Henry Fielding was born on April 1707 in Somersetshire, England to a well situated, upper class parents. He was first educated at home by a clergyman, then moved on to study at Eton, and eventually went to the University of Leyden. Before becoming a novelist Fielding wrote a significant amount of plays some of which are still read frequently. ( Pasquin (1736) and The Historical Register of 1736 (1737) All of Fielding’s plays are comedies that express Fielding’s feelings towards the characteristics of the British society at that moment. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling was published in 1749. Almost every aspect of Fielding’s own life is in some way or another related with the character in the novel. Tom Jones represents the markings of Fielding, acting with the same careless good nature, the deep concern and awareness of poverty and the decadence of the moral values in British society.
KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The setting of the novel is late eighteenth century England. ‘Tom Jones’, Fielding’s comic masterpiece, came out in 1749. While in the beginning, the reader sees rich estates in the English Somersetshire countryside, in later parts the narrative carries forth in little towns and inns enroute to London. A great part of the story is set in the fashionable part of London. Reading this novel would give the reader an adequate understanding of not only orthodox England of that period, but also of the fops, gallants and rich ladies for whom amorous pursuits were a way of life. The story in main is about upper class and rich English and thus naturally, the setting too represents this adequately. Much of the action unfolds against the backdrop of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. While historical upheavals such as a crucial war are mentioned in the course of the story, they do not form the main stay of the narrative. The story unfolds in familiar surroundings of everyday life – countryside estates, inns, fashionable London drawing rooms, boarding houses, travelling roads etc.
This is none other than Tom Jones himself. He is found as a little baby in Squire Allworthy’s home, abandoned by his mother Tom Jones is adopted by the benevolent and gentle Squire. As he grows up, Tom falls in love with Sophia Western, a local landowner’s daughter. But, Sophia is paired with the villainous Blifil who intrigues to get his rival banished. Tom takes to the road on a picaresque journey through 18 th C England, while Sophia attempts to flee a marriage with a man she detests. Their paths cross and uncross as they encounter misunderstandings and misadventures. The novel is basically Tom’s story – how he meets a large variety of people. He is a believable hero. While he has many positive qualities, he is not perfect and has many failings too.
There is no one particular antagonist in the story. The protagonist – Tom Jones struggles against antagonistic situations such as the treachery of Master Blifil. Tom Jones faces antagonism since his birth. Without any fault of his, he is openly called a bastard. No one knows who his real parents are. He carries this stigma with him despite the fact that the benevolent and respectable Squire Allworthy adopts him. He is very attractive to women and gets carried away with them because of his compassionate nature. So he lands up in sticky situations often. These amorous pitfalls can be considered antagonistic as they keep him away from his real love – Sophia Western. Certain circumstances or merely bad luck prove to be antagonistic too. Since he is a foundling, Squire Western does not consider him a worthy match for his daughter – Sophia. One can say that in contrast to Tom’s innocence, it is the treacherous ways of the world that are antagonistic to him. The redeeming fact is that he manages to overcome such antagonisms to become a successful protagonist.
The story climaxes when Tom Jones is in jail because of his bloody fight with Mr. Fitzpatrick. Mr. Fitzpatrick had entertained suspicions of an affair between Tom Jones and his wife since his arrival at Upton Inn. When he comes to meet his wife at London, he sees Tom walking out of the house. This raises Mr. Fitzpatrick’s suspicions and he attacks Tom. The latter defends himself with gusto, and Mr. Fitzpatrick is terribly wounded in the process. This wound is stated to be mortal by the surgeon and on this account, Tom is to be tried on the charge of murder. While Tom is helpless in jail, other complications arise. A major tension point is reached when Partridge tells Tom that he is guilty of incest and that Mrs. Waters is his mother. Tom is thoroughly vexed at the thought of his short affair with a lady who is supposed to be his own mother. He damns himself for his many follies. At the same time, Sophia is made to read a letter that Tom had written to Lady Bellaston. Sophia is shocked to read his proposal of marriage to the Lady and resolves to denounce Tom. Thus, Tom’s miseries are doubled and he abandons all hope.
This is a climactic situation and an equally vexing one to Tom, as well as Sophia. This young lady has problems of her own. While on one hand she is being forced by her father to marry Blifil, on the other hand – her aunt, Lady Western fights with her. Aunt Western wants that Sophia must pay attention to Lord Fellamar’s courtship and proposal of marriage. Apart from the pressure from her elders, Sophia is heart broken that Tom has not been loyal to her. Thus, the confusion of the two major protagonists together forms the climax. Tom is jailed just as the other major players in this history too appear in London. Squire Western is here to force his daughter into marriage, Squire Allworthy too is here to see that the matter between Blifil and Sophia reaches a favorable conclusion. Mrs. Miller in the meanwhile persuades Squire Allworthy to see Tom in a more favorable and justly deserved light. Thus, all these factors combine to form the tangled climax, with the danger of Tom being tried for murder being the most pressing concern. We all wait to know whether Mr. Fitzpatrick will stay alive and if he does not, Tom will be in serious trouble and likely to be hanged himself.
The outcome is a positive one. All misunderstandings are cleared up and the protagonist Tom Jones’ reputation is restored. A major disaster is averted when Tom Jones is released from jail. Mr. Fitzpatrick recovers and confesses that he was the aggressor, not Tom. Thus, Tom is free again. The quarrel with Squire Allworthy is cleared and the former accepts Tom Jones as his heir once again. The young man inherits Squire Allworthy’s entire estate and is once again restored to the respectable position he had enjoyed before. Thus, all’s well that ends well. Tom Jones succeeds in worldly affairs, despite his carelessness and naiveté. Most importantly, Tom is reconciled to his love – Sophia Western. He manages to explain to her that the marriage proposal to Lady Bellaston was simply to push the Lady into ending her affair with him. Sophia forgives him his many indiscretions and accepts him despite his other past affairs. Thus, the two major characters are united after overcoming many misunderstandings. The romance of Sophia and Tom Jones is fruitful and the lovers are united in marriage.
Lord Fellamar too finally comes to term with the fact that he cannot attain Sophia. Lady Bellaston gives up Tom as well. Master Blifil is exposed as a villain and his true diabolic traits emerge. These, when contrasted with Tom’s straightforwardness make the latter appear even more heroic and noble. Squire Allworthy finally recognizes what his two sons stand for – Blifil for manipulation and Tom Jones for straightforwardness. Mrs. Miller is very happy that the Squire is able to make this distinction. Throughout the narrative, Tom and Sophia are shown as fighting conventional society, embodied in the character of Blifil. They manage to turn around their dismal situation and that is the reason why we accept Fielding’s comic view of life. At the end, poetic justice seems to be in action. While the so- called good characters are rewarded and earn happiness (Tom Jones, Sophia, Squire Allworthy, Squire Western, Partridge and others), characters such as the manipulative Blifil find themselves punished and rightly so.
The kindly, prosperous Mr Allworthy finds a baby boy on his bed and adopts the mysterious child, naming it Tom Jones. Allworthy suspects that Jenny Jones, a maid-servant to the wife of the schoolmaster Partridge, is the mother. Jenny leaves the neighborhood. Allworthy’s sister Bridget marries Captain Blifil and they have a son. Tom and young Blifil are raised together. Years later a rivalry over the attention of Sophia Western arises between them. Because of an affair with the gamekeeper’s daughter Molly Seagrim, and because of Blifil’s treachery, Tom is expelled from Squire Allworthy’s house.
