Joseph Andrews

The Value of Education: Formal and Informal Education in Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews College

Of the many themes in Joseph Andrews, one of the most complicated issues is the value of a formal education. Throughout the novel, Parson Adams is depicted as a man who has been educated in the classics, and a formal education is important to him. Adams carries with him a large Greek text by Aeschylus, writes eloquent sermons, and enjoys discussing famed philosophers whenever he has opportunity. The narrator describes him as, “an excellent Scholar. He was a perfect Master of the Greek and Latin Languages; to which he added a great Share of Knowledge in the Oriental Tongues, and could read and translate French, Italian, and Spanish. He applied many years to most sever Study, and had treasured up a Fund of Learning rarely to be met with in a University” (65). Though he is a well educated, virtuous, and charitable man, he is innocent when it comes to the schemes of man, and comedically falls victim at several times in the novel. Much like Squire Allworthy, another character of Fielding’s in Tom Jones, Adams is so benevolent and kind that he does not expect anyone to treat him with anything but honesty and good naturedness.

Despite his formalized education, Parson Adams sometimes lacks the discernment skills required to understand...

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