Study Guide

Joseph Andrews Charity

By Henry Fielding

Charity

Betty, who was just retired from her charitable office, answered, she believed he was a gentleman; for she never saw a finer skin in her life. (1.14.2)

Charity's a lot easier to swallow when there's a monetary reward on the other end of it. Um, but is it still charity then?

Tow-wouse was willing to give him credit 'till next time, to which Mrs. Tow-wouse probably would have consented (for such was Joseph's beauty […]). (2.2.7)

Who said Joseph's beauty doesn't open doors? So it is charity if you're doing it because you have the hots for the person you're being charitable toward? Would Mrs. Tow-wouse be as charitable toward Parson Adams, for example?

Joseph would have found therefore, very likely, the passage free, had he not, when he honestly discovered the nakedness of his pockets, pulled out the little piece of gold which we have mentioned before. (2.2.7)

The politics of charity are pretty interesting: Tow-wouse is willing to excuse Joseph's debt if he's too poor or too rich, but middle-class folks have to pay a fine.

I am hastening to the assistance of some poor creature whom some villains are murdering. (2.9.2)

Look at that: Adams is the type of guy who reacts instantly to a bad situation by offering charity. He may be a born and bred intellectual, but he acts from the heart. Even at his most ridiculous, we can't laugh too hard at Adams, given that he's a good guy despite his shortcomings.

I have often wondered, sir, said Joseph, to observe so few instances of charity among mankind […]. (3.6.1)

Joseph is practically having a revelation. He's always been concerned with doing the right thing, but now he's realizing that others don't have that same impulse.

Adams answered, that riches without charity were nothing worth; for that they were only a blessing to him who made them a blessing to others. (3.13.1)

Lest you think Adams is being a hypocrite, remember that time where he gave up his last shilling to a stranger? Okay, well, he would have given up his last shilling if he hadn't lost it—but it's the thought that counts.

You and I, said Peter, have different notions of charity. I do not like the word, nor do I think it becomes one of us gentlemen; it is a mean parson-like quality […]. (3.13.1)

Burn. Peter Pounce has a pretty interesting thesis about how charity only appeals to a certain class of people. Do you think Fielding would agree?

I wonder, sir, after the many great obligations you have had to this family, that you will ungratefully show any respect to a fellow who hath been turned out of it for his misdeeds. (4.2.1)

Burn squared. Lady Booby lays it on thick in an effort to convince Adams that he's being uncharitable. Luckily, she fails. It seems like Adams has too good of a heart to be misled by Lady Booby's lies and manipulation.

The story of the miser, who from long accustoming to cheat others, came at last to cheat himself, and with great delight and triumph, picked his own pocket of a guinea […]. (4.7.1)

Fielding loves this kind of story. Here, we've got a guy so blinded by greed that he picks his own pocket. That may seem ridiculous, but it's actually a pretty good metaphor for the way being totally uncharitable ends up hurting you in the end, sometimes in unexpected ways.

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