He experiences adventures in the picaresque section of the novel. He has a one night stand with Mrs. Waters and later drifts into an affair with Lady Bellaston at London. He nearly kills Mr. Fitzpatrick in a duel, and is imprisoned. Meanwhile, Sophia too had fleed to London to escape the marriage with Blifil. She had been putting up at Lady Bellaston’s place, though the later hated the fact that Sophia occupied foremost place in Jones’ heart. Then, Jenny Jones turns up to reveal that Bridget is the mother of Tom, and Blifil’s cruelties to Tom over the years are exposed – Blifil knew the truth of Tom’s birth. Tom marries Sophia, who forgives him for his infidelities. Tom is also reconciled with his previous benefactor Squire Allworthy and he succeeds in becoming his rightful and deserving heir.
The mood of the novel is that of a satiric bawdy romance. While in main, the story is about Tom and Sophia and how they finally get together; there is also much intended satire on the false conventions of society. A vivid Hogarthian panorama Tom Jones thus becomes both a romance and a comedy. While the basic plot of the story may be founded on romance; the treatment of the theme is not merely romantic. It is much more than that – the narrative spans adventures, love affairs, seductions, wars; in short-life in all its richness and variety. And that is the reason – the mood never becomes melancholic. The pace is always a fast one and the mood is never really downcast even if the events are disappointing, the novel can make you laugh, grin and even smirk – but rarely does it enable you to cry. The novel remains a comic, entertaining romance worth a read and entertaining in its taste.
Tom Jones the novel is a panoramic commentary on England in 1745 and it is also the story of Tom Jones and Sophia Western. Tom and Sophia are rebels revolting against the respectably accepted domestic standards of eighteenth century society. By such standards Sophia should obey her father and Tom should be what Blifil thinks him, an illegitimate upstart who ought to be put firmly in his place. For the purposes of the plot Fielding makes Tom a gentleman. Tom & Sophia fight conventional society embodied in the character of Blifil. They are not passive in their struggle and that is why Tom Jones is not a tragedy but comedy. While Blifil is forever on the side of conventional respectability. Tom Jones has the vigor and spirit at spontaneity. He acts naturally and therefore the excesses into which his animal spirits lead him are forgiven. Here in the novel the natural man and the noble savage are pitted against each other.
Tom’s strength lies in the vigor and spontaneity of Tom’s reactions. Fielding’s hero Tom Jones is shown as a bewildered young man of great health and spirits. He has so much life that it amounts for the effect of comedy and application of satire equal to him having his own mind. Tom Jones is an attractive character quite the heroic. But his heroism is tinged with a recklessness of youth, which makes him all the more believable while he is well meaning he gets unintentionally into trouble. Tom Jones has one failing–his wantonness with women. He cannot resist them and he has more than one affair. While his heart belongs to Sophia Western he constantly gives his physical self away to the pleasures of love. But ultimately all the goodness in his character pays him rich dividends and he is once again made the heir at Squire Allworthy’s large estate. He even manages to get his ladylove in marriage (Sophia Western) and she pardons his numerous infidelities.
The plot movement follows the curve of extreme high and low. Tom comes on the scene as a bastard, his reputation and his hopes are progressively blackened until he reaches his nadir in London. Here he is kept by Lady Bellaston and even accused of murder and thrown into jail. There is further misinterpretation of his character, when he is accused of incest with his supposed mother Jenny Jones. With the exposure of Blifil’s malicious machinations and of Tom’s true goodness his fortune sails to the Zenith of romantic happiness. He is proved to be of high birth and he marries the girl of his choice and he inherits wealth. At the end Blifil’s treachery is revealed and Squire Allworthy realizes rightly the good nature of Tom Jones.
One cannot condemn Squire Allworthy for entertaining doubts about Tom Jones previously, as he does get involved in amorous relationships with other women. But common to all his relationships is that it is always the women, who do the running. Another fact to be mentioned is that it is only towards the end of the novel, that Tom feels himself to be worthy of marriage to Sophia. Tom Jones does obtain Sophia eventually and their love is finalized in marriage. The blustering careless Tom Jones converts into a responsible and faithful husband. He is one of the few heroes in English literature, who is represented realistically as having negative traits, as well as positive charms. Sophia Western
She is the charming and beautiful daughter of Squire Western. Extremely lady like feminine, as well as sensitive. She is also amazingly strong. Her father is misled by the ineffable Mrs. Western into thinking that Sophia loves Blifil, not Tom Jones. Though in reality Sophia is madly in love with the hero Tom. Her father insists that she get married to Blifil and she protests violently. But on seeing that the odds are against her Sophia flees from her home and from the fate of marrying the detestable Blifil. She exhibits in her running away a courage that we might not have credited her with. She takes along with her Mrs. Honour her maidservant. Together they manage to reach London. Here Sophia manages to find shelter. By this time she hates the thought of Tom Jones as she hears that he had criticized her as being desperately in love with him while he had no such feelings. She is further disillusioned when she learns that he was bed partner to a certain Mrs. Waters at an inn.
Interestingly while revealing the story to her cousin Mrs. Fitzpatrick she does not divulge her love for Tom. The only reason that she gives for running away from home is that she was being forced to marry a man whom she hated. Sophia may be delicate and straightforward but she isn’t a fool either. She knows the art of tact and she can understand the enormous intrigues of others around her. She has far more control over her passions than her lover Tom Jones. It is with curiosity that we observe that Sophia forgives Tom his many infidelities and affairs. And she does this with the grace and charm that are an integral part of her persona. When Tom realizes that Sophia is attainable he abandons all physical passions. Sophia, as the heroine is not as colorful as Tom, she is the more serene of the two. She has her head about her shoulders and is firm in her convictions.
She detests Blifil and loves Tom passionately. She does not approve of infidelities. Sophia is the quintessential woman, delicate and yet full of verve and spirit. One might question how she accepts Tom inspite of his affairs, but she is then convinced of his love for him. And it is only right that such love should find its ideal consummation in marriage. That is the best end that this struggle of pursuits could come to. Sophia and her cousin Harriet Mrs. Fitzpatrick have much in common. They have both lived together with their aunt Mrs. Western. Both are young and beautiful, both are at odds with their family over the choice of a husband, both flee dynamical males. When they meet fortuitously on the road and exchange recent histories both omit any mention of the men who engage their hearts. The similarities between Sophia and Harriet serve to intensify our sense of the differences, which are comically heralded by the nicknames the young women had earlier given each other–Miss Graveairs (Sophia) and Miss Giddy (Harriet). Squire Allworthy
Squire Allworthy is a kind hearted and wealthy widower who lives in Somersetshire. He was the favorite of both Nature & Fortune for both of these contended on which should bless and enrich him most. He was an agreeable person with a sound constitution, a solid understanding and a benevolent heart. He was also the master of one of the largest estates in the country. It is he who finds Tom Jones abandoned as a baby. He adopts the little one and brings him up as his very son. He has great affections for Tom Jones but cannot oversee the latter’s gross mistakes. His mind is further poisoned by Blifil Thwackum and Square who condemn Tom Jones’s many follies. This entire affair ends up with the Squire throwing Tom Jones out of his estate. It is interesting to note that Allworthy, who had watched Blifil and Tom Jones from infancy and who should be in a better position to judge, is hopelessly misled.
