The Value of Irony in Joseph Andrews
In his novel Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding uses irony to express satire and offer social commentary. Irony "results when there is a disjunction between what an audience would expect and what really happens." The dominant form of irony in Joseph Andrews is dramatic irony: Fielding sets up the reader to believe that one thing is going to happen, when another actually does. Dramatic irony allows Fielding to "teach" his readers "lessons" by giving examples of vain characters' ill-fated plans while maintaining a light mood. Fielding uses verbal irony to show the hypocrisy in his vain characters.
The entire novel is structured around the ironic statement that Fielding makes in the beginning: "But as it often happens that the best Men are but little known" (61). In this vein, Fielding introduces Parson Adams as the main character in the novel. Parson Adams's character is full of irony. A clergyman's duty is to provide guidance to his parishioners. Although "he was a perfect Master of the Greek and Latin languages", he was also "entirely ignorant of the ways of this World" (65). Parson Adams's naivete makes him an endearing, kind character. Readers become...
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