Summary and Analysis
Book IV: Chapter 8
Joseph and Fanny arrive just as Mrs. Adams — as always, having the last word-concludes a quarrel with her husband, whom she has been berating for opposing Lady Booby. Mrs. Adams recognizes the power of Lady Booby's influence and she knows what is necessary for the material advancement of her children. But Adams is much more concerned with his moral duty than with worldly interests, and when Joseph, alarmed by his recent experiences, asks to be immediately married, Adams lectures him severely on impatience and fear. Despite his insistence that "we must submit in all things to the will of Providence," and his reference to Abraham's Stoic qualities in accepting the sacrifice of his son, Adams is demented by the sudden news that his youngest son has drowned. Joseph attempts in vain to comfort Adams by employing many of the parson's own arguments against passion, when suddenly Jacky (Dick) himself appears, bedraggled but alive, thanks to his timely rescue by the same peddler who had previously aided his father. Adams is as overcome with joy as he had been previously with grief, and his admonition to Joseph not to give way to his passions is not convincing. He tries to justify himself by distinguishing between filial and marital love, which occasions a sharp retort from his wife, who says that Adams hardly practices what he preaches; he has been a "loving and cherishing husband" to her.
It is clear that Adams thinks of his children with less practical interest than does his wife, but with just as much love, as his outburst of grief shows. His feelings quite belie the theories he expresses here and in Book III, Chapter 11, but this inconsistency only makes him more human. Trained in the ways of philosophy and proud of his abilities as a teacher, Adams nevertheless expands beyond this framework with the "overflowings of a full, honest, open heart."
Note how the peddler, who is to play a vital part in the final intricacies of the plot, is re-introduced, again through an act of charity.