On the other hand Sophia is the wise one and is quick ot distinguish between Tom Jones and Blifil. She detests Blifil and loves the wonderful young man, that is Tom Jones. Squire Allworthy realizes his adopted son’s value only at the end of the book. It is then that he banishes Blifil after learning his villainy. For all his goodness, Allworthy takes time to discern the truth. As for his role in the narrative, while he is not a part of the background throughout; he is important in that it is he who sets the ball rolling by adopting Tom Jones. It is in his house that the drama begins and also reaches its happy end. Squire Allworthy is responsible for Tom Jones’ fate to a large extent. It is he who has the power to raise Jones to the position of a rich heir or to drop him to the level of a homeless pauper. And it is on Tom Jones financial position that his marriage with Sophia also depends. Ultimately the Squire is benevolent to Jones and thus so is Jones’s own fate. Blifil
He is Captain Blifil and Miss Bridget’s only son. He grows up along with Tom, Squire Allworthy’s foundling. Unlike Tom, Blifil is not straightforward and benevolent. He is mean and convincing and he has these traits since he is a kid. As a youngster, he realizes the power of flattery and makes the most of this weapon, not only with his teachers but also with his uncle Allworthy, as well. While he is sweet to Tom on his face he is very jealous of the latter’s popularity. Tom does not realize this but Blifil plots to have Tom banished from the estate. Blifil is further jealous of the fact that Sophia loves Tom. While he had not paid particular attention to Sophia’s beauty before when he is made aware of the opportunity to attain her, he makes a grab at it. But Sophia cannot stand him and sees through his worldly mask. She runs away from home to escape marriage to him. Infact, he is one of the major obstacles in Tom and Sophia’s union. Blifil goes to London in search of Squire Western and Sophia. Here, he is more than happy to know that Tom is in jail and that he will be convicted of murder. Infact he sends Dowling to the men who had been present at Tom and Mr. Fitzpatrick’s struggle.
Dowling is entrusted with the task of convincing these men to give evidence against Tom. Dowling is made to believe that this is what Squire Allworthy wants. But luckily for Tom, Blifil’s treachery is revealed and Squire Allworthy learns the truth behind Dowling’s errand. The Squire further learns that Blifil had hid a crucial letter from him. This epistle was from Miss Bridget to the Squire and it revealed the secret of Tom’s birth. So all this while Blifil had known that Tom was his brother but he never revealed this secret. Squire Allworthy is also convinced of Blifil’s villainy by the testimony of others. The Squire now decides to banish Blifil but Tom intervenes and pleads that his brother be given some money at least. Indeed Tom does his best for Blifil in the capacity of a half brother. We learn that Blifil continues with his shrewdness in another part of Europe. He tries to get a seat in parliament and to marry a rich lady. Blifil is the antithesis of Tom. He claims to be superior but is inferior to Tom in morality and humanity. His reality as a villain stands exposed in the end. Credit may be given to Sophia in that she detested him from the very beginning since he and she were children. His characterization as a bitter man is done brilliantly by the author. Jenny Jones
When Squire Allworthy discovers a baby in his bed, he asks his elderly woman servant, Mrs. Wilkins, to find who the mother of the baby could be. She goes into the village to look for the likely woman and her suspicions fall on Jenny Jones, not a very attractive girl. When the ladies accuse Jenny of delivering forth the bastard, she confesses her guilt. For long we think that it is truly Jenny who is Tom’s mother. In her encounter with Squire Allworthy, she appears a modest and sensible young woman. We really question whether she could be the one who produced Tom; but her having accepted the act-we silence our questions. We learn the truth later. Indeed Jenny Jones is one of the most quaint characters in this narrative. She is curious in that she is full of contradictions. While she learns so much and is as good as an intellectual, she appears to have made a grave, social folly. She reappears as Mrs. Waters later though we don’t know that this is Jenny again. She is rescued by Tom from Ensign Northerton who was trying to force himself on her. She goes to an inn at Eton along with Tom. Finding him attractive she succeeds in seducing him. They part ways and meet next in London, when Mrs. Waters visits Tom in jail. Partridge frightens Tom into thinking that he has committed incest by sleeping with Mrs. Waters. But fortunately for Tom Mrs. Waters explains to Tom that she is not his mother.
A long held secret is finally revealed-Miss Bridget is Tom’s mother and it is revealed that it was she who had bribed Jenny to take the blame on her shoulders. Jenny had subsequently left the neighborhood in shame and had faced society’s insults. Jenny had gone on to have an affair with Captain Waters. Somewhere along the line she started being recognized as Mrs. Waters. After the one night affair with Tom she accompanies Mr. Fitzpatrick and is how known as Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Mrs. Fitzpatrick can be held responsible for the sea change in Tom’s affairs. If she hadn’t revealed that Tom is Squire Allworthy’s nephew, the latter would not have been as completely reconciled to the former as he is eventually. Jenny settles many disturbing questions by her revelation. Thus she is of crucial relevance to this tale. Her character is a unique blend of contraries. While she is considered intelligent and is good at learning she realizes that she cannot survive on intellect alone. That is the reason she agrees to take the immoral blame on herself in lieu of money.
Later despite all her learning and wisdom she becomes Captain Waters’ mistress and dons the title of Mrs. Waters. When Squire Allworthy had given Mrs. Waters a lecture on prudence and morality it had seemed to have a profound effect on her. But we see that later she lives a free and rather lawless life. Her romantic partners are many including-Captain Waters, Ensign Northerton, Tom Jones and finally Mr. Fitzpatrick. She defends the presence of so many men in her life, as being the natural consequence of her having been ostracized by society. She says that Lady Bridget undertook to look after Jenny, in return of saving her own face. But we do not see any proofs on Lady Bridget’s generosity. All we see is a wanton woman who makes the most of her charms, in order to attain social security. She seems to have genuine fondness for Tom. She goes and looks him up on jail and it is she who reveals a crucial truth that she herself is not Tom’s mother. She also respects Squire Allworthy genuinely and seems to have the discerning sense to separate the chaff from the grain. She values good qualities and respects them for their goodness. Jenny Jones (Mrs. Waters) dons the title of Mrs. Fitzpatrick towards the end. Partridge
An ordinary schoolteacher, Partridge does not play a very important role in the first half. He notices a spark of intelligence in a young maid-Jenny Jones and endeavors to teach her while she is at home. She learns fast and is soon able to challenge her master too. Unfortunately for Partridge, this friendship of his with a young maid is not viewed without doubts. When a little baby is found in Squire Allworthy’s bed suspicion alights on Partridge and Jenny Jones. Jenny Jones leaves the neighborhood and Partridge too has to eventually abandon his school and his house. The reader does not see much of Partridge here. He does not go to great lengths to defend himself and so we too assume that he is guilty of being little Tom’s father.
