Fielding starts Joseph Andrews with a brief discussion of the power of example in showing others how to live properly:
A good man therefore is a standing lesson to all his acquaintance, and of far greater use in that narrow circle than a good book.
As a young boy, the main character, Joseph Andrews, works for Sir and Lady Booby at a variety of jobs. At seventeen he becomes Lady Booby’s personal attendant. This relationship will impact Joseph’s future in an important way as she tries to manipulate him for her own ends.
When Sir Booby dies, Lady Booby takes Joey on a trip to London. During this time, she attempts to seduce him, but Joey does not submit to her. Another servant, Mrs. Slipslop also tries to seduce Joey, with the same result.
Something of a rivalry develops between Slipslop and Booby over their desire for Joey. This conflict results in the eventual firing of Joey, who heads back to the country, where Fanny Goodwill, his true love, also lives.
On the way, Joey is accosted by thieves and severely injured. He makes it to an inn, where he is treated unkindly by those who should care for him (a surgeon and a clergyman) until a former acquaintance, Parson Adams, shows up and offers him aid.