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Though Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews operates as a skillful satire of literary trends of the time, the satirical elements also appear during his criticisms of how law is conducted in the more rural parts of English society These criticisms become especially apparent in Book IV of the novel, wherein the particularly corrupt Lawyer Scout seeks to disrupt the lives of the protagonists at the request of Lady Boobyt Fielding‘s portrayal of Scout is remarkably dynamic in how he displays more satirical elements of his character while also genuinely showcasing the unjust and sinful nature of his person As a magistrate himself, Fielding’s priority in illustrating the corruption within rural English law is most apparent in the character of Lawyer Scout, who ultimately represents Fielding’s deep misgivings with the justice system of the time.
Scout’s character is illustrated as hilariously ridiculous in one instance and villainously corrupt in anothert. In the case of the former, Scout is shown to make an absolutely absurd attempt to disrupt the wedding of Joseph and Fanny on the false premise of a stolen twigi in a highly pompous testimonial, Scout writes, “there he zede Joseph Andrews with a nife cut one hassel twig, of the value, as he believes”, asserting that if the twig had been cut from a young tree, Fanny and Joseph would have been hanged for it.
Scout‘s attempt to ruin the couple’s prospects over a ”twig of some value” is meant to be ridiculous, and it highlights the lawyer’s inherent incompetency in matters of the law.
Earlier on, however, Fielding displays a genuine contempt for men like Scout during a paragraph in which he explains that Scout actually has no training or knowledge of the law whatsoever. He writes this Scout was one of those fellows who, without any knowledge of the law, or being bred to it, take upon them, in defiance of an act of Parliament, to act as lawyers in the country, and are called so.
They are the pests of society, and a scandal to a profession, to which indeed they do not belong t t i”. Though the audience is encouraged to find humor in Scout’s abysmal attempts to enforce the law, Fielding uses this earlier passage to emphasize the fact that men like this exist and are apt to use such ridiculous methods in their real»life affairs. While Fielding desires the audience to find comedy in the satirical elements of Scout’s character, he ultimately wants the reader to understand the genuine threat that false men of the law, like Scout, pose to English societyl Finally, the fact remains that Lawyer Scout does all of this is because Lady Booby wills him to do so, as if she is having the man act as her pawn of revenge. Fielding incorporates this into the narrative because he wants the audience to realize that the law is apt to be used as a tool of revenge and other kinds of villainy. Rather than the law be utilized for genuine acts of good or any kind ofjustice, Fielding understands English law (especially in rural communities) as something that is used to take advantage of society’s underprivileged and underrepresented. Lawyer Scout is illustrated by Fielding in a deliberate way that showcases both the satirical elements of his character and the truly heinous nature of his person, with the author balancing the character in such a way that permits him to maintain a satirical narrative as well as a text that is genuinely critical of society. As a man, magistrate, and writer, Fielding stands in the fortunate position of being able to voice his opinions, make assertions about the law because of his long- standing career in that field, and create a narrative that criticizes the wills of a society that is influenced by men such as Lawyer Scoutt.
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