Book ii, chapters vi through xii. joseph andrews
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Book ii, chapters vi through xii. joseph andrews

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Book ii, chapters vi through xii. joseph andrews Document Transcript

  • 1. Book II, Chapters VI through XII. =Analysis= The conclusion of "The Unfortunate Jilt" winds up Leonora's biography in a manner consistent with Fielding's vigorous ethics. Leonora and Bellarmine are, in a sense, made for each other. The lady has a "greedy Appetite of Vanity," and the cavalier has not only a coach and six to gratify that appetite but also a wardrobe that is "as remarkably fine as his Equipage could be": "he had on a Cut-Velvet Coat of a Cinnamon Colour, lined with a Pink Satten," and so on, "all in the French Fashion." Their union cannot last, however, despite (or because of) the complementarity of their affectations: Leonora and Bellarmine lack the one thing needful, not love in their case but money. In this they represent the negative converse of Joseph and Fanny, but other correspondences with the main story exist as well. For instance, Leonora provides a variation on the conduct of Lady Booby, particularly in how her swerving between suitors echoes Lady Booby's mood swings. Leonora's volatility, however, is both less dramatic than Lady Booby’s and more reprehensible because its outcome is preordained: her decisionmaking process is not genuine psychological turmoil but is itself an affectation designed to foist responsibility onto her Aunt, whom she can and does blame when eventually the scheme blows up. By contrast, Horatio shares characteristics with the virtuous characters of the main plot: like Mr. Adams and Joseph, Horatio is a straight shooter who is not averse to fighting any man who has wronged him, and accordingly Fielding's comic providence looks out for him and brings about his ultimate triumph. Not only does Horatio get the better of his duel with Bellarmine, but he goes on to prosper in his law practice (differing in this, one might add, from Fielding himself) and is, one imagines, probably better off without Leonora, notwithstanding his nostalgia for her name and memory. The long-awaited introduction of Fanny Goodwill occurs in these chapters, and Fielding’s detailed physical description of her in Chapter XII contrasts her strongly with Lady Booby by emphasizing her rural origins and unaffected simplicity. Her arms are “a little redden’d by her Labour,” and her figure is robust and “plump” rather than fashionably delicate: she is “not one of those slender young Women, who seem rather intended to hang up in the Hall of an Anatomist, than for any other Purpose.” Fielding is careful also to note physical imperfections, such as the slight unevenness of her teeth and a pox-mark on her chin, details that paradoxically heighten her beauty by rendering it natural and credible. The “natural Gentility, superior to the Acquisition of Art,” which Fielding notes at the end of the description, is justified thematically; in his opposition to affectation, Fielding inevitably propounds a sense in which straightforwardness substitutes for the social graces of the sophisticated upper classes. In suggesting, however, that this “natural Gentility” is Fanny’s most striking attribute, such that it “surprised all who beheld her,” Fielding betrays the basic gist of the whole description and indeed of his presentation of Fanny throughout the novel. Again and again he will draw the attention of his both his characters and his readers not to any abstract quality of “Gentility” in Fanny’s bearing but rather, as here, to her luscious physical presence. The fact that he does so, moreover, seems important to his presentation of the relation between sex and virtue. As Richard J. Dircks observes,
  • 2. Joseph and Fanny complement each other because both are vibrant natural creatures who embody the reality of sex “without the suggestion of the lustful extravagance of Slipslop and Lady Booby, who appear in marked contrast to” Fanny. The mutual attraction of Joseph and Fanny is full of “attractive innocence” rather than “pretense and hypocrisy”; the novelist’s frank acknowledgment of Fanny’s sexual appeal, which does not require the certification of gentility in order to be legitimately attractive, is crucial to the presentation of a love that is both virtuous and robustly physical. The scene of Adams and Fanny’s trial before the negligent Justice is an excellent and sinister example of those minor vices, “the accidental Consequences of some human Frailty, or Foible,” which the Preface indicated would be the main object of Fielding’s satire. As Hamilton Macallister observes, Fielding’s “satire is usually directed against some form of the arrogant abuse of power: the petty power of innkeepers, or the greater power of squires and justices.” Here, the Justice who very nearly sends Adams and Fanny to prison for the very crime of which they themselves were nearly victims (namely assault and robbery) is not actively and deliberately malevolent; he merely wants to finish his dinner and afterward is in no mood to give the case careful attention. His lack of seriousness is deplorable, but it is not malicious. Further diffusing the Justice’s culpability are the young men who apprehended Adams and Fanny and presented the Justice with a skewed case. No more than the Justice are these young men actively wicked: they simply believed the convincing performance of Fanny’s assailant and hoped to get a reward out of it. As a crowd gathers at the Justice’s home and the bystanders begin throwing in their two cents, the situation grows increasingly confused: “chaotic as the situation is,” remarks Macallister, “nobody is particularly responsible, and it is just this that gives a nightmare quality to the scene.” The episode is perhaps too mundane even to merit the phrase “banality of evil,” as human nature reveals itself in the psychology of the crowd and the nonchalance of the Justice. At length, of course, providence intervenes in the form of an anonymous gentleman who recognizes Adams from across the room. The readiness and even politeness with which the Justice backs away from his resolution to send Adams and Fanny before the Assizes is both uncanny and naturalistic: once his mistake is clear to him he becomes what he has always been, namely a very average man, conscious now of his inadequacies and rather conciliatory. At this point even the lying assailant simply melts into the night as if he had never been. Fielding’s world, then, is on the one hand reassuringly providential, as there is no disaster that the benign hand of the omnipotent novelist cannot avert. On the other hand, however, Fielding’s world has a dimension that is quite dark, for when deliberate malice is not operative in the story, “the accidental Consequences of some human Frailty, or Foible” can always pick up its slack BY FRK Niazi