Study Guide

Joseph Andrews Foolishness and Folly

By Henry Fielding

Foolishness and Folly

Her nose was likewise rather too large; and her eyes too little; nor did she resemble a cow so much as in her breath […]. (1.6.5)

Slipslop cuts a pretty foolish figure, especially since she's pursuing Joseph like a young maid. Fielding makes it even more ridiculous by describing Slipslop as, well, a cow. Still, we can't deny that she has gumption.

O Love, what monstrous tricks dost thou play with thy votaries of both sexes […] Their follies are thy delight! (1.7.7)

If Love is really sitting up there cackling at everyone's misfortune, we're all out of luck. But really, who can deny that love (not to mention that other L word: lust) makes people do some pretty ridiculous things.

It is an observation sometimes made, that to indicate our idea of a simple fellow, we say, He is easily to be seen through: nor do I believe it a more improper denotation of a simple book. (1.11.1)

So which is it, Shmoopers? Can we easily see through this book, or is it more complex than that?

Never believe me, if yonder be not our parson Adams walking along without his horse. (2.7.1)

This is totally a "Dude, Where's My Car?" moment. We mean, seriously: Adams is forgetful, sure, but it's a little much to just forget your transportation somewhere.

Adams's foot slipping, he instantly disappeared, which greatly frightened both Joseph and Fanny; indeed, if the light had permitted them to see it, they would scarce have refrained from laughing to see the parson rolling down the hill […]. (3.2.8)

Adams is a funny guy. He's a little pompous, so people can't help but laugh when he does something especially foolish. We're not surprised that Fielding is making fun of some stuffy eighteenth-century manners. Those guys in powdered wigs? Come on. We'd laugh till we cried if we saw one of them slip and roll down a hill.

If knowledge of the world must make men villains, may Juba ever live in ignorance. (3.5.3)

Okay, so this is one of Adams's favorite quotes from Cato. But we think this could also be Adams's motto: he'd rather be a fool (or play one) than dwell in evil knowledge. Well, maybe he's got a point…

[…] the captain conveyed his chair from behind him; so that when he endeavored to seat himself, he fell down on the ground […]. (3.7.3)

The captain's jokes are all cheap shots. Fielding isn't above a little physical comedy, Charlie Chaplin-style, when it suits him.

The dancing-master no sooner saw the fist than he prudently retired out of its reach, and stood aloof mimicking Adams […]. (3.7.5)

It's all well and good to mock Adams, but try being within the reach of his famous fists.

Adams and Joseph, who was no less enraged than his friend, at the treatment he met with, went out with their sticks in their hands […]. (3.8.1)

Even when Adams appears foolish, his friends have his back. They don't even seem to see how silly he looks. He gets by with a little help from his friends… but what would happen if he didn't have that back up?

A curious Dialogue which passed between Mr. Abraham Adams and Mr. Peter Pounce, better worth reading than all the Works of Colley Cibber and many others. (3.13.1)

Fielding loves to poke fun at the king of fools, the poet laureate Colley Cibber. (Let's not even get him started on Samuel Richardson.) Is it just sour grapes, or was Cibber that foolish?

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