One of the best novelists of the 18th century Henry Fielding is known for portraying moralistic themes in his novels as evident in “Joseph Andrews”. The writer usually portrays themes related to the social presence of humans and humour. In addition, he uses the technique of satire to confront the world to their follies, especially the absurdities of the 18th century. It is not wrong to say that the writer mainly talks about societal and moral issues of his time. It is because he was a keen observer of human nature.
What is a Theme?
In literary terms, a theme is a message that a writer conveys through fiction. A writer has an idea in his mind that he wants to promote, therefore, he sets the setting of his drama or novel to cover that subject. Mostly, themes of a literary work have universal appeal. Hardly, the themes become bound to religion or nationality. The novel “Joseph Andrews” is fresh today due to its prominent universal themes.
Joseph Andrews Themes
Important universal themes that Henry Fielding portrays in his novel “Joseph Andrews” are:
- Human Nature: the writer of the novel illustrates some prominent issues of his time. Mostly, the issues are related to human nature; hence, the writer discusses human nature through different characters in the novel. He talks about the inner corruption and weaknesses which his character undergoes.
- Gender Roles: the novelist also creates an analysis of limitations imposed on women; especially the women of the 18th century. In this regard the character of Fanny is mentionable. The writer portrays her as a strong woman, who does not want to be dependent on anyone. Thus, the writer illustrates the theme of gender roles in the novel and shows how women face daily challenges in society.
- Social Class: class consciousness is one of the widely used themes of the 18th century. It is also one of the major themes of “Joseph Andrews”. The writer writes about social discrimination and presents a social hierarchy of his time. The main character of the novel Joseph Andrews is pertinent to mention in this respect.
- Satire: it is a literary device that a writer uses to make people aware of their absurdities. Humour and irony are related to it which the novelist uses as weapons to attack the double standards of society. He also mentions the theme of hypocrisy for which he uses the technique of satire as a direct attack on society is hardly possible for a writer to be a member of that society.
- Morality: Henry Fielding does not write to just engage the readers in an enjoyable time pass activity. Entertainment may be a purpose but it is not the primary one. The author wants reformation in society. Thus, moral integrity is there in the plot. The readers learn from the experiences of the characters. The novelist creates a character Parson Adams in order to elucidate morality in addition to the protagonist of the novel.
- Nature: objects of nature are an essential part of poetry; however, the novel creates settings of beautiful natural objects that help a writer in portraying different themes. Thus, nature itself is not a theme but serves the purpose of portraying some prominent subject matters. As mentioned earlier, the novel promotes morality, therefore, the power of the natural world helps the writer to elucidate his subject matter. The theme of nature reflects Fielding’s opinion of spending life with nature.
- Romance: love relationships grab the attention of readers. Apart from some other themes of the novel, romance is also a major theme that is explicit from Joseph and Fanny. The theme of love through the couple is also supported by the romance that is between them after many obstacles that they face on their way.
The Theme of Human Nature in Joseph Andrews
Human nature has not changed so much since the creation of mankind. Since the Greeks, human nature has been discussed through fiction. Even there are some themes that are portrayed in “Oedipus Rex” though those are not mentioned in detail. The novel “Joseph Andrews” explores the theme of human nature alongside other major themes. It is not wrong to say that it is the primary theme of this novel.
The writer mentions in detail the human psyche, behaviours of individuals and how they react under different circumstances. In addition, the writer talks about the human power of decision-making despite having too many emotions. For instance, the sexual desires of Lady Booby have been juxtaposed with Joseph Andrews. It is not that he does not have human emotions but he chooses the best-fit option for him. He flatly refuses due to which he has to face some consequences.
Joseph Andrews sticks to his ethical and moral values. He is not only virtuous but also of noble behaviour. Some of the main characteristics of her character are honesty, loyalty and not compromising on his own principles no matter how harsh the circumstances are. The writer portrays at least one character from the category of each major human nature.
In addition to positivity in human nature, there are some negative aspects of life due to the negative decisions of humans. The writer also portrays them due to which human nature becomes one of the dominant themes of “Joseph Andrews”. Lady Booby has been referred to time and again. Mrs Slipslop is also another character whose selfish desires control him to act differently. No positivity is there in their character, hence, they create a negative impact on society.
In this way, the writer gave full potential to human nature. So, human nature is the primary subject matter of this novel due to the discussion of both the negative and positive behaviour of different characters. Furthermore, the writer also highlights that human nature does not remain the same and it changes with the passage of time but one should not compromise on moral principles as it gives guidance to the human soul.
The Theme of Gender Roles in Joseph Andrews
The theme of gender roles is another vital theme in the novel “Joseph Andrews”. The writer writes about people’s expectations but there are some limitations on both the men and women of 18th-century England.
One of the most important characters who should be referred to in this regard is Lady Booby. The writer, as discussed earlier, uses the technique of satire to show that the lady is highly influenced by her sexual desires. In addition, she wants control over others. She wants the people around her should do whatever she wants but that does not seem possible by any stretch of the imagination as the writer mainly focuses on ethical values. The characters whom she wants to manipulate refuse to be manipulated. Thus, the writer points out the narrowness as well as oppressive gender roles of his own era.
It is also pertinent to observe here that the author calls his reader’s attention towards the condition of women of that era. For instance, Fanny is an intelligent, moralistic and hard-working lady yet the writer shows “maid” as her profession. It is nothing else but simply a satire on society. The writer exemplifies that despite having good qualities, many women of that era were forced to choose a lower profession.