Jenny Jones and Partridge disappear into oblivion as the reader gets absorbed in the events in youthful Tom’s life. Partridge reappears as a jovial barber and surgeon. Tom is banished from his house and is on the highway to London. In an accident, he wounds himself badly. Luckily for Tom, he meets a barber who doubles up as a surgeon. This is none other than Partridge. Partridge and Tom get along very well and Partridge reveals to Tom that he is the infamous schoolteacher. He also reassures Tom that he is not his father. Partridge then insists that he would like to accompany Tom in his travels. This insistence is not purely on the basis of benevolence.
Partridge thinks that in this way, he might find favor with Squire Allworthy once again. But along the way, Partridge grows genuinely fond of his companion Tom. Partridge provides much comic relief throughout the narrative. He is funnily selfish, whackily eccentric and uncannily shrewd. He is a unique combination of heart, as well as calculating mind. Partridge is not as brave as Tom and the dark and the unknown terrifies him. When Tom and Partridge are together in the woods at night, Partridge is terrified. When the duo enters the Old Man of the Hill’s house Partridge is convinced that herein resides ill. His fears are increased by the strange appearance of the ‘old Man’. But Tom has no such superstitious doubts and is compassionate to the old man. Later, Partridge refuses to go towards a group of revelers at night. He is sure that they are hobglobins or evil spirits. In reality they turn out to be a group of gypsies. Thus, many of Partridge’s superstitious fears are unfounded, though they do add some spice to the narrative.
Partridge may see mean, petty, loud mouthed and ungentlemanly at times but he is undoubtedly a kind-hearted man eventually. He does come to Tom’s rescue when Tom is in jail and he is genuinely concerned about the welfare of this young strapping man. Partridge is shocked that Tom has slept with Mrs. Waters (Jenny Jones). All this while he too had harbored the illusion that Jenny is Tom’s mother. He scares Tom with the idea that Tom might have committed incest, but as we see this doubt is cleared up. Partridge does not shy away from being called Tom’s servant and this is an interesting fact. He had enjoyed a certain amount of respect before he was charged with the guilt of impregnating Jenny. But as he is ostracized by society, his fortune falters. He becomes a barber eventually and does not mind accompanying Tom as a poor companion.
His vigor and his quaintness enable him to rise beyond the level of a servant though. He becomes Tom’s friend and confidante. At the end of the novel, we learn that Jones settles £ 50 a year on Partridge and that Partridge once again sets up a school in which he meets with much better encouragement than formerly. There is also a treaty of marriage on foot between Partridge and Miss Molly Seagrim, which through the mediation of Sophia is likely to take effect. Thus, Partridge is restored to the healthy level of respect that he had formerly enjoyed. Partridge comes across as a survivor, a man of many skills and one fond of gossip. He adds much color to Tom’s adventures in the second half of the novel. He entertains the reader with his witticisms and his quirky ways. The narrative would lack spice without Partridge’s enthusiastic presence. Lady Bridget
She is introduced as Miss Bridget Allworthy in Chapter 2. She is described as a lady past the age of thirty, whom you rather commend for good qualities than beauty and who are generally called by their own sex, very good sort of women-“as good a sort of woman, madam as you would wish to know.” She was of a nature to condemn beauty. She never mentioned that perfection without contempt. She conceived the charms of person in a woman to be no better than snares for herself. She appeared to be so discreet in her conduct that her prudence was as much on the guard as if she had all the snares to apprehend, which were ever laid for her whole sex. But the fact remained that Miss Bridget was much more than that what she appeared. She indulged in affairs with a few men, without them having ever being revealed to others. Thus, in many ways, she is a hypocritical woman. Her deceptiveness lies in her deliberate pretence.
When Tom Jones is found as a little baby she pretends to harbor disdain for a bastard. She then lavishes her attention on the little boy as an obligation to her brother-Squire Allworthy. Its only much later that we find out that Miss Bridget is Tom’s mother. All this while she had managed to skillfully hide this big secret. It is she who bribed Jenny Jones into taking the blame of this birth on her shoulders. Even the snobbish Miss Deborah Wilkins was not allowed to learn this secret. Miss Bridget did intend to reveal this secret eventually. While on her deathbed she writes a letter to her brother telling him that he is Tom Jones real Uncle. But this letter does not reach the Squire because of the conniving presence of Blifil. Lawyer-Dowling delivers the letter to Blifil and he does not give it to the Squire. Thus Blifil too learns that Tom is his half brother but this merely increases his jealousy. He reads the letter and makes sure the contents are not revealed to the Squire. Its only much later that we find this out when Squire Allworthy has a talk with Jenny Jones (Mrs. Waters) and Dowling.
What we learn of Bridget’s affairs, it has us surprised. Her passionate affair with Mr. Summers resulted in the birth of little Tom Jones. This fact changes the fortune of the unlucky Tom. His luck is now restored and he becomes the heir to Squire Allworthy’s estate. Coming back to Miss Bridget Allworthy she plays a crucial role. It is she who is the mother of the two main opponents of the story-Tom Jones and Blifil. Its because of her that Doctor Blifil dies of a broken heart. Doctor Blifil is ignored by his brother-Captain Blifil who in turn is married to Bridget Allworthy. Both the brothers covet Bridget and her fortune, but it is Captain Blifil who strikes lucky. He is described as a selfish and manipulative man. His marriage with Bridget is not successful. As Tom Jones grows up, Bridget does not play a major role. She is important more from the point of view of her impact on the events in the narrative. Her impact is less so because of her character and more so-a result of her actions.
As a character she is not a popular one. Her hypocrisy and her secret affairs put her in dark light. She is not open hearted and straight forward. She may be considered a product of the repressed English society. While she upholds prudence she is the one who is most wanton. She abandons her own baby but is shrewd enough to ensure that it finds shelter in her own house. She watches on silently and happily, as Tom becomes the Squire’s favorite. Thus her conscience remains clear as to the fate and fortune of her child Miss Bridget is indeed a discreet woman with an indulgent streak. Squire Western
He is Squire Allworthy’s neighbor. A robust man he is full of energy and is essentially brash. His wife has passed away and he lived with his only daughter-Sophia. He has a single Sister- Lady Western, who visits her brother’s estate often. Squire Western is extremely fond of hunting as well as drinking. To him the ideal day would be one in which he would go after game and then return home to drink the evening away. The day would be considered even more beautiful if his daughter Sophia would sing his favorite songs on the piano. The Squire is extremely fond of his only daughter and she returns the affection to him. Squire Western has an amiable friendship with the spirited Tom. Together, they go after game and spend many happy hours together. The Squire scarcely realizes that his daughter is falling in love with Tom. One day Lady Western informs her brother that she thinks that Sophia is in love with Blifil. Squire Western believes her and approves of the match.
He likes the idea of Squire Allworthy’s nephew marrying his daughter. So, he goes ahead and proposes the match to Squire Allworthy. The latter too is very happy to consider welcoming the charming Sophia into his family. But the fact is that Lady Western is completely off the mark. Sophia is in love with Tom, not Blifil. Blifil in turn is more than happy to entertain the idea of possessing Sophia’s body and her fortune. When Squire Western learns that Sophia loves Tom, not Blifil, he is angry, to say the least. He does not like the idea of a union between his beautiful daughter and a bastard. His mind is so fixed on Blifil that he begins forcing his daughter to marry the groom of his choice. While the Squire does love his daughter, he is also quite orthodox in his thinking. He believes that marriage decisions must be made by parents and that daughters must have no choice but compliance to their fathers’ wishes. The Squire is peaceful so long as his daughter listens to him but when she doesn’t he starts hollering and shouting. He seems rather chauvinistic in his thinking.
