Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding: ‘Comic-epic in Prose’

Public schools are the nurseries of all vice and immorality.”

Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews is a ‘comic-epic in prose’ as he himself has argued in his Reface to Joseph Andrews. It parodies Richardson's other novel of virtue besieged, Pamela (1740).  Fielding’s theory of the novel being a ‘comic epic in prose’ is put into practice in Joseph Andrews. There are numerous inset- stories and episodes which are clearly linked up, with very few exceptions, with the central theme. The story of Joseph Andrews can be reduced to a few words. Amman Joseph after displeasing a lady, his superior in rack and power, tress to go home. He meets many miss fortress on the way, and when he reach home he finds that the lady and her relations are trying to make his efforts and is happily magpie to Fanny and leads comfortable life.  We should also note that Joseph Andrews is the hero of the novel. When the novel begins, we are told that he is the domestic servant and the only son of Gaffe and Ginner Andrews. HIS SISTER’S NAME IS PAMELA. But later in the novel, we come to know that he is the son of Mr. Wilson and were stoker by some gypsies in his childhood. The other notable character other than the hero is person Adams who accompanies him in his Journey.  The other minor characters are Parson Barnabas, Parson Gulliver, and Peter Power etc. 

Henry Fielding
It is very interesting to note that the four books of Joseph Andrews are like four acts of a drama full of dramatic appearances. Some critics suggest the novel as a parody of romantic plots in general as it rebukes many notions of 18th century remakes. It is also to be noted that Joseph Andrews is in the tradition of the picaresque novel and as such the novelist is mow interested in the depiction of the manners and morals of the contemporary society than in the delineation of character.

Let's answer these Questions: 

(1) What is called comic epic prose?

(2) What is picaresque novel?

(3) How is the novel anti romantic?

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert 

       2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature

        3. Microsoft Students’ Encarta


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