Joseph Andrews By Henry Fielding Summary and Analysis Book II: Chapter 5

Summary

Joseph is already at the inn, sitting in the kitchen and suffering from a heavy fall from Adams' eccentric horse. The hostess, who is treating the contusion, is berated by her husband for wasting time on a mere footman — to which Adams replies that he believes the devil has more humanity. This sparks off a fistfight in which Adams lays out the host, then promptly receives from the hostess a panful of hog's blood in the face. Mrs. Slipslop enters and, seeing Adams dripping with blood, seizes the hostess, whose anguished cries bring the rest of the company into the room. One of the two men who had earlier quarreled over the character of the justice (see Chapter 3) advises the host to recover damages against Adams; "I must speak the truth," he says, and offers his own distorted views as evidence. The host has no faith in the law, however, and turns on his wife for wasting his hog's puddings. Meanwhile, the other gentleman encourages Parson Adams to take out a suit against the host, but Adams admits that it was he who struck the first blow and is horrified by the gentleman's suggestion that Joseph, as the only witness, should lie in Adams' behalf.

The quarrel is finally settled, and the coachman is anxious to be on his way. Mrs. Grave-airs, however, refuses to admit a mere footman (Joseph) into the coach. This occasions an altercation between her and Mrs. Slipslop, which is ended only by the arrival of Mrs. Grave-air's father, who takes his daughter away with him. Once in the coach, the women begin berating the character of Mrs. Grave-airs. Mrs. Slipslop, "not a cup too low," entertains notions of playing the good Christian to Joseph and is suspiciously affectionate. To prevent any improper consequences, one of the ladies begs for the story of Leonora to be resumed.

Analysis

The surly behavior of the host is based on his false interpretation of appearance; in his view, Joseph does not merit any attention because he wears the livery of a footman; and Adams, in his usual disheveled state, merits only scorn. Condemning the host, Fielding once again shows that he champions an active sense of humanity, and in the hostess's care for Joseph, there may even be an echo of Martha's washing the feet of Jesus. Like Betty, the hostess is no model of perfection, but we admire her for her charity and even for her loyalty to her husband. Once again, there is no priggishness in Adams; he preaches here as a pugilist, pointing up the importance of an active virtue. His values are untainted by experience, which, like the hog's blood, washes off him. In contrast to Adams is the devious behavior of the two gentlemen, both ready to falsify evidence to suit themselves. It is special "interest" too which gives Mrs. Slipslop a short-lived cause for worry. Her vanity led her to match herself against Mrs. Grave-airs, and when she discovers this lady's connections, she fears she may have gone too far — until she remembers the hold she has over Lady Booby. The traveler with the affected and distorted smattering of Italian underscores the vanity and affectation of both Mrs. Grave-airs and Mrs. Slipslop, whose memory of her mistress' sexual advances toward Joseph is, in turn, thrown into an ironic light by her own compulsion for Joseph, who, as she says, would warm any Christian woman's blood.

Chapter 5 provides an interlude in Fielding's long digression about Leonora. It is an insertion of scrappiness, of real life, placed midway in a polished and well-turned tale; in a sense, Chapters 4, 5, and 6 are a microcosm of Joseph Andrews itself.

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




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