He argues a great deal with his sister. She nags him often and insists that he has no worldly sense. He for that matter refuses to be insulted by her and talks back ferociously. Squire Western has none of the delicacy of spirit that is exhibited by Squire Allworthy. He is loud and blusters his way through. While Sophia adores her father, she cannot endure the idea of marrying detestable Blifil. She has no choice but to flee her father’s insistence. She runs away to London and gains the protection of the shrewd Lady Bellaston. Her father is shocked, to say the least and pursues Sophia to London. Once there, he literally drags her from Lady Bellaston’s house and locks her up. Indeed, he is an extremist in his actions and does not seem to understand the reason behind his daughter’s stubborn refusal to marry Blifil. There is also something childish about this loud Squire. He complains when Lady Western takes charge of Sophia and he has not patience. He would have Blifil meet Sophia as soon as he reaches London. But now Lady Western favors a match between Sophia and Lord Fellamar.
Squire Western cannot stand aristocratic lords and is pretty open in his dislike. The Squire is from the rustic country and has none of those social graces that belong to fashionable London society. Eventually, it is revealed that Tom is innocent and that he is really Squire Allworthy’s nephew. This news is much to the liking of Squire Western, especially since he had previously enjoyed Tom’s company. This time on he forces Sophia to accept Tom soon. He makes references to the consummation of marriage that have Sophia blushing. Ultimately he is a very happy man. His daughter lives next door and Sophia and Tom look after the old Squire. He continues his hunting and his drinking. This colorful man adds a burst of energy to the narrative and the reader likes him despite all his loudness Lady Western
She is Squire Western’s snobbish sister. She had lived about the court and acquired what can be termed as ‘worldly knowledge’. She was a perfect mistress of manners, customs, ceremonies and fashions. She had considerably improved her mind by study, she had not only read all the modern plays, opera, oratorios, poems and romances, in all which she was a critic, but had gone through several notable histories. She had also been through most of the political pamphlets and journals published within the last twenty years. She had attained a very competent skill in politics and could discourse very learnedly on the affairs of Europe. She was moreover, excellently well skilled in the doctrine of Amour and knew better than anybody who and who were together. Regarding her participation in affairs herself, her masculine person, added to her manner and learning possibly prevented the other sex from regarding her in the light of a woman. However she had considered affairs scientifically and she knew all the arts which fine ladies use when they desire to give encouragement or to conceal liking.
To sum the whole, no species of disguise or affectation escaped her notice Lady Western is a lady who thinks that she knows best, while in reality her understanding is limited to gross assumptions. She guesses wrongly that Sophia is enamoured by Blifil and more so she is convinced about this fact. Later, Lady Western insists that she knows best how to handle Sophia. She is presumptuous, vain and quite pompous. Lady Western thinks that her court experience and her worldly mind elevates her to a level far above that of her brother and his daughter. She complains that Sophia’s running away from home is the result, of bad upbringing by her father-Squire Western. When Squire Western goes after his daughter to London, Lady Western advises him that he should go about winning his daughter over, in a civilized way. But the Squire cannot resist himself and charges into Lady Bellaston’s house and drags his daughter away. Lady Western condemns this act and waxes eloquent about the superior place occupied by women in English Society.
She thinks that they cannot be subjugated and dominated. She manages to free Sophia from her bolted room and takes the young lady with her. But Lady Western is not as emancipated as she considers herself to be. When Lord Fellamar expresses the desire to wed Sophia, Lady Western leaves no stone unturned to coerce Sophia into marrying him. She is impressed by his position in society and thinks that a match between this Lord and Sophia would be highly favorable. She thinks in materialistic terms and thus she is not free from the shackles of societal conditioning. Infact it is Sophia who is truly free and who would not marry anyone just for the sake of position and money. Despite all the criticism that Lady Western had heaped on her brother for employing drastic methods with Sophia, she herself does not shy away from these very methods. She nearly forces Sophia into meeting Lord Fellamar.
She is just as hypocritical as Miss Bridget Allworthy, Squire Allworthy’s sister. Lady Western’s eyes are fooled by the worldly artificial glamour of society. She is unable to appreciate the value of straightforwardness, honesty and candor. She has to stand apart while Sophia rejects Lord Fellamar’s persuasions and marries her dear Tom Jones instead. Lady Western represents the intellectual snobbishness of society. She thinks that by being learned, she stands superior. Her notion is mistaken and she is a true example of such a false assumption. Mrs. Fitzpatrick
Her maiden name is Harriet and she is Sophia’s cousin. When they both were young, they shared a close intimacy and were fond of each other, but later they are separated by the various developments in their respective lives. Harriet has an affair with Lord Fitzpatrick, an Irish gentleman whom she later married. This same Lord Fitzpatrick had also flirted with Lady Western. So the elder lady is quite shocked to learn of her niece and her lover’s affair. When Harriet-Mrs. Fitzpatrick leaves with her husband, Lady Western cuts all ties with her. Harriet learns that Mr. Fitzpatrick married her solely for her money. He turns out to be a debauched man, who maintains a mistress, even while he is married to Harriet. Naturally, Harriet has lots of problems with her husband and she grows to hate him. She regrets greatly the fact that she had succumbed to his charms and chivalric attention.
Living with Mr. Fitzpatrick is a torture to her and she lives such for a few years in Ireland. She is lonely and makes some friends, including the gentleman who was their neighbor. There are suggestions that indicate that Lady Fitzpatrick might have had an affair with this gentleman. Lord Fitzpatrick leaves home for trips quite often. On returning from one such trip, he is unusually nice to Harriet. The motive behind this is that he needs her signature on some papers, so that he might sell some of her property. She refuses and he is harsh with her. He imprisons Harriet for a whole week. But after some time Harriet manages to escape to Dublin and then onwards to England. It is in England that she meets her cousin Sophia. They both are on the highway to London. Lady Fitzpatrick begs Sophia to ride alongside her. They are then strangers to each other. They realize suddenly who they are and meet with tears. They relate their respective histories to each other.
Sophia conveniently censors her history for the sake of Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s consumption. She does not tell her cousin about Tom Jones. The two ladies travel together to London but are more than happy to bid farewell to each other in that city. Sophia suspects that the Irish gentleman whom Harriet knew from Ireland was also her lover. Sophia feels uncomfortable at this thought and wishes to part ways with her cousin in England. Sophia even quotes Lady Western to Mrs. Fitzpatrick “that whenever the matrimonial alliance is broke, and war declared between husband and wife, she can hardly make a disadvantageous peace for herself on any conditions.” Mrs. Fitzpatrick answers Sophia with a contemptuous smile, insisting that she can take care of herself. We learn that Mrs. Fitzpatrick is no less a worldly woman. She writes to her Aunt-Lady Western telling her where Sophia is. This is with just one objective that of winning Lady Western over and making up with her.
