Joseph Andrews By Henry Fielding Summary and Analysis Book I: Chapters 11-12

Summary

The moonlight was not Joseph's only inducement to set out immediately for Lady Booby's country seat. Living on a farm in the parish is Fanny Goodwill, whom Joseph has known and loved "from their infancy." Taking Parson Adams' advice, they have not married, waiting rather for the added wisdom of a few years work and thrift. During Joseph's year of absence, the pair have not communicated, but have trusted in each other's fidelity and in the prospect of their future happiness.

Joseph is forced by a hailstorm to take shelter in an inn belonging to a man "called Plain Tim." When the storm is over, Joseph continues on his way with another traveler who was also stopped by the hail. After yet another halt, Joseph continues on his own, but is stripped, robbed, beaten unconscious, and thrown into a ditch by two thieves. A stagecoach comes up and after much argument amongst the selfish travelers, Joseph is lent a coat and lifted into the coach. The shallowness of the travelers is further emphasized when the coach is stopped by the thieves, but when they eventually reach an inn, Joseph is met with true kindness from a maid, who seats him by the fire while she makes up a bed for him. She tries to hasten along the surgeon, who promptly returns to bed when he hears that the injured person is a mere "foot-passenger." The master of the inn, Mr. Tow-wouse, sends a shirt to Joseph and is roundly abused by Mrs. Tow-wouse for doing so. The surgeon at last visits Joseph, and matters are not improved in the Tow-wouse household by his report that Joseph is in danger of his life.

Analysis

Many times throughout the book, Joseph is inspired by the sermons of Parson Adams. The parson's injunction of restraint to the lovers (and he is even more adamant in Book IV) reminds one of Prospero's motives concerning Ferdinand and Miranda in The Tempest. Yet Fielding does not really condemn warmth, whether it is in the love of Joseph and Fanny or the chance entanglement of Tow-wouse and Betty; like Prospero, he advocates not coldness but control.

The stagecoach episode recalls the parable of the Good Samaritan and underscores Fielding's theme of charity. While Joseph shows concern for the clothes he has borrowed, only one of the travelers displays any real compassion for Joseph's naked and battered state. The coachman thinks of his schedule and his fare, the lady affects shock at the thought of a naked man, the old gentleman wants to make haste to avoid being robbed himself, and the lawyer is worried only by the possible legal repercussions. These are all types of selfishness and ingratitude. Only the postillion feels truly compassionate: "he would rather ride in his shirt all his life than suffer a fellow-creature to lie in so miserable a condition." Fielding's aside that this man was later transported is his way of commenting on a society which would so harshly condemn a chicken thief. The other travelers are selfish and hypocritical and when the stagecoach is robbed, Fielding satirizes the lady who carries Nantes in her water bottle and the lawyer who is brave after the event. This foreshadows the case of the man who is brave before the event (Book II, Chapter 9); on that occasion, it is Adams who is truly brave, just as in this episode Joseph knocks down one of the robbers while being at-tacked from behind himself. Despite the barbed portrayal of hypocrisy in this section, one remembers Fielding's qualification in the preface: "the vices to be found here are rather the accidental consequences of some human frailty or foible." Indeed, the whole spirit of this passage is farcical. Some of Swift's vituperative descriptions of lawyers in Gulliver's Travels offer an interesting contrast. Where Swift is disgusted with basic human flaws, Fielding satirizes "accidental causes" rather than "causes habitually existing in the mind."

Amidst this imperfection, Joseph finds warmth and humanity. Neither Betty, the maid (is it merely coincidence that she bears the same name as the maid dismissed by Lady Booby?), nor Mr. Tow-wouse are perfect creatures, but their kindness to Joseph contrasts strongly with the behavior of the surgeon and with Mrs. Tow-wouse's outrage: "Common charity teaches us to provide for ourselves and our families; and I and mine won't be ruined by your charity, I assure you." Mrs. Tow-wouse's tavern is aptly named "The Dragon Inn." This and the collection of hypocrites who come to the inn contrast with the sign of the lion, "that magnanimous beast," found on the inn of the honest plain Tim. The theme of charity and good nature in relation to the selfish economics of everyday life is one that Fielding continues throughout Joseph Andrews.

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




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