding's control gives an order to the fragments of real life, so Adams' naivet and innocence add an extra dimension to the strong sense of actuality conveyed in Joseph Andrews. The second point concerns the idea of appearance. In real life we must always judge people by externals; the novel, however, offers an extra dimension. In the novel, we can penetrate the facades and see what people are really thinking, whereas in real life we have only the evidence of their words and actions. This is not a process in which Fielding indulges himself, however; his dramatic instinct often has his characters confront each other in much the same way that they might in real life. The characters may be deceived by or mistaken about each other, but the theme of appearance versus reality is communicated to the reader. Fielding clearly shows us how difficult it is to penetrate through the trappings to the heart of man. Although Fielding's description of his work as a "comic romance" or "comic epic-poem in prose" introduces the elements of parody and burlesque, certain qualities of the epic itself, and romance, do inject themselves into Joseph Andrews. These are the qualities of imagination, idealism, and a happy conclusion, all of which serve to underscore Fielding's purpose in writing this book. In his preface, Fielding is careful to disassociate himself from the "productions of romance writers," yet it must be admitted that the end of Joseph Andrews, with its accounts of gypsies and changeling babies, has certain elements of the fairy tale come true. In fact, Fielding's achievement is to superimpose this positive act of imagination on the raw material of the very real world. His achievement, in Samuel Johnson's words, "may be termed, not improperly, the comedy of romance, and is to be conducted nearly by the rules of comic poetry," terms remarkably similar to Fielding's own. This "comedy of romance" requires, Johnson

claims, "together with that learning which is to be gained from books, that experience which can never be attained by solitary diligence, but must arise from general converse and accurate observation of the living world." It is this combination of the raw and the refined, of the real and the ideal that Fielding has created in his "comic epicpoem in prose." Fielding maintains a positive outlook in the book, emphasizing charitable and virtuous action. Adams is a pugilistic parson, and both he and Joseph always act on their beliefs, defending them by force if necessary. Adams is offended by the insipid Methodist doctrine of faith against good works; to him, human beings distinguish themselves by what they do: "a virtuous and good Turk, or heathen, is more acceptable in the sight of their Creator than a vicious and wicked Christian, though his faith was as perfectly orthodox as St. Paul's himself." In a similar vein, Fielding advocates through Joseph a degree of control. Joseph's self-restraint contrasts with Lady Booby's turbulent passion, on which her reason has little effect. But Fielding's treatment is always warm; Lady Booby, for example, is not savagely condemned; Fielding's reason is not Swift's. In Joseph Andrews, Fielding has written with both his head and his heart; he has refused some things and assented warmly to others so that the positive delight which we take in a book that admittedly has echoes of Shamela shows how far he has traveled in his literary craft.

Character Analysis
-Joseph Andrews: Joseph's chief attributes are his self-control, his virtue, and his
devotion. He is attractive physically, as Lady Booby and Mrs. Slipslop are well aware, and his character matches this exterior excellence. The strength of his pure love for Fanny Goodwill enables him to deal plainly, directly, and even violently with the moral and physical weaklings who cross his path, be it the lustful Lady Booby or the insect of a man, Beau Didapper. Joseph is a man of genuine emotion, and it is this which inspires him to the virtuous action which Fielding believed so important: "I defy the wisest man in the world to turn a true good action into ridicule," Joseph comments in Book III. Joseph, however, would be a bore if he were only a knight-like figure. Fielding enhances his moralizing by giving us much rich laughter. It is true that Joseph is always ready to do battle for a stranger, but, throughout the novel, Joseph battles most for his chastity and it is this satiric reversal which is the basis of Fielding's "comic epic-poem."