But Lady Western never quite forgives Mrs. Fitzpatrick. When Mrs. Fitzpatrick call on Lad Western in London, she is coldly snubbed. This makes her revengeful and she tries convincing Tom that he can gain access to Sophia by making love to her elder Aunt-Lady Western. Mrs. Fitzpatrick meets Tom Jones at her house for this very purpose. At the end of their conversation, Mrs. Fitzpatrick flirts with Tom, with her eyes. She too is smitten by his beauty and his charms. But, Mrs. Fitzpatrick is never given a second chance with Tom. As he emerges from her house, he encounters her jealous husband and they have a deadly duel. Mr. Fitzpatrick suffers from a mortal wound and Tom is jailed. Luckily for Tom, Mr. Fitzpatrick does not die and Tom is acquitted. At the end of the novel, we learn that Mrs. Fitzpatrick is separated from her husband and the retains the little remains of her fortune. She lives in reputation at the polite end of town and continues with the lady of the Irish peer. In acts of friendship to this lady Mrs. Fitzpatrick repays all the obligations she owes to this lady’s husband. Mrs. Fitzpatrick serves as an antithetical character to her cousin and a major player-Sophia Western. Lady Bellaston
This elderly lady is a high society woman in London. We first read mention of her when Sophia plans to go to her place in London. She had apparently come down to Squire Western’s place in the country once. She had got along well with Sophia and had told her that she was most welcome to London, whenever she wanted. When Sophia plans to flee her house, her father and Blifil, Lady Bellaston is the first person she thinks of. She is well received by the Lady in London and begins living with her. Lady Bellaston is a promiscuous woman and is known for her many affairs with young men. She is known to oblige these men with financial favors and then to maintain them as ‘keeps.’ When Lady Bellaston sees Tom Jones, she is attracted by his handsomeness, charm and vigor. She sends him an intriguing message, an invitation to a masquerade. Tom only pays attention to her for the sake of gaining access to Sophia. But the young naïve man starts bearing the weight of her favors. He is in a bad condition financially and she helps him financially. We read often about mistresses maintained by men. This is a rare instance when we see a young man being ‘kept’ by Lady Bellaston. While the details are not explicitly impressed, we know that Lady Bellaston and Tom do have an affair.
The problem is that Tom is too chivalric and feels obligated too soon. We raise our eyebrows at Tom’s such behavior. Lady Bellaston seems a passionate woman, if her love letters are anything to go by. She is forever commanding Tom to ‘come to her.’ She is greatly attracted to this young man and does not mind ruining her reputation for his sake. She grows to hate Sophia because of the love expressed by Tom for her. She intrigues to remove the hurdle of Sophia from her path. She encourages Lord Fellamar to make love to Sophia. She even goes to the extent of urging Lord Fellamar to rape Sophia, so that he may marry her later. This shows just how unscrupulous Lady Bellaston can be. Sophia is not safe in jealous Lady Bellaston’s house but luckily for the young man, her father appears in the nick of time and Sophia is saved. Lady Bellaston is indeed disappointed when Sophia and Tom are united in marriage. But she does prove to be a major obstacle to Tom and Sophia’s reconciliation. Tom writes a letter to Lady Bellaston, urging her to marry him. But this is only so that Lady Bellaston might shy away from him.
Unluckily for Tom this letter reaches Sophia and she is shocked. This is the reason Sophia refuses Tom’s proposal initially but comes around later. Lady Bellaston is Tom’s last affair and he regrets his follies. He resolves never to repeat them and doesn’t either. Lady Bellaston herself maintains a stony silence and even congratulates the young couple of Sophia and Tom. She represents the high-class promiscuous society of London. She is unscrupulous and open in her many affairs. But she can afford this simply because she is wealthy enough. Lady Bellaston is definitely not one of our favorite characters, especially when she encourages Lord Fellamar to commit a rape. But her role is important in the fact that it is she who gives shelter to Sophia in London. And it is she who has the last affair with Tom. PLOT (Structure)
The ‘History of Tom Jones, A Foundling’ was enthusiastically received by the general public, if not by Richardson, Dr. Johnson and other literary figures. The introductory chapters that preface each of the novel’s 18 books cultivate the reader in a way that was then unprecedented in English fiction and the tangled comedies of coincidence are offset by the neat, architectonic structure of the story. The kindly, prosperous Mr Allworthy finds a baby boy on his bed and adopts the mysterious child, naming it Tom Jones. Tom begins a life of bawdy adventure. Allworthy suspects that Jenny Jones, a maid-servant to the wife of the schoolmaster Partridge, is the mother, but Jenny leaves with Partridge the neighbourhood. Allworthy’s sister Bridget marries Captain Blifil and their mean-spirited son and Blifil are raised together. A devilish, good-looking young man, Tom has a way with women, but loves only one; young Sophia Western, the daughter of a neighboring landowner. A rivalry over the attention of Sophia Western arises between Jones and Blifil. Because of an affair with the gamekeeper’s daughter Molly Seagrim, and because of Blifil’s treachery, Tom is expelled from the house.
Tom’s attempts to woo Sophia and the many adventures that befall him from forest sword fights to bedroom romps all lead in one direction: to London. He has an affair with Lady Bellaston, nearly kills his opponent in a duel, and is imprisoned. The duel with a jealous husband lands him in prison waiting to be hanged. Meanwhile, Sophia is in London to escape the marriage with Blifil. Jenny Jones reveals that Bridget is the mother of Tom, and Blifil’s cruelties to Tom over the years are revealed. While Blifil is severely reprimanded, Tom marries Sophia, who forgives him for his infidelities. Tom also reunites with Squire Allworthy and becomes his heir. A reader might wonder whether there is unity in a novel in which so much keeps happening and at such a fast pace. But, a glance at the disposition of the separate books of the novel will show the contribution of each to the overall action. The spreading complications, with their multiple intricate knottings, until their final unraveling exhibit an underlying unity. One of the unifying factors is the pursuit motif. Tom is turned out of doors, and Sophia follows him; she catches up with him in the inn at Upton, and then the pursuit reverses its character. From Upton it is Tom who pursues Sophia; meanwhile, Squire Western has set out in pursuit of his daughter; and finally Squire Allworthy and Blifil must go to London in pursuit of the Westerns.
The scenes at Upton occur at the center of the story, and it is here that we again pick up Partridge and Jenny Jones, Tom’s reputed father and mother. Both of them had been implicated in the initial circumstances of the action and both of them are necessary for the final complications and the reversal. It is at Upton also that the set of London characters first begin to appear, with Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her husband as its representatives. From the central scenes at Upton Inn, the novel pivots around itself. There have been six books of country life, in the center are six books of life on the highways, and the final six books are concerned with life in London. It is at Upton Inn, in the mathematical mid point of the story, that country and city come together. The initial pursuit motif, beginning at the end of book Six, finishes its arabesque at the end of book 12, again with nice mathematical balance, when Tom reaches London and is enabled to meet Sophia.
