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Defended: The use of ridiculous characterization in Joseph Andrews is an effective means of satirizing the novel as a genre. Essay


This novel is an ardent satire on the ethical and social evils that inundated the English society in the 18th century. Fielding has used his characters to satirize his novel as a genre. In this novel, readers read about a chameleonic society that often alters its appearance to satisfy personal lusts/desires of different kinds. It portrays people masked in many shades of narcissism, insincerity and self-absorption.

Fielding basically becomes a spokesperson of his time and seeks to emerge strongly against the pretentious behavior of the purported reputable society of the day. His depiction of the English social life is armored by the big image of representative chosen from all parts of the society. Studying different writers has enabled him to explore all objectionable elements of life during his time.

Joseph Andrews is a novel where irony has been used to express satire and offer societal remarks. The novel has a great humour and ridiculous situations. Many ridiculous situations satirical episodes have been depicted by Fielding’s characters. For instance, the fight at the inn, Joseph hurting his knee after falling down from his horse, hostess rubbing Joseph’s knee when he is sitting by the fireplace.

Other ludicrous situations include; “Parson Adams in a pan of hog’s blood, the hounds of the Squire tearing at Parson Adams’ cassock, Mrs. tow-wouse discovering Betty in Tow-wouse’s bed, the bed-room scene in Booby Hall, Didapper mistaking the room and entering Mrs. Slipslop’s room and Adams mistaking Didapper for the distressed lady and getting hold of Mrs. Slipslop as the attacker, punching her mercilessly till Lady Booby arrives on the scene with a lighted-candle. Adam’s taking a wrong turn in Fanny’s bed and goes to sleep.”

The use of ridiculous characterization is an effective means of satirizing the novel as a genre. In the novel’s prologue, Henry Fielding writes that affectation is the basis of the preposterous, arising from narcissism or hypocrisy. The author intends to laugh humankind out of its madness, foibles and unconventional behavior. He, therefore, uses satirical and ironical humour in numerous areas.

However he does not impound himself to these two elements. Basically as a humorist genius, he frequently indulges in other kinds of humour, where pure fun is ordinary. He has greatly used irony to bring out satirical humour in his characters. For example, the patriot blenches in terror and shivers; he coils and runs-off, a shocking reaction from a person who says that all cowards ought to be hanged.

Adams is also not spared-of satirical humour; he advised Joseph to accept misfortune but this advice is disregarded when his son drowned. His yearn to read to a sermon Mr. Wilson on narcissism is puzzled with irony. He is futile enough to think his sermon a masterwork. There are, obviously, sharp elements of satire in Mrs. Slipslop’s portraiture and Lady Booby’s pretentiousness.

The fraudulent and duplicitous clergy, also, comes in for attack. Although through specific examples, through characters such as Trilluber, Mrs. Slipslop, Lady Booby, Barnabas, the Squire of Fools and the Squire of False Promises, common human foolishness, eccentricities and shortcomings are satirized. Joseph Andrews is a novel that abounds in satirical and ridiculous characterization.

Adams is an extraordinary figure in the novel; he is strange, scatterbrained, naive, unrealistic but wholly human. He is indulged in weird affectations and mannerisms. He never loses his decorum and self-respect, but much of humour is engrossed in his portraiture.

Mrs. Slipslop is also a very comical and satirical character. She has short in size and has a bearded face, with tiny eyes and a protracted nose. She pronounces long words incorrectly under-the-impression that she appears very educated and cultured. Parson Trulliber is also a humorous creation. He rears pigs and he lives with them continuously thus making him appear more and more like a pig.

Fielding characterization is an effective means of satirizing the novel as a genre. The mock-heroic mode creates satirical and ironical humour in the novel. The inconsistency between the high standards and the charade produces hilarity.

Henry Fielding was essentially a humorist artist, master of the diverse kinds of humour i.e. ridiculous situation, irony, satire, humorous characterization, and the comical technique. In his novel, he demonstrates these different forms of humour.

Fielding’s satirical vision is derived-from a pleasant recognition of human shortcomings, which he tries to correct. His benevolent or humane perspective makes him tolerant, liberal and practical. His humorous technique “shines like a sun on the evil and the good”. His technique helps him in the developing his humorist supposition, that of ridiculing the affectations and gestures of individuals (Fielding 51).

Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews is a successful novel despite its unsteady formation and structure; it has a pleasant humorous tone and its ridiculous characterization has created an effectual means of satirizing the entire work of fiction; the novel has been harmonized by the theme.

All its events and characters portray the theme of inconsistency between realism and appearance, truth and mannerism, insincerity and intrinsic goodness. The author has used his skill and facility that he learnt partly from Cervantes to explore the connection between the ridiculous and the good and the great humorous characters; the novel’s greatest desirability is in its ridiculous characterization.

Joseph Andrew’s reviewer mentioned that “the novel lives by virtue of the extraordinary vitality of its characters and the picture it gives of the manners of early eighteenth century England.” The mock-heroic technique has been utilized to the advantage of the novel’s theme.

Its humorous tone is also developed by the mock-heroic technique; Fielding disclosed burlesque in his delivery. It achieves the needed aspect in comic literature that separates the writer from his/her characters.

It is influential in intensifying the ludicrous nature of situation and mannerisms. Then novel, thus, can’t be thought of as “an epic of the highway full of adventures, horseplay and not too decent fun.” It definitely portrays these elements but the novel exemplifies and represents much more than is manifested in the statement.

To support such a declaration would mean paying no attention to the strong and practical moral vision of the author which is depicted throughout the novel. It would eliminate a reflection of the genial humorist tone, the comical satire and ironic technique which creates the novels’ originality, and above all, it would disregard the outstandingly alive humorous characters portrayed in the novel.

Joseph Andrews is a “comic-moral work of fiction” in which the author gives a sense of belonging. Fielding has a great way of portraying his characters; this has as a result brought about creativity and originality in his novel.

He utilizes conventional typecasts to tell his fiction: the seductive mistress, the discourteous house help who believes she is better than everybody else and greater than her position, the righteous siblings and the blundering parson. His tale is metaphorical and parable-like, and his comical characters have portrayed his technique in a very satisfying and believable way.

All readers can associate with the characters; Fielding has used his characters to reveal the different people in the English society: the naïve, the poor, the immoral, the dishonest, the proud and the greedy. These broad figures make it unproblematic for him to relate a life lesson to all the readers.

The humorous style and made the story easy to relate to and comprehend; the comic technique frequently takes mock-heroic twists. He has portrayed his characters as men and women of low class.

There are satirical and ironical episodes in different chapters and in the commencement of side stories which creates the main theme of the story. His technique helps him in the developing his humorist supposition, that of ridiculing the affectations and gestures of individuals.

Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews is a successful novel despite its unsteady formation and structure; it has a pleasant humorous tone and its ridiculous characterization has created an effectual means of satirizing the entire work of fiction; the novel has been harmonized by the theme.

All its events and characters portray the theme of inconsistency between realism and appearance, truth and mannerism, insincerity and intrinsic goodness.

The author has used his characters to disclose the different people in the English society: the inexperienced, the underprivileged, the immoral, the fraudulent, the arrogant and the greedy. The use of ridiculous characterization in Joseph Andrews is an effective means of satirizing the novel as a genre.

Works Cited

Fielding, Henry. Joseph Andrews, New York: J.M. Dent, 1893. Print.

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