The author shows not only the role of women but also of men in his novel “Joseph Andrews”, hence, it becomes one of its prominent themes. The writer portrays the life of individuals but he raises his voice against the double standards of the whole society.
The Theme of Social Class in Joseph Andrews
The novel mainly focuses on portraying different social classes of the 18th century. The writer uses satire to confront people about their absurdities while creating a class system sketch of his time. The major character Joseph Andrews is prominent in this respect. The novelist sketches him as a servant. He has been compelled to remember his class throughout the novel. Time and again he has been made aware of his lower social status.
The novelist shows him as a handsome and intelligent character who also has good ethical qualities but it does not matter to anyone. His lower class is an obstacle on his way to success. His goodness and intelligence have no value in the eyes of the society that the writer presents in the novel. Many times, Lady Booby tries her best to seduce him but in vain. Ultimately, she fires him frustratedly. In other words, he suffers because he belongs to a lower class.
In addition to Joseph Andrews, the writer sketches Parson Adams for the purpose of pointing out the limitations of the social class system of the 18th century. It is apparent from a bare reading of the novel that he is a member of the clergy. His belongings are from the higher class yet his honesty and integrity are not acceptable in a society where meanness is abundant.
On one hand, if the writer shows characters from the lower class then at the same time he also hits the hypocrisy of the higher classes. Besides, he brings the moral corruption of his society in front of his readers. The writer creates a detailed analysis of the selfishness of different characters. The writer portrays Lady Booby and her nephew Mr Booby as selfish and indulgent. In short, mostly the characters from the upper class give priority to their social status and wealth.
In short, the author Henry Fielding portrays the theme of social class in “Joseph Andrews”. He highlights the injustices and limitations of the class system in the 18th century. The merit to judge an individual was his class and social status instead of his honesty, intelligence and hard work.
The Theme of Satire in Joseph Andrews
It is not necessary for a writer to attack directly on society through his fiction. He may use the literary device of satire for this purpose. “Joseph Andrews” is a remarkable example of it. The writer shows most of the themes of “Joseph Andrews” through the technique of satire. He criticises society. He shows people a mirror and makes them aware of their foolishness, selfishness and snobbery. The writer also criticises the cultural values of the 18th century.
The writer portrays Joseph Andrews as a noble protagonist. He faces hardships in society despite having possession of reasonable intelligence and moral principles. Society does not value his values. The writer highlights this absurdity through satire. In doing so, he wishes that people should improve themselves. They must give importance to morality instead of class and wealth.
In addition to good characters, the writer also sketches some negative characters in the novel to make a comparison between them. Besides, the novelist uses language and dialogue to satirise the mannerisms and affectations of his time. There is no denying the fact that “Joseph Andrews” contains lots of witty and sarcastic dialogue.
In this way, satire is a powerful technique that the writer is well aware of. He expertly uses it to highlight prominent themes in one of his best novels “Joseph Andrews”.
The Theme of Morality in Joseph Andrews
The writer wants to reform society through fiction; therefore, the theme of morality is one of the most highlighted issues in the novel. The writer does not only create an apparent moral lesson for his readers but also portrays the vitality of moral integrity. Joseph Andrews faces many difficult situations but he refuses to bend his knees in front of injustice in society. Despite difficult circumstances, he does not compromise his ethical values. For instance, when Lady Booby attempts to seduce him, he refuses. He sacrifices his happiness but does not leave his ethical values.
Likewise, the character of Parson Adams is mentionable in this regard. He has created his own moral principle and doesn’t want to compromise with them at any cost. He is often ridiculed and taken advantage of, but he remains steadfast in his beliefs.
The writer also juxtaposes these characters with some bad characters of society to highlight the theme of morality. Juxtaposing different things is a clever technique to show the importance of an issue. If one does not know what darkness is then he cannot realise the value of light. The writer also sketches bad characters alongside good characters to show the importance of goodness in society. The writer portrays Lady Booby and other members of the upper class as corrupt and selfish.
Thus, morality is one of the prominent themes of the novel “Joseph Andrews”. The writer conveys a message that moral integrity should be the most important thing in life rather than social status or wealth.
The Theme of Nature in Joseph Andrews
Nature does not play any role in the novel yet the writer mentions it time and again due to which it should be considered one the major themes of “Joseph Andrews”. Unlike Thomas Hardy, the writer does not associate any action with the objects of nature but he deliberately mentions them.
Parson Adams encounters a group of gipsies in a forest. It is a symbol that the writers use to portray the difference between the natural world and the man-made world. The man-made world means the society of 18th-century England. The writer mentions it but it does nothing in the development of the plot. It has no association with any character or any other theme of the novel.
The Theme of Romance in Joseph Andrews
There are some romantic elements in the novel but it is not in the list of primary themes of “Joseph Andrews”. The writer portrays a love relationship between Joseph and Fanny. In fact, it is an attraction between both these young characters. So far as the seduction of Lady Booby is concerned, it cannot be considered romantic by any stretch of the imagination. The writer mentions it to show the social hierarchy of 18th-century England.
The love between the two major characters is tested many times. They have to face difficulties to win their rights. They have to face society and undergo major changes to live a life of freedom. Hence, their journey may be called romantic.
Apart from that Joseph loves Fanny and Lady Booby’s seductive behaviour has been put in juxtaposition by the writer to differentiate romance from lust. Apparently, they both seem the same but the main difference between the two is morality and immorality. Thus, the theme of romance is not apparent in the novel but it is certainly there and the writer uses it to make a difference between right and wrong.