Study Guide

Joseph Andrews Setting

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The Eighteenth-Century Open Road

Setting in Joseph Andrews is all about the characters. Yes, it's kind of weird that we get pages of description of Fanny's face and hardly anything about the English countryside the characters travel across. In each new location, Joseph encounters colorful characters who distract him from his journey. Still, we get snippets here and there of description of the open road.

Ooh-La-La, London

Before Joseph ever starts his journey, he has a grand time hanging out in London—not that he really gets what London is all about. While walking around in Hyde Park, for example, Lady Tittle and Lady Tattle spot him walking arm-in-arm with Lady Booby (1.4.3). How did that happen? Well, Hyde Park is the place in London to go to promenade around, see, and be seen. Translation: it's Gossip Central.

Joseph is definitely seen by the town gossips, but he doesn't seem to see much himself. Classic Joseph: unaware that Hyde Park is a magnet for the Desperate Housewives of England, just as he seems pretty unaware that he himself is… a magnet for the Desperate Housewives of England.

Stormy Seasons

Joseph doesn't choose the best time to hit the road. As soon as he departs from Lady Booby's London house, he finds himself in "a violent storm of hail" that forces him "to take shelter in this inn, where he remembered Sir Thomas had dined in his way to town" (1.11.11). The countryside is often depicted as inhospitable to the naïve Joseph, who is totally not prepared to travel through poor weather conditions.

Come In to the Inn

Instead, Joseph seeks refuge in that middle-class haven: the inn. Joseph stops in at countless inns along the way, where his fellow travelers gather to talk shop and get a good pint of ale. Even though you have to have money to stay at an inn (which Joseph frequently doesn't), they're more hospitable places than the open road.

For instance, check out when Joseph is rescued from that ditch. His reluctant saviors drop him off at the nearest inn, where the maid gives him "a great coat belonging to one of the hostlers, desired him to sit down and warm himself, whilst she made his bed" (1.12.11). Sounds pretty fantastic to us. Of course, there's always the problem of paying… but Joseph seems to get by relying on the charity of others, such as Adams and random strangers.

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