It is a Wild Wild World: (Political) Satire in Fielding’s Jonathan Wild
AbstractHenry Fielding, deemed one of the fathers of the English novel, had a strong affinity for satire in his works, unlike his prominent novelist peers like Defoe and Richardson. Fielding’s literary stance was heavily oriented towards the dominant genre of the poetry of the time, namely, that of the Age of Reason – which criticized and at times lampooned the follies of the age as well as the prominent figures of the time. In this regard, Fielding’s adoption of this satiric style – which he used for satirizing the politics of his age – was quite innovative for, and at the same time incompatible with the idea of novel at the time which necessitated the creation of an illusion of reality. Instead, Fielding’s highly caricaturized characters for the sake of satire were a far cry from the rigorous attempts of the 18th century realist novelists to delineate their characters as true to life as possible. Moreover, his light-hearted parodic prose constituted attacks on the major political figures of his age – which was unheard of in the newly emerging novel genre at the time and, as Claude Rawson (2008) aptly remarks, “turned Fielding into the principal inventor of the English comic novel” (Introduction, p. xi). Hence, this paper aims at exploring Fielding’s impressive political satire on Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of Britain , in his novel Jonathan Wild, and at examining how Fielding, with an extremely satiric purpose, turns topsy-turvy the ideas of high and low, respectable and disrespectable as well as good and bad.
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