At its core, Volume the Last is a meditation on the inevitabilities of loss and sorrow, the destructiveness of ambition and the futility of human aspiration. Recalling Samuel Johnson’s magisterial Vanity of Human Wishes and anticipating the melancholy acceptance of his Rasselas, the work is sober and somber, shaped no doubt by Fielding’s own profound losses. Other writers exploring such themes might emphasize the consolation of eternal bliss. Fielding, although writing within the Christian tradition, focuses on earthly matters, hoping to cultivate in her readers the dispositions that give characters such as Cynthia the strength to endure adversity and the skills to provide for themselves and their loved ones in times of hardship and injustice. In doing so, of course, Fielding throws satiric barbs at those who cause suffering and inequity, but her emphasis remains on the practical needs of readers who must learn to cope with a world they cannot change. To this degree, Fielding continually writes herself into and out of political discourse, as she oscillates between critiquing her society and preparing her readers for the harsh contingencies of daily life.