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.