Analysis.
If Fielding’s universe is a providential one, the society that he depicts is incongruously
violent. Joseph’s jou...
Two characters Joseph encounters on his journey appear to be types of the pursuit of
violence for its own sake. They are o...
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Book i, chapters vii through xii. joseph andrews

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Book i, chapters vii through xii. joseph andrews

  1. 1. Analysis. If Fielding’s universe is a providential one, the society that he depicts is incongruously violent. Joseph’s journey out of London soon brings him into contact with two savage highwaymen, but ferocity exists even in the household of Lady Booby. Fielding suggests an element of violence in Lady Booby’s feelings for Joseph: she flies “into a violent Passion” when ordering him to leave her room, then wonders aloud, “Whither does this violent Passion hurry us?,” then rings the bell for Slipslop “with infinite more Violence than was necessary.” She swerves between extremes of emotion, and this emotional volatility arises, like other manifestations of violence, from her high social status. As Hamilton Macallister observes, Lady Booby may do almost anything she wants -- except marry Joseph, because to do so would be beneath her. Unable, therefore, to reconcile what she wants with what she is, she experiences desire as degradation, with a consequent impulse to punish both herself and the object of her desire. Thus follows, in Macallister’s words, “the whole gamut of the passions: pride followed by contempt, disdain, hatred of Joseph, revenge.” Lady Booby indeed endures more intense and protracted emotional pain than any other character in the book, and Fielding presents her pain in detail; yet the novel does not encourage sympathy for Lady Booby, and indeed virtually no readers feel any. She is a personality spoiled by privilege: as her status is unconditional, her power is irresponsible; her inability (or refusal) to control her emotions results from her exemption from accountability and, being a function of her selfishness, does not call forth sympathy. Mrs. Slipslop has violent hankerings as well, and they emerge most obviously in the famous mock-epic simile in which Fielding compares her to “a hungry Tygress” craving the “Lamb” Joseph. Fielding thus makes Slipslop’s violent tendencies more explicit than Lady Booby’s, but interestingly, one of the effects of this explicitness is to make Slipslop seem less threatening than her mistress. The mock-epic simile is inherently belittling, as the burlesque diction measures the distance between the heroic subjects of true epic and the ignoble subjects of the present comedy. This mockery is consistent with Fielding’s whole presentation of Slipslop, which is entirely trivializing. His physical description of her sets the tone: she is a forty-five-year-old virgin, short and corpulent, florid and pimply, with small eyes, a large nose, bovine breasts, and legs of uneven length. Many readers have detected something cruel in the zest with which Fielding enumerates the physical disadvantages of this middle-aged spinster, but such sympathy is perhaps misplaced: in Fielding’s scheme of character, Mrs. Slipslop is simply not a feeling subject. She is a character type rather than a naturalistic personality; she does not exist in everyday life, rather she represents a category of women who do. With characters such as Slipslop -- and the majority of Fielding’s characters exist on this plane of typicality -- Fielding imposes a distance between the reader on the one hand and the characters and their actions on the other. Many modern readers, accustomed to considering psychological realism one of the great virtues of the novel, will regret Fielding’s objectification of his characters, but as Macallister observes, “if we lose by this, we also gain. We see the characters in their context; not only their social context but their moral context.” By fixing characters by their eternal qualities in this way, Fielding’s distant, omniscient, and judgmental narrator offers “a picture of society that is wider, more comprehensive,” than that of the novelist who treats characters as realistic, developing, and morally ambiguous subjects.
  2. 2. Two characters Joseph encounters on his journey appear to be types of the pursuit of violence for its own sake. They are of course the Two Ruffians who beat and strip Joseph and steal his money. In rendering this episode, Fielding again does not encourage the reader to identify with any of its participants, not even with the victimized hero Joseph. The matter-offact way in which he describes the violations does not focus our attention on Joseph’s experience of pain; rather, its effect is much different: “[B]oth [Ruffians] together fell to belabouring poor Joseph with their Sticks, till they were convinced they had put an end to his miserable Being: They then stript him entirely naked, threw him into a Ditch, and departed with their Booty.” By leaving subjective experience entirely out of his account, Fielding heightens the absurdity of the incident until the violence feels gratuitous: these violent acts are not motivated, they have no emotional context or significance, they simply are. As Simon Varey comments, the scene depicts “mindless, antisocial hostility”: the thieves’ “primary and ostensible purpose is to take money and property,” but in their assault on Joseph they “display a level of violence that their situation does not require or justify.” As Varey goes on to argue, Fielding sees violence as pervading every level of society and existence, manifesting itself with varying degrees of explicitness: an erratic Lady, a lecherous old maid, a pair of armed robbers. The Two Ruffians represent only one of the most egregious outbreaks of a prevalent dynamic: “[a] violent Storm of Hail forced Joseph to take Shelter in [an] Inn” in Chapter XI, and this same meteorological situation will recur throughout the novel because in Fielding’s world, even the weather is violent. If violence exists on many levels and in many degrees, crime does as well: when Fielding reveals that the Postilion who has given Joseph his coat “hath since been transported for robbing a Hen-roost,” the less-than-subtle message is that what is truly criminal in this scene is the indifference displayed by the other, more genteel stage-coach passengers toward their fellow-man. The stage-coach scene is one of the most famous in the novel because it presents the complex interactions of hypocrites: a Lady begins to take pity on Joseph but, on learning that he is naked, finds propriety the more urgent principle, and a lawyer finally convinces the group to tend to Joseph by appealing not to their humanity but to their self-interest. When Joseph refuses to approach in a condition that would offend the ladies, none of the well-to-do passengers will risk soiling their garments with his blood. In striving to isolate themselves from the wretched and the criminal, then, the passengers reveal themselves to be the real malefactors. Following Joseph’s encounters with the Ruffians and the hypocritical stage-coach passengers, and indeed completing the experience, is the introduction of Mrs. Tow-wouse, wife of the keeper of the inn where the coach eventually stops. As she rebukes her husband for having offered a shirt to the naked Joseph, demanding, “[W]hat the devil have we to do with naked wretches?,” she becomes, in the words of Richard J. Dircks, “a spokesman for the purely pragmatic, unsympathetic, and uncharitable view of life” that is an attribute of all of the least appealing characters in the novel. Fielding insinuates her basic affinity with the Ruffians, and her essential difference from Joseph, through his representation of her voice: her aggressive use of such epithets as “Slut” and “scabby Rascals,” her recourse to such threats as “I will throw the Chamber-pot at your Head,” and, in a later chapter, her “loud and hoarse” voice, all are aural manifestations of her harsh nature. As Varey notes, Fielding often uses voice quality to reflect character, and Mrs. Tow-wouse contrasts strongly with Joseph, who once failed to frighten birds and dogs because the animals heard only the sweetness that was in him both a vocal tone and a moral one. FRK NIAZI/

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