Study Guide

Joseph Andrews Society and Class

By Henry Fielding

Society and Class

Society is just one more thing that Joseph is oblivious about—but just because he's clueless about crumpets and tea doesn't mean that everyone else is, too. Lady Booby, for one, is certain she can have her way with Joseph as soon as he figures out the (ahem) benefits of living the upper-class life. Mr. Wilson, on the other hand, learns the hard way that his class position won't shelter him from the seedy side of London.

So even if Joseph isn't aware that he's navigating a complicated social system, it definitely influences everything he does. For example, while the hoity-toity folks of Joseph Andrews gallivant around the countryside in coaches, they're not often eager to share those coaches with a footman—handsome as he might be. The great epic of the road has everything to do with the fact that Joseph's class limits the spaces he can access.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. What is Joseph's class status? Why does this matter?
  2. What is so unbearable about Joseph sharing a coach with an upper-class lady?
  3. If Joseph ended up marrying Lady Booby as a footman, what kind of an impact would this have on Lady Booby's social status?
  4. Why is Mr. Wilson, a gentleman, kind to a bunch of random lower-class travelers?

Chew on This

As a religious figure, Parson Adams has access to more spaces than someone like Joseph does. Even though he might not be privileged or wealthy, he delivers a service that the privileged and wealthy value.

The open road is one of the only spaces where the rich and poor collide.

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