Study Guide

Joseph Andrews Society and Class

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Society and Class

[…] for she had rather stay in that place in all eternity, than ride with a naked man. (1.12.5)

Charity isn't exactly a prized virtue around these parts. If you look like you're from a lower class, you're probably not going to find a place in the coach.

Your master is a pretty sort of man to take in naked vagabonds, and clothe them with his own clothes. (1.12.14)

You might think that helping out the more unfortunate is a good quality. Yeah, not on the open road, apparently: it's every man for himself out there.

Betty told her mistress, she believed the man in bed was a greater man than they took him for. (1.15.1)

Betty might not care as much about Joseph's status as she lets on. Instead, she could be manipulating her mistress to help Joseph. After all, if Joseph is better than a mere footman, then maybe her mistress could be more open about what she wants from him.

No, villain, I am not dead, though you and your wicked whore might well think me so, after the barbarous cruelties you have exercised on me. (2.10.1)

If you don't look the part, you're apt to get blamed for a random crime. Parson Adams and Fanny sure learn that the hard way. Even though many of the lower-class characters are way more virtuous than the upper-class characters in this novel, you can bet that they'll always be the ones pegged for a crime when it comes right down to it.

I should be ashamed of my cloth, if I thought a poor man, who is honest, below my notice or my familiarity. (3.2.11)

Adams tells it like it is. Then again, it's kind of his job to be gracious to those more unfortunate.

Sure, sir, replied Adams, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and other distresses which attend the poor, can never be said to be imaginary evils. (3.13.1)

Peter Pounce is totally insulated from poverty and the misery that accompanies it. He can't even imagine what those things are like, so he can't imagine why anyone would need help in those situations. His definition of charity has a lot to do with his privileged class position.

I assure you I look upon myself as his betters; I am not meat for a footman I hope. (4.1.8)

Slipslop's a tricky one. By asserting that she's better, socially speaking, than Joseph, she's also getting in a little dig at Lady Booby, who's very much still in love with "the footman."

I am resolved, said the lady, to have no discarded servants of mine settled here […]. (4.3.1)

Lady Booby's flexing her muscles, so to speak. If Scout doesn't help, she'll send him away—and she can do that because, as she reminds him, he's essentially her "servant." Burn.

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