Is Joseph Andrews a satire on the eighteenth century? What kind of satire is it?

Joseph Andrews is a satire on eighteenth-century society and morals. It aims to remove the veneer of politeness and respectability that cloaked society during this period and reveal the vanity and hypocrisy beneath.

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Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews is a rollicking social satire that pokes fun at nearly every aspect of eighteenth-century society. Let's look at some examples.

The Boobys are aristocrats and should represent society's moral high ground, but this is certainly not the case. Lady Booby has her sights set on an affair with Joseph Andrews, a footman in her household, and she does everything possible to seduce him both before and after her husband dies. Joseph resists continually and also has to fight off Lady Booby's gentlewoman companion Mrs. Slipslop. Notice the ironic use of “gentlewoman,” for Mrs. Slipslop is anything but, and the fun Fielding has with names here. These delightful monikers are also part of the satire.

Joseph finally leaves Lady Booby's service, but is attacked on his way to the country. A stagecoach rolls past, but several passengers do not wish to stop to help. These people are hypocrites to the extreme, claiming to be moral Christian people but caring nothing at all about Joseph. He is merely an inconvenience to them. Only when a lawyer reminds them that if Joseph dies, they might be held partly responsible for his death, do they actually help him.

The next part of the novel is filled with instances of inns that are hardly hospitable to Adams, Joseph, and Fanny. Mrs. Tow-wouse is an atrocious innkeeper, and Mr. Tow-wouse is rather too interested in the attentions of women to pay mind to how the inn is run and the guests are cared for. The next inn on the list also provides poor service, insults, and even a brawl.

After Joseph meets up with his old mentor, the parson Mr. Adams (who is delightfully absent minded—note the gentle satire on his profession), the two encounter a sportsman who boasts of his bravery but runs away the moment there is any true danger. Adams leaps to a woman's rescue, only to discover she is Fanny Goodwill, Joseph's beloved. Misunderstanding ensues, and Adams and Fanny are led before an incompetent Justice of the Peace who couldn't care less about discovering the truth of the matter or meting out any sort of justice (more satire!). Thankfully, someone recognizes Adams, and the Justice drops his charge.

The story and the satire continue as Adams, Joseph, and Fanny encounter a squire whom Fielding calls the “Hunter of Men.” Again, this squire should embrace the ideal moral values of the upper class, but that is hardly the case, for his sights are set on having his way with Fanny, who is rescued just in time.

Adams himself becomes the object of further satire when he counsels Joseph to not be so passionately emotional about everything. Then a report comes that his son has drowned, and Adams falls to pieces with grief (until his son shows up perfectly well). Joseph sees the inconsistency; Adams fails to notice. Even sympathetic characters are not spared Fielding's sharp wit.

The story ends happily with everyone pretty much getting what they deserve, and Fielding has certainly made fun of just about every class and profession in eighteenth-century British society.

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As with any effective satire, Fielding's Joseph Andrews takes aim at the high and mighty, challenging their elevated self-image to reveal their true selves, warts and all.

One way that Fielding does this is through his less-than-flattering portrayal of women in the story. On the surface, they are the epitome of respectability and high moral standards. Yet the way in which the likes of Lady Booby and her waiting-woman Mrs. Slipslop openly lust after Joseph Andrews suggests that they are anything but.

In the case of Mrs. Slipslop, the charge of hypocrisy can be added to her long list of sins. She has the audacity to send Fanny Goodwill packing for alleged immorality, the very vice that she herself displayed in lusting after Joseph Andrews. Such blatantly hypocritical behavior is presented to us as by no means unusual in the upper echelons of English society. As we are told at one point in the story, what is being described is not an individual, but a species.

The immorality of the upper classes and those, like Mrs. Slipslop, who serve them doesn't just manifest itself in lust. Eighteenth-century high society is also presented to us as being extraordinarily callous. When Joseph is robbed, beaten, stripped, and thrown into a ditch, his desperate plight is ignored by a lady and a gentleman traveling aboard a passing coach.

The lady urges the coachman to drive on and leave the naked man behind, whereas the gentleman, on discovering that Joseph has been robbed, enjoins the coachman to make haste, otherwise everyone else will be robbed too.

In this obvious allusion to the parable of the Good Samaritan, one can see that society's alleged betters only pay lip-service to the Christian message.

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Joseph Andrews is a social satire, a genre that seeks to expose the shortcomings and mistakes in society with the hope of effecting change. This mid-eighteenth century novel is written in the picaresque style, meaning that its protagonist, Joseph Andrews, and his sometimes companion, Parson Adams, move from episode to episode over a period of time, encountering people who mistreat them in various ways.

The author, Henry Fielding, seeks to expose the hypocrisy of people who consider themselves Christians but are unwilling to follow its most essential tenets of charity and goodwill. This hypocrisy is seen when Joseph, lying beaten and naked in a ditch, is denied a shirt by the wealthy Tow-wouses.

Lady Booby is a target for satirizing the hypocrisy of the upper class. Her outward appearance of moral rectitude and social respectability is belied by her lust for Joseph, who eludes her overt advances.

Fielding's other targets include the church itself by contrasting the essential goodness and generosity of Parson Adams with the ineptitude, corruption, and greed of Parson Trulliber.

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As with other satirists Fielding often focuses on the moral hypocrisy of people who are a respectable part of the establishment of his time. Simultaneously he pokes fun at the work of other writers. Joseph Andrews is a takeoff on Samuel Richardson's Pamela, about the travails of a young woman protecting herself from the lecherous designs of the male population. By switching the central character from a young lady to a man, Fielding is primarily satirizing a type of sentimental literature popular in the eighteenth century but based on exaggerated ideals of morality most people of the time flouted.

In Joseph Andrews the scene between Mrs. Slipslop and Joseph is an example of this basically good-natured skewering not so much of hypocrisy per se but of the attitudes of moral rectitude of the time. Joseph's resistance to Mrs. Slipslop's advances is a deliberately contrived picture of "virtue rewarded." Though it's not stated directly, the aim of Fielding is partly to focus on religious hypocrisy and the unrealistic expectations made on people's behavior in the society of his time.

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