As with Joseph, Fanny's outward beauty is matched by her inner qualities. She has sensibility, sweetness, and gentility; in short, she is the perfect object for Joseph's love, and the way in which she immediately takes to the road in search of Joseph after hearing of his plight testifies that she too has a depth of feeling all too rare in this novel. Yet she also possesses a deep sense of modesty; and, in all honesty, one must admit that Fanny is a little too perfect. But part of her charm is in the way Fielding uses her in his comic contrasts. Whether we are seeing Mrs. Slipslop huffily "forgetting" the name of this "impertinent" girl, or Lady Booby plagued to distraction by the mention of Fanny's beauty, the emphasis is on Fielding's satire of hypocrisy rather than on Fanny's pristine goodness itself.

-Lady Booby:

Lady Booby is everything that Joseph and Fanny are not; attached to town life, blind to her own motives and consequently to those of others, shallow in her feelings and thus scornful of those who do feel deeply, her dangerous legal maneuvers in Book IV have extremely unpleasant implications. Throughout the novel, Lady Booby's reason and her passion are at odds; she is clearly the agent of confusion in Fielding's comic plan. Her mental muddle works against the resolution toward which he is drawing his characters, her selfishness denies the love on which this resolution is based, and her concern for her reputation exile her from the novel's happy ending. Yet the energy and vividness with which Lady Booby is portrayed in her turmoils prevent us from seeing her as a supreme villainess; she is more than a pawn in Fielding's game. She embodies the struggles which we all have at times: "I despise, I detest my passions. Yet why?"

-Mrs. Slipslop:

At the beginning of Chapter 5 (Book I), Fielding points out that he often uses Slipslop as a foil to her mistress, Lady Booby. By making them both fall for Joseph, Fielding can point out the "different operations of this passion of love in the gentle and cultivated mind of Lady Booby, from those which it affected in the lesspolished disposition of Mrs. Slipslop." Slipslop is a foil and also a coarse echo of Lady Booby; she is vain and proud and thus is "a mighty affecter of hard words" toward those whom she considers her inferiors, such as Mrs. Grave-airs and Fanny Goodwill. Yet there are also crucial differences between Slipslop and her mistress. Slipslop is ridiculous in a warm way; we laugh kindly at the incongruity of a fat, pimply, red-faced, lame, forty-five-year-old slob pursuing Joseph. But at least she is direct in her physical desires; when Adams mistakenly enters her bed, she realizes that he is not Joseph, but that he is better than nothing. Lady Booby could never do this. Slipslop may be a snob in some matters, but she is always superbly practical.

-Parson Adams:

Adams is a very good man and yet a very human man; he has his head in the clouds and although his feet are on the ground, they are usually in puddles. Comic though he is, he is the firm pivot of the novel's moral influence. It is his belief in charitable action which distinguishes him as a parson from such hypocritical boors as Trulliber. Like Joseph and Fanny, he acts on his feelings, and it is because of this affinity that he is such a fine guardian and guide to the young pair. The devious ways of the world wash off Adams as surely as the filth of the pigsty or the muck of the chamber pot, for he trusts his learning to books. This unchanging quality of innocence will Adams never learn about money? is part of Adams' worth as a character. Throughout the novel, he never develops, never changes, but we know what he stands for; he is ever active, ever charitable.

Major themes
-The Vulnerability and Power of Goodness
Goodness was a preoccupation of the littrateurs of the eighteenth century no less than of the moralists. In an age in which worldly authority was largely unaccountable and tended to be corrupt, Fielding seems to have judged that temporal power was not compatible with goodness. In his novels, most of the squires, magistrates, fashionable

persons, and petty capitalists are either morally ambiguous or actively predatory; by contrast, his paragon of benevolence, Parson Adams, is quite poor and utterly dependent for his income on the patronage of squires. As a corollary of this antithesis, Fielding shows that Adams's extreme goodness, one ingredient of which is ingenuous expectation of goodness in others, makes him vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous worldlings. Much as the novelist seems to enjoy humiliating his clergyman, however, Adams remains a transcendently vital presence whose temporal weakness does not invalidate his moral power. If his nave good nature is no antidote to the evils of hypocrisy and unprincipled self-interest, that is precisely because those evils are so pervasive; the impracticality of his laudable principles is a judgment not on Adams or on goodness for itself but on the world.

