Henry Fielding Questions and Answers

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Discuss Fielding's philosophy of virtue for the sake of virtue in relation to Tom Jones.

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Henry Fielding's novels An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews and Joseph Andrews make fun of Samuel Richardson's Pamela. One of the targets for Fielding's satire is Pamela's "chastity," which is constantly under attack in Richardson's novel. While Pamela successfully fights off the advances of Mr. B., the real point of the novel is not her virginity, or her superior moral standing which eventually wins over Mr. B., but the prurient depictions of Mr. B's lust. Fielding lampoons this double standard, broadly in Shamela, then in the more realistic Joseph Andrews, where young Joseph is set upon by the rapacious Mrs. Booby. In Fielding's novel, Joseph's devotion to Fanny ends in a devoted marriage, which, for Fielding, is an expression of the reason people are virtuous in the first place: to achieve happiness.

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"Virtue for virtue's sake" is often discussed around Fielding in reference to his disagreement with Samuel Richardson's character Pamela in his novel Pamela. Pamela practiced virtue for the sake of the appearance of virtue while Fielding preferred virtue be practiced for the sake of the virtue practiced: the appearance of virtue versus the actuality of virtue. In Tom Jones, Fielding illustrates this through the character of Sophia Western.

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