Now it will be Blifil who is in pursuit of Sophia, so that eventually everyone will wind up in London for the denouement. The pursuit motif is, then, not only a provision for comic situation, but, as the immediate dynamics of action, is integral to the plot development. Fielding was a writer for the theater before he was a novelist, and one of the strongest impressions that the reader gets from ‘Tom Jones’ is that of dramatic handling of scene and act: the sharp silhouetting of characters and their grouping in such a manner as to avoid any confusions, even in so populous a drama. Tom Jones (1749) is rightly regarded as Fielding’s greatest work, and one of the first and most influential of English novels. At the center of one of the most ingenious plots in English fiction stands a hero whose actions were, in 1749, as shocking as they are funny today THEMES
Contrasts in varieties of life.
Tom Jones like, Don Quixote is characterized by a systematic organization of contrasts. One attitude is played off against the other and one way of life is contrasted with the other. There is a constant detail of contrast in the character relationships, scene relationships and even verbal relationships. By this novel, the full and direct artistic impact of son Quixote is felt. Just as Cervantes Fielding uses the ‘point of views’ of the omniscient author. His world is populous and extensive in its spatial design. One character alone does not demand attention, the author’s own humorous irony is itself one of the materials of the novel. In the ‘head-chapters’ a contrast is provided between intelligence focused ‘on’ the human situation he has created and the intelligence of the characters within the created situation. Tom Jones, the central character is contrasted with Blifil. The wicked Blifil, is indeed Tom’s ‘opposite’ and the chief pause of his sorrows.
Blifil provides the chief character contrast in the book. For while the curve of tragedy is spun from within the tragic protagonist, produced out of his own passions and frailties; the curve of comedy is spun socially and gregariously as the common product of men in society. Out of the gregarious action in Tom Jones, the conflict between hero and villain is propelled to a resolution. In the end, the rogue who appeared to be a good man is exposed in his true nature as rogue, and the good man, who appeared to be a rogue is revealed in his true good nature. Other similar exposures of other characters happen towards the end. The major contrast in Tom Jones – the novel is the conflict between natural, instinctive feeling and those appearances with which people disguise deny or inhibit natural feeling – intellectual theories, rigid moral dogmas, economic conveniences doctrines of social responsibility. This is the broad thematic contrast in Tom Jones. Form and instinctive feeling engage in constant eruptive combat. The battlefield is between with debris of ripped masks. It is shown in many occasions in Tom Jones that the animal or instinctive party of man is denied. Instead, a more formal appearance is adopted.
The damaging uses of intelligence in human nature are depicted – in wicked Blifil’s calculative shrewdness in Black George’s rationalization for keeping Tom’s money, in the absurd intellectual formulas, elaborated by Thwackum and Square. The disparaging effects can also, be seen in Allworthy’s high minded ethics and in Tom’s own idealism. In the other hand of intellectualized thoughts are the instinctive responses that are Tom’s. Tom yields formidably and frequently to instinct, and in so doing, he exhibits the ‘naturalness, and therefore the rightness of instinct as constituent of the personality. Thus, he corrects the overemphasis on formal appearances which we see in other characters. But at the same time, Tom Jones shows a remarkable absence of that useful social sense which we call desertion a lack of which is damaging certainly to himself and a cause of confusion to others.
It is the incongruity between what a man might ‘naturally’ be and what he makes of himself by adopting a formulary appearance or mark, that gives ‘ human nature ‘ its variety and funniness and treacherousness. Apart from the major contracts in characters, there are also prevalent many minor contrasts between what appearances are and what reality is. While Miss Brid get is the real mother of Blifil, this fact is hidden bill the very end. She is able to self righteously condemn the sexual indulgences of the lower classes, and at the same time preserve the fruit of her own indulgence. But finally we learn about the contrast between her appearance and her reality. Human Nature
Fielding insisted that his theme was ‘human nature’ and he exposes it in the various conflicts in the novel. Broadly, human nature refers to a mixture of animal instinct and human intellect. But at many occasions in the book its meaning tips to one side: tending to lean heavily toward ‘animal instinct’. This is also because the animal and instinctive part of man is so frequently disguised or denied by the adoption of formal appearance. Instinctive drives are emphasized by the author as being an important, constituent of ‘human nature’. Also, displayed in the narrative are the curious, sometimes beneficial, sometimes damaging uses of intelligence. Blifil’s nature is inherently bad – an inheritance from a tenderly hypothetical mother and a brutally hypocritical father. Nature in Tom, on the other hand, seems to be congenitally good though he had the same mother as Blifil and a father on whom we cannot speculate at all, as he is not described.
Human nature – presented in the book is a balanced mixture of instinctive drives and feelings and intellectual predilections. It is not instinctive feeling alone; it is the human tendency to revert instinct by intellection. It may be altogether bad or altogether good. And, the ideal human nature would be a happy collaboration of instinct as well as intellect. It would mean neither the suppression of instinct by intellect nor a suppression of intellect by instinct. Tom himself is the apt representative of human nature though he has to learn with difficulty the appropriate balance between instinct and intellect. Tom yields frequently to instinct and in doing so exhibits the ‘naturalness and therefore ‘rightness’ of instinct as a constituent of the personality. But, he also shows a remarkable absence of the useful social sense which we call discretion, a lack of which is damaging certainly to himself and a cause of confusion for others. On the other hand he also no fool – his proposal to Sophia at the end of the book, is conched in civilized, exquisite language. On the whole ‘human nature’ in Tom, in all its intricacies and difficulties and mistakes, is a splendid thing. It is fine and splendid because it is undisguised. It is unpretentious, unlike the pretentiousness of other characters.
Nature is not fine and splendid but indecent and embracing when a man adopts a mask for appearance’s sake and allows it to warp instinct. It is the incongruity between what a man might ‘naturally’ be and what he makes of himself by adopting a mark that gives human nature its variety funniness and breatherousnes. The indecency of ‘nature’ when it has been going around in a mask and the mask is suddenly ripped off is illustrated grossly when philosopher Square is exposed in bed with Molly. Square’s mask of deistic theory corrupts his instinctive nature into the narrow channel of ‘lust’. Henry Fielding also represents ‘human nature’ beautifully in a variety of other minor characters – Molly Seagrim, Black George, Squire Allworthy, Bridget Allworthy, Jenny Jones and Partridge. In the process Fielding creates characters that represent a wide variety of human beings and their many emotions Pursuit motif
There is a unity of design in the many little incidents of the novel. One of the unifying factors is the pursuit motif. Tom is turned out of doors, Sophia follows him. She catches up with him in the inn at Upton but now the pursuit is reversed. From Upton it is Tom who pursues Sophia. Meanwhile Squire Western, has set out in pursuit of his daughter, and finally Square Allworthy and Blifil must go to London in pursuit of the Western and the scenes at Upton occur at the center of the story and it is here that we again pick up Partridge and Jenny Jones. It is at Upton also that the set of London characters first begins to appear with Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her husband as its representatives. Fitzpatrick is pursuing his wife. From the central scenes at Upton Inn; the novel pivots proud itself. It is at Upton Inn, in the mathematical mid point of the story that, country and city – come together.