-Charity & Religion

Fieldings novels are full of clergymen, many of whom are less than exemplary; in the contrast between the benevolent Adams and his more self-interested brethren, Fielding draws the distinction between the mere formal profession of Christian doctrines and that active charity which he considers true Christianity. Fielding advocated the expression of religious duty in everyday human interactions: universal, disinterested compassion arises from the social affections and manifests itself in general kindness to other people, relieving the afflictions and advancing the welfare of mankind. One might say that Fieldings religion focuses on morality and ethics rather than on theology or forms of worship; as Adams says to the greedy and uncharitable Parson Trulliber, Whoever therefore is void of Charity, I make no scruple of pronouncing that he is no Christian.

If Fielding is skeptical about the efficacy of human goodness in the corrupt world, he is nevertheless determined that it should always be recompensed; thus, when the "good" characters of Adams, Joseph, and Fanny are helpless to engineer their own happiness, Fielding takes care to engineer it for them. The role of the novelist thus becomes analogous to that of God in the real world: he is a providential planner, vigilantly rewarding virtue and punishing vice, and Fielding's overtly stylized plots and characterizations work to call attention to his designing hand. The parallel between plot and providence does not imply, however, that Fielding navely expects that good will always triumph over evil in real life; rather, as Judith Hawley argues, "it implies that life is a work of art, a work of conscious design created by a combination of Providential authorship and individual free will." Fielding's author concern for his characters, then, is not meant to encourage his readers in their everyday lives to wait on the favor of a divine author; it should rather encourage them to make an art out of the business of living by advancing and perfecting the work of providence, that is, by living according to the true Christian principles of active benevolence.

-Town and Country

Fielding did not choose the direction and destination of his heros travels at random; Joseph moves from the town to the country in order to illustrate, in the words of Martin C. Battestin, a moral pilgrimage from the vanity and corruption of the Great City to the relative naturalness and simplicity of the country. Like Mr. Wilson (albeit without having sunk nearly so low), Joseph develops morally by leaving the city, site of vanity and superficial pleasures, for the country, site of virtuous retirement and contented domesticity. Not that Fielding had any utopian illusions about the countryside; the many vicious characters whom Joseph and Adams meet on the road home attest that Fielding believed human nature to be basically consistent across geographic distinctions. His claim for rural life derives from the pragmatic judgment that, away from the bustle, crime, and financial pressures of the city, those who are so inclined may, as Battestin puts it, attend to the basic values of life.

-Affectation, Vanity, and Hypocrisy

Fieldings Preface declares that the target of his satire is the ridiculous, which the only Source of the true Ridiculous is affectation and that Affectation precedes from one of these two Causes, Vanity, or Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, being the dissimulation of true motives, is the more dangerous of these causes: whereas the vain man merely considers himself better than he is, the hypocrite pretends to be other than he is. Thus, Mr. Adams is vain about his learning, his sermons, and his pedagogy, but while this vanity may occasionally make him ridiculous, it remains entirely or virtually harmless. By contrast, Lady Booby and Mrs. Slipslop counterfeit virtue in order to prey on Joseph, Parson Trulliber counterfeits moral authority in order to keep his parish in awe, and Peter Pounce counterfeits contented poverty in order to exploit the financial vulnerabilities of other servants, and so on. Fielding chose to combat these two forms of affectation, the harmless and the less harmless, by poking fun at them, on the theory that humor is more likely than invective to encourage people to remedy their flaws.

