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Book iv, chapters i through viii. joseph andrews
Book iv, chapters i through viii. joseph andrews
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Book iv, chapters i through viii. joseph andrews

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  • 1. Book IV, Chapters I through VIII. Analysis . The opening chapters of Book IV lay the groundwork for the novel’s final conflict and eventual resolution: the principal “good” characters have returned to the place of their origin, and their primary adversary, Lady Booby, arrives back on the scene as well (along with Slipslop, her subaltern and imitator). Book IV will turn out to be a more unified book than the preceding three, in terms of both the place and the time of the action, as Fielding confines the events to the Boobys’ parish and specifies the passage of a discrete number of days. The overall effect gives a sense of coherent dramatic conflict, rather different from the diffuse picaresque plotting of Books I through III. A burgeoning cast of secondary characters also lends heft to the building action: the family of Mr. Adams enters the story for the first time, as do the newly married Mr. Booby and Pamela. The Pedlar turns up again, a Lawyer and Justice materialize, and an embodiment of the vacuous fashionable world appears in the person of a would-beBellarmine (whose name will turn out to be Beau Didapper). These secondary characters, whose ranks will swell in succeeding chapters, do more than fill out the stage; they also increase the tension between Lady Booby and the lovers, as Lady Booby schemes to get all of these originally neutral players on her side: Mr. Booby’s amiability, Pamela’s snobbery, Lawyer Scout’s unscrupulousness, and Mrs. Adams’s fear of poverty all present her with opportunities for driving apart the lovers and neutralizing their advocate, Mr. Adams; she even has plans for the selfish lust of Didapper. The Pedlar, of course, remains an instrument of providence, and he will continue to perform this role in the coming chapters. The episode in which Mr. Adams again counsels Joseph against passionate attachments and then, hearing of his own son’s supposed drowning, fails to practice what he has preached reveals another dimension of Adams’s fallibility, though whether his weakness makes him more or less sympathetic will be up to the eye of the beholder. This scene has had a precursor in Book III, Chapter XI, when Adams, bound with Joseph to a bedpost, “comforted” his young friend by urging him to give up the “Folly of Grief” and resign himself contentedly to the cosmic plan that is about to subject “the prettiest, kindest, loveliest, sweetest” Fanny to “the utmost Violence which Lust and Power can inflict”; the parson even construed the impending rape of Fanny as an act of divine justice, a punishment of Joseph for the sin of repining. The scene at the bedpost, then, revealed Adams as an inhuman sermonizer, failing to enact the spontaneous, sympathetic good nature that has generally distinguished him. He has a rationalistic side to his personality; it is the part of him that responds to the literature of classical stoicism with its injunction to transcend all human feelings and attachments. In the opposition between the sternly sententious clergyman and the warm and disconsolate lover, the former surely forfeits a great deal of the reader’s sympathy. In Book IV, Chapter VIII, however, Fielding revisits this opposition and
  • 2. may qualify it somewhat, depending on one’s interpretation. Here, Adams again admonishes his parishioner to “divest himself of all human Passion”; this time he is concerned that Joseph is too eager to get married, and he warns that if sexual avidity is the motivation then Joseph is sinning, while if anxiety for Fanny’s welfare is the motivation then Joseph ought to be putting his trust in providence. Adams instructs Joseph to prepare himself to accept even the loss of his beloved Fanny “peaceably, quietly, and contentedly,” “[a]t which Words one came hastily in, and acquainted Mr. Adams that his youngest Son was drowned.” Suddenly, the preacher who insisted that anyone who indulges in exorbitant grief is “not worthy the Name of a Christian” begins lamenting his own personal loss. Like the biblical Abraham, Mr. Abraham Adams has to confront the idea that the divine will has demanded the death of his beloved son; in both cases, the apparent necessity of the son’s death is a test of the father’s faith and resignation. Joseph urges the parson to follow his own advice, resign himself, and look forward to a reunion in heaven; Adams, with unconscious irony, refuses this counsel, so it is doubly fortunate that Dick eventually turns out not to have drowned at all. As usual, however, Adams fails to see when his weaknesses have been exposed, and he quickly snaps back to his formal sermonizing mode. Mr. Adams’s conspicuous failure by the lights of his own code has emboldened Joseph: the young man points out his mentor’s inconsistency and observes that it is “easier to give Advice than to take it.” Adams’s rather petulant response to this challenge of his authority sharpens the issue for the reader, who must decide whether the parson has revealed that all his supposed virtue is in fact just a hypocritical penchant for arrogating a position of moral authority. Despite how neatly this scene seems to fit into Fielding’s dominant theme of the exposure of pretense, however, few readers are likely to take the condemnation of Adams as far as this; Homer Goldberg articulates a sensible position when he observes that "[a]lthough the incident is similar in structure to Fielding's unmaskings of hypocrisy, the paradox of Adams's behavior is not that he is worse than he pretends to be but that he is better than he knows." Indeed, the passiveresignation brand of Christianity that Adams has recommended in his stoical sermonizing is by no means identical with the active charitable love of neighbor that he elsewhere advocates and consistently enacts; his extraordinary goodness takes its distinctive character not from his erudition or from his reason but rather from his natural and spontaneous affections, of the sort that he keeps censuring in Joseph. The proper attitude toward Mr. Adams is probably the one that Mrs. Adams espouses near the end of the scene when, after expressing at length her affection for the husband who is more generous that he will admit, she undercuts his teaching authority by saying, “Don’t hearken to him, Mr. Joseph.” As Maurice Johnson suggests, Fielding likely means for readers to follow Mrs. Adams in regarding the parson as thoroughly lovable but not always a reliable moral philosopher. By FRKNIAZI

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