Study Guide

Joseph Andrews Genre

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Adventure; Comedy; Picaresque

In Joseph Andrews, we've got a handsome hero who hits the road to find his one true love. Along the way, he encounters obstacles galore in order to get back to the place where he grew up. If that isn't an adventure, we'll eat our hats.

If that isn't enough for you, we've got ruffians, evil squires, sheep-stealers who may or may not be ghosts, and grumpy innkeepers. There's a lot of local color in this story that adds to its adventurous elements.

We've also got characters named Lady Booby, Mrs. Slipslop, and Mr. Tow-wouse. Funny? You bet. Beneath it all, Joseph Andrews is a comedy meant to make its readers chortle. Think of Adams "rolling down the hill, which he did from top to bottom, without receiving any harm" (3.2.8). The story isn't meant to be all serious and educational all the time. We'll admit it—we giggled.

Finally, Joseph Andrews is a darn-tootin' good example of the picaresque. What's that, you ask? Well, it usually consists of a series of adventures undertaken by a lower-class hero. That's Joseph to a T, even if the ending reveals him to be a gentleman. Usually, the plot of a picaresque novel is pretty loose—it usually just involves the hero wandering around getting into trouble and listening to outlandish stories. Sound familiar?

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