As his broad hints about Joseph and Fannys euphoric wedding night suggest, Fielding has a fundamentally positive attitude toward sex; he does prefer, however, that peoples sexual conduct be in accordance with what they owe to God, each other, and themselves. In the mutual attraction of Joseph and Fanny there is nothing licentious or exploitative, and they demonstrate the virtuousness of their love in their eagerness to undertake a lifetime commitment and in their compliance with the Anglican forms regulating marriage, which require them to delay the event to which they have been looking forward for years. If Fielding approves of Joseph and Fanny, though, he does not take them too seriously; in particular, Josephs male-chastity is somewhat

incongruous given the sexual double-standard, and Fielding is not above playing it for laughs, particularly while the hero is in London. Even militant chastity is vastly preferable, however, to the loveless and predatory sexuality of Lady Booby and those like her: as Martin C. Battestin argues, Josephs chastity is amusing because extreme; but it functions nonetheless as a wholesome antithesis to the fashionable lusts and intrigues of high society.

-Class & Birth

Joseph Andrews is full of class distinctions and concerns about high and low birth, but Fielding is probably less interested in class difference per se than in the vices it can engender, such as corruption and affectation. Naturally, he disapproves of those who pride themselves on their class status to the point of deriding or exploiting those of lower birth: Mrs. Grave-airs, who turns her nose up at Joseph, and Beau Didapper, who believes he has a social prerogative to prey on Fanny sexually, are good examples of these vices. Fielding did not consider class privileges to be evil in themselves; rather, he seems to have believed that some people deserve social ascendancy while others do not. This view of class difference is evident in his use of the romance convention whereby the plot turns on the revelation of the heros true birth and ancestry, which is more prestigious than everyone had thought. Fielding, then, is conservative in the sense that he aligns high class status with moral worth; this move amounts not so much to an endorsement of the class system as to a taking it for granted, an acceptance of class terms for the expression of human value.

Essay Questions
1-Discuss the genre of Joseph Andrews. What is the comic Epic-Poem in Prose? According to Fielding, what distinguishes comedy from burlesque, and why is the distinction important?
The comic epic poem in prose is a work of prose fiction with elements of comedy, epic, and romance. It is epic in length and in variety of incident; the quest format of the plot is typical of both epic and romance, as are the many quixotic battles and adventures and the heros love motive. Fielding presents his characters comically in that they are primarily low characters whom he has drawn from everyday life rather than idealizing them; though his Sentiments and Diction are humorous, however, he does not mock or travesty his characters, as in burlesque, but preserves their humanity. The burlesque differs from comedy in that it displays monstrous characters and vices that do not occur in real life; Fielding rejects it because his aim is to use humor constructively by exposing real-life failings.

2- Discuss Fieldings representation of goodness. What are its positive attributes and its possible limitations?
Fielding understands true goodness as expressing itself in active social benevolence rather than in adherence to the particularities of any doctrine, whether Christian or otherwise. This kind of goodness is potentially very effectual in promoting the welfare

of mankind, but it is also prone to subversion. Since goodness arises from spontaneous, sociable feelings of benevolence, it involves the assumption of good faith in others; when that assumption is mistaken, the good man can be exploited and his good intentions thwarted, as the case of Adams demonstrates.

3- Discuss the tone of the novel. Does the ironic presentation of the characters undermine the novels moral message of active benevolence?
By poking fun at his characters and narrating the story in the third person, Fielding puts an ironic distance between his reader and his characters. This distance prevents our identifying with the characters, so that, in the words of one critic, we focus on [a given character], not through him. Perhaps one might argue that this objectification of the characters prevents our sympathizing with them, and since sympathetic identification with others is precisely what Fieldings moral message enjoins, his narrative method would seem to be encouraging just the wrong kind of outlook. At the same time, however, one should remember that Fielding says explicitly that he does not want readers to consider his characters real human beings: he describes not an Individual, but a Species, and the characters are exemplary types, not slavish imitations of reality. Seen in this way, Fieldings distanced and sometimes harsh view of his characters does not contradict his injunction of interpersonal sympathy.

