Joseph Andrews By Henry Fielding Summary and Analysis Book I: Chapter 16

Summary

The vain ostentation of Barnabas and the surgeon is in contrast to the thief, who, the pair of legal wranglers find on their return, has escaped — thanks to the carelessness — or dishonesty of the constable, Tom Suckbribe.

Adams realizes that as Joseph is not yet well enough to travel that day he will require more money. He takes Tow-wouse aside and asks him for three guineas, at the same time offering him what he thinks is ample security. But the security turns out to be the sermons, and so Tow-wouse hurries off with a "Coming, sir," to no one in particular.

While Adams takes comfort in his pipe, a coach and six arrive at the inn, and the coachman and his master engage in a facetious slanging match. Barnabas discovers through one of the footmen of this coach that Adams is a clergyman, and over a bowl of punch, they discuss Adams' volumes of sermons. Barnabas has had no success with his own and casts doubt on the prospect of Adams making any money by publishing his.

Joseph is now almost fully recovered, and Adams and he agree to part on their separate ways, Adams to London and Joseph to the Booby country-seat. Joseph retires to his chamber while Adams goes down to meet a friend of Mr. Barnabas who has just arrived at the inn.

Analysis

The constable's name, Tom Suckbribe, indicates that the thief owes his escape to more than the constable's negligence. Many of the names (Whipwell, Slipslop, Booby, Peter Pounce, Fanny Goodwill, Mrs. Grave-airs, etc.) carry on the Jonsonian tradition of humors, and Fielding himself emphasizes in the first chapter of Book III that his characters are types.

Mrs. Tow-wouse is as concerned with money as is Tom Suckbribe, and her expostulation of "feeling" is an ironic inversion of real values: "you have no more feeling than a deal board. If a man lived a fortnight in your house without spending a penny, you would never put him in mind of it." Parson Adams, on the other hand, who generously offers Joseph his few shillings, is completely naive about the economics of everyday life; it is not surprising that he fails to convince Mr. Tow-wouse of the worth of his sermons in terms of hard cash. Again the actual is juxtaposed to a better form of conduct. In everyday life, the province of the novel, we must scrabble like the Tow-wouses — but for all its intangibility is not the good nature of Adams just as important and real? In any case, there is already a hint in Adams' reference to Tillotson's sermons that good nature must be translated into action. Neither Adams' sermons, which serve as an ideal to Joseph, nor the good actions of such people as Betty and the postillion may be acceptable to society, but they are nevertheless an important part of human conduct. Clearly there is more in a novel than a mere account of life as it is. In Joseph Andrews, the values are certainly possible if not practical.

The small incident of the facetious dialogue between the coachman and his master is an example of Fielding's digressions that elsewhere are expanded on a larger scale. In fact, such digressions as this conversation and the history of Leonora in Book II link circles. The theme of these diversions — here, the casual betting between roguish "friends" contrasts with the real concern over money shown by Adams on Joseph's behalf — are miniature views of the concern of this novel.

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After Adams returns penniless from Pastor Trulliber's, who pays his bills at the inn?




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