Book I, Chapters XIII through XVIII.
Fielding bestowed on his exemplary parson, Mr. Abraham Adams, a resoundingl...
"with all the Violence imaginable" in order to make his escape from Mr. Adams, he exiles
himself from the circle of approv...
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Book i, chapters xiii through xviii. joseph andrews


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Book i, chapters xiii through xviii. joseph andrews

  1. 1. Book I, Chapters XIII through XVIII. Analysis. Fielding bestowed on his exemplary parson, Mr. Abraham Adams, a resoundingly biblical and paternal name: the Adam of Genesis was the father of mankind, while Abraham was the father of the people of Israel (and by extension, in the Christian tradition, of all the faithful). Nor does Parson Adams fail to live up to his namesakes: as a dedicated clergyman and the spiritual advisor of our young hero, he serves as the novel's moral touchstone, which is to say that other characters reveal their own moral quality through their responses to him. The goodness of Joseph Andrews shows through in his love and admiration of Adams, while the parson's endless tribulations at the hands of others -- in the words of one critic, Adams "is laughed at, maligned, physically bruised, confined, dismissed, humiliated, and repeatedly made a butt for abuse" -- are an index of society’s alienation from Christian values. Mr. Adams, of course, is not without his own flaws, which include forgetfulness, naïveté, and mild vanity; all of these cause him to look foolish from time to time, and Fielding does not shrink from joining in the laughter. The novelist's leading idea, however, seems to be that anyone who exemplifies Adams's virtues of poverty and charity will inevitably appear foolish by worldly standards. Mr. Adams is, to begin with, physically eccentric: tall, thin, and strong, he is proud of his athleticism but careless of his appearance, and Fielding never tires of recording his sartorial lapses. Thus, in Chapter XVI, we learn: "He had on a Night-Cap drawn over his Wig, and a short great Coat, which half covered his Cassock; a Dress which, added to something comical enough in his Countenance, composed a Figure likely to attract the Eyes of those who were not over-given to Observation." (This is in fact one of the less ridiculous chapters in Fielding’s chronicle of Mr. Adams’s toilette.) Mr. Adams’s sartorial incompetence is only one aspect of his inability to adapt himself to his surroundings: he is totally unworldly, constantly losing track of his money or engaging to spend money he does not have; he is perfectly humorless, with no sense of how others, such as the mocking Surgeon, perceive him; he is endlessly gullible; and he is optimistic to a fault, as in his serene faith that his sermons will find a publisher and take London by storm. All of these foibles have a common denominator, namely Mr. Adams’s childlike innocence; seen in its proper context, then, Adams’s physical shabbiness should only enhance our sense of his moral dignity. All of Fielding's novels are crawling with clergyman characters, and Joseph Andrewspresents several who serve as contrasts to the paragon Mr. Adams. In these chapters, Mr. Barnabas shows himself to be perfectly sociable and impeccably orthodox but not much interested in bettering the lot of his fellow-man: refreshing himself first with tea and then with punch before approaching the bedside of the injured Joseph, he is clearly one of those clergymen who looks on his vocation more as a platform for socializing than as a sacrificial commitment. Barnabas's moral inadequacy is further limned in the discussion of George Whitefield that emerges from Adams's fruitless negotiations with the Bookseller. Mr. Barnabas's objection to Methodism has to do with its emphasis on clerical poverty: Barnabas sees no reason why a clergyman in the Church of England should not be able to amass as much luxury as anyone else, whereas both Adams and Fielding consider poverty an ideal for the clergy, at least insofar as temporal concerns should not interfere with a clergyman's charitable ministrations. Mr. Adams's objection to Methodism, which is also Fielding's objection, has to do with its emphasis on faith over charity or good works: he gives his opinion "that a virtuous and good Turk, or Heathen, are more acceptable in the sight of their Creator, than a vicious and wicked Christian, tho' his Faith was as perfectly orthodox as St. Paul's himself." For Adams, a man's formal religious commitments matter far less than his active benevolence. Hearing this moral scheme, Mr. Barnabas exits the scene and the novel in a manner that confirms his moral worthlessness: ringing the bell
  2. 2. "with all the Violence imaginable" in order to make his escape from Mr. Adams, he exiles himself from the circle of approved characters. Fielding does not expect the clergy alone to practice charity; rather, it is a standard that he sets for the citizenry at large. Betty the chamber-maid is an interesting case in point because Fielding's presentation of her conduct reveals that, despite all the uproar in the novel over the virtue of chastity, he in fact prizes charity much more highly. When Joseph arrives at the inn, Betty distinguishes herself through her willingness to assist him in his need: when Mrs. Tow-wouse refuses to supply Joseph with either a shirt or a cup of tea, Betty takes it upon herself to procure these items for him. Her other distinguishing characteristic, however, is her sexual promiscuity: she has been "not entirely constant to [her sweetheart] John, with whom she permitted Tom Whipwell the Stage-Coachman, and now and then a handsome young Traveller, to share her Favours"; she also has "a Flame in her," namely venereal disease, "which required the Care of a Surgeon to cool." This sexual voracity aligns her with Lady Booby and Mrs. Slipslop, especially insofar as it prompts her to make an attempt on Joseph's purity, and yet Fielding does not subject Betty to anything like the level of criticism that we have seen in the previous two cases. As Simon Varey notes, the scene in which Betty throws herself at Joseph perhaps makes Joseph look a bit ridiculous, as he leaps away "in great Confusion" and tells her priggishly that "he was sorry to see a young Woman cast off all Regard to Modesty"; by contrast, Betty's subsequent impulses toward recrimination, while they do not reflect well on her, nevertheless do not encourage readers to laugh at her in the manner of Lady Booby's mood swings or Mrs. Slipslop's satirical embodiment as the "hungry Tygress." In keeping with the Preface's definition of "the true Ridiculous," Betty never seems ridiculous because she has no affectation; unlike Lady Booby and Mrs. Slipslop, she never sets herself above other people or pretends to be sexually virtuous. Moreover, "[s]he had Good-nature, Generosity and Compassion," as her previous behavior toward Joseph has demonstrated. Perfect sexual continence outside marriage, then, appears in Fielding’s moral scheme to be similar to doctrinal orthodoxy, laudable in a person who is otherwise benevolent but hardly the most important moral quality. Fielding even seems to suggest that there may be a connection, psychologically speaking, between the disposition to perform acts of charity and the disposition to enjoy sex: anyone who remembers that Mr. Tow-wouse dispatched Betty to give one of his own shirts to Joseph before Mrs. Tow-wouse intervened should not be surprised, after the chambermaid's rejection by Joseph, to find Betty and Mr. Tow-wouse once more in league together against his wife. Mrs. Tow-wouse, too, occupies a familiar role, that of standing on the sidelines and carping at her husband and the maid. Fielding's physical description of Mrs. Tow-wouse is revealing: it reads in part, "Her Lips were two Bits of Skin, which, whenever she spoke, she drew together in a Purse. Her Chin was peeked, and at the upper end of that Skin, which composed her Cheeks, stood two Bones, that almost hid a Pair of small red Eyes." It is a withered, pinched, sour countenance, and one may conjecture that Mrs. Tow-wouse is scarcely more pleasant as a bedmate than as a giver of alms and succor. Fielding admires honesty, straightforwardness, and fellow-feeling, no less in sexual relations than in normal social interactions. Unlike his literary foil Richardson, he is never coy about sex, as will soon be evident in respect of Joseph and Fanny, who despite (or because of) their goodness are hardly less frank about their mutual attraction than are Betty and her many lovers. BY FRK NIAZI