4- Consider Mr. Adams as an alter ego of the novelist. What characteristics does he share with Fielding? What might their likeness suggest about the moral message of the novel?
Fielding evidently views Adams as being somehow in a different class from the rest of the characters, as he is the only character whom Fielding mentions in the Preface. Adams also epitomizes the qualities that Fielding most values, such as generosity, sociability, courage, and classical erudition. The identification between novelist and parson should not, of course, be overstated, particularly in light of Fieldings delight in humiliating Adams. Insofar as Adams is ridiculous, though, he discredits not himself nor Fieldings values but the world around him, which is so corrupt that it will always make the practice of virtue appear foolish.

5- What role does providence play in the novel?

Fieldings good characters attract trouble like magnets, but the novelist always rescues them before they have incurred any irreparable damage. Their troubles multiply because in Fieldings moral vision, it is in the nature of goodness to make the good person vulnerable to the selfish acts of vicious people. If he is skeptical about the ability of good people to get by in the world, however, Fielding nevertheless is no pessimist: the apparently divine protection that his plot affords to Adams and his companions is Fieldings way of indicating that whatever meager impact individual goodness may have on the world is providential, a contribution to the betterment of the condition of mankind.

6- Discuss Fieldings presentation of character. Are the characters naturalistic, round personalities, or does Fielding takes a different approach?
Fieldings characters are for the most part two-dimensional; in describing not Individuals, but a Species, Fielding creates his characters as universal types. The logic behind this method of characterization is didactic: Fielding uses his characters to embody abstract concepts and principles because It is a trite but true Observation, which Examples work more forcibly on the Mind than Precepts. The characters are exemplary in the sense that they are more significant for being examples of certain eternal features of human nature than for the determinate personalities with which a more naturalistic presentation would endow them. Mr. Adams and Joseph may be at least partial exceptions to this rule, depending on ones interpretation of them.

7- How does the novel evince Fieldings affinity for classical learning? What is the significance of this affinity?
Fieldings interest in the classics manifests itself above all in the epic format of the novel but also in Parson Adamss erudition, which leads him to sprinkle his conversation with Latin words and haul around a Greek volume that others mistake for a treasonous document written in code. Adamss advocacy of the moral beauty of Homer and other ancient writers vindicates classical values as a source of moral philosophy to complement the Bible. On a literary level, Fielding seems determined to lend some erudition to the heretofore popular and vernacular genre of the novel; as his primary allegiance is not to the modern world and its values and cultural artifacts but rather to the classics and tradition, so he seeks to infuse the new genre of the novel with more venerable literary forms and echoes.

8- How does the novel present human justice and its official representatives?
Fielding shows the failure of the English judicial system to address the problem of violence abroad in the land. Justices are inattentive and pawns of the local gentry; lawyers like Scout supply legal pretexts for powerful people to execute their predatory whims. The nominal enforcers of law and order, then, are just as corrupt and self-interested as the criminals, though perhaps they are more decorous about it.

9- Is Joseph Andrews a novel of education, and if so, of whose education? Does Joseph learn and develop in the course of the story? Does Mr. Adams?
Josephs moral formation, seen primarily in his perfect commitment to his chastity, is apparently complete before the commencement of the plot proper. During the course of the novel, however, he does grow cannier about the motives and character of others, so that hypocrites such as the false-promising Squire become less able to fool

him. Joseph contrasts with Mr. Adams in this regard, as it is characteristic of Adamss ingenuous brand of goodness that he should be incapable of learning from experience.

10- Discuss Fieldings presentation of class and birth.

Fielding exposes social snobbery as a form of vanity in such characters as Mrs. Graveairs, Mrs. Slipslop, Beau Didapper, Leonora, and so on. He is not, however, so opposed to social snobbery that he is above using high birth as shorthand for moral worth. Joseph would be an upstanding young Christian man no matter his class status, but Fielding chooses to reveal at the end that the hero has all along been the son of a gentleman.