The initial pursuit motif, beginning at the end of Book Sin, finishes its arabesque at the end of Book Eight again with nice mathematical balance when Tom reaches London and is enabled to meet Sophia. Now, it is Blifil who persues Sophia, so that eventually everyone winds up in London for the demovement. Fielding manages to gather many pursuing and pursued people together, in the proper places and at the proper times for intricate involvement and complicated infringe. All that can be said is that it must be a small world and that’s why Fielding is so readily able to do this. The pursuit motif is, then, not only a provision for comic situation but, as the immediate dynamics of action, is integral to the plot development. Tom’s innocence
This could be considered one of the major Themes of the novel as to the narrative mainly revolves around his protagonists. While Tom may be considered disreputable – he never lays siege to a woman. It is always the women who beleaguer him. Tom’s trouble is that he cannot find it in his heart to repulse them: and this because he is fundamentally an idealist about women. He discovers generosity in the woman’s overtures, to which if he does not respond he is self-condemned as ungenerous. This does not fit at all with conventional motions of the virtue of chastity, but it is not incongruous with a delicate and sensitive humanity. He is really an innocent, soul where Joseph Andrews, another of Fielding’s characters was only abstractly innocent. Even though he loses some of his boyish ****, he never loses his innocence. Where Molly Seagrim is concerned he entirely fails to see that she is inveigling him. He was incapable of realizing that Molly was a young woman, determined to reduce him. And when he does possess her his reaction is that of a naturally generous soul to generosity.
Fielding himself describes Tom as one of those who can never receive any kind of satisfaction from another, without loving the creature to whom that satisfaction is owing and without making its well- being in some sort, necessary to their own ease. When he meets Mrs. Waters, he is evidently more experienced: he does not delude himself with the motion that he is the aggressor. He is very much aware that the lady is offering herself to him. She too knows very well that the sight of her bosom has lighted a small flame in him and she leaves no stone unturned in fanning this flame. She deliberately refused Tom’s offer of his overcoat, when he walked before her to the Upton inn. She also seized every opportunity she could to make him look pack at her. She completed her conquest of him by carelessly letting the handkerchief drop from her neck and unmasking the royal battery. The healthy bodied on really had not much change. Nor, was Mas Waters at all deeply perturbed when she discovered, that Tom’s heart was already engaged. Mrs. Waters is shown as good-natured and generous and Tom quite likes Mas Waters, and so do we. Fielding convinces us that his creation Tom is fundamentally good: and as much as his appetite it is his goodness that leads him into his entanglements.
Allworthy as a good man, but he was not Tom’s imaginative sympathy, though he comes to recognize and admire it in Tom. Tom’s good nature is a natural and effortless goodness, expressing itself as imaginative sympathy with the joys and sorrows of others. His goodness is distinct from the goodness, which is constrained either by religious fears, or by the pursuit of a rationally conceived idea of virtue. Tom is always grateful to his partners: to Molly and Mrs. Walkers for their physical kindness, and to Lady Bellaston for another sort of generosity. So, Tom is very definitely not one who is susceptible to appetite alone. He has many other emotions too. He is rather a backward lower; it is being desired that makes him desire. And it is characteristic of him that out of a kind of chivalry, he is unjust, to himself when, at the end he reproaches himself to Sophia.
The reproachment is unfair to himself. If there was grossness, which is also disputable, the sexes had fairly shared it in Tom’s affairs. But it was Tom’s habit always to take the blame upon himself in everything, and above all where women were concerned good nature is better than goodness – there is not, in all English, fiction, a hero as natural and endearing as Tom Jones – al few heroines more spirited, more feminine and more delightful than Sophia. It is Tom’s quaint innocence that puts him in sticky situations rather than deliberate villainy and lustfulness. Minor Characters
Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s story
Mrs. Fitzpatrick is Sophia’s cousin and her story may be considered a minor theme in the novel. She too has to run away from a tyrant husband but the manner in which she deals with her circumstances can be contrasted with the quiet maturity that belongs to Sophia. Mrs. Fitzpatrick travels with Sophia to London but here they part their ways. While Sophia seeks the protection of a lady, Mrs. Fitzpatrick finds her shelter in a man. And suspicions are raised as to the relation of Mrs. Fitzpatrick with this man. While her husband, who is an Irishman is definitely not worth emulating; Mrs. Fitzpatrick herself has no scruples of having an affair with another man. She is desperate to defend herself in a world that condemns her for leaving her husband.
While she is not villainous by nature her self-control is lesser than that of her cousin Sophia’s. Her Fate is compared with her cousin’s to form a minor theme in the novel. While many small incidents are scattered throughout the panoramic novel, this is one incident that is paid special attention to. This is the reason Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s story occupies spatial, as well as emotional space in the narrative. The space occupied is spatial in the sense that it occupies a considerable number, of chapters; and it is emotional in that Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s story our emotional interest. We tend to compare her reactions and behavior with that of Sophia Western. Her modesty and chastity are found wanting in comparison to the lovely, virgin like Sophia.
Mr. Square and Mr. Thwackum’s hypocrisy
Mrs. Thwackum was the person to whom Mr. Allworthy had committed the instruction of the two boys – Blifil and Tom. Mr. Thwackum was fond of Blifil, but not Tom. Tom was frank, open and did not try and flatter his tutor. Blifil perfected the art of flattery, while Mr. Thwackum claimed to be a scrupulous and high-minded scholar he was nothing but a measly hypocrite. This hypocrisy is further exposed towards the end of the novel. Mr. Square too resided at Mr. Allworthy’s house and he too was charged with the responsibility of Tom as well as Blifil’s education. He was deeply read in the ancients, upon whose model he formed his own personality. Square held human nature to be the perfection of all virtue and that vice was a deviation from our nature in the same manner as deformity of body is. Thwackum of the contrary maintained that the human mind since the Fall was nothing but a sink of inquity, till purified and redeemed by grace.
The favorite phrase of Square was the natural beauty of virtue and of Thwackum – the divine power of grace. So the both claimed that they were superior men while in reality, neither bad the courage or conviction to actually follow what they preached. The both can be considered as foils to Tom’s spontaneity while they emphasized intellect; they suppressed their natural emotions. This repression did not stand them in good stead and later Square was discovered in bed with Molly Seagrim. Through both these characters. Fielding demonstrates the negative effects of extraordinary emphasis on intellect alone. When more so the proclaimed intellect was found to be hypocritical and selfish. By contrast Tom is full blooded spontaneous and definitely more worthy. Square and Thwackum together represent what is best discarded in man and that is – a false sense of superiority a misplaced sense of honor and underlying cruelty of character. Both Square and Thwackum are given adequate spatial space at the beginning of the narrative and some more towards the end. The question of Tom’s parentage
The story behind Tomb’s birth is a minor theme in the novel. At the very starting of the novel various conjunctures are made as to the identity of Tom’s parents. It is concluded by all that Jenny Jones and Partridge are the guilty ones. But as we learn they are not the true parents of Tom. The reality when it is finally exposed leaves every one shocked and reeling. This can be considered as a minor theme of the novel because of two reasons. Firstly, it is a matter and affects impact on the story and affects many concerned. Secondly, it is a question that is carried forth through the novel and is finally answered at the very end. The very existence of the protagonist. Tom Jones depends on who his parents are. It is when we learn who his parents really are, that several things fall in place. It is then that we are able to look back into the pact and understand why particular characters behaved the way they did.
Humor in the novel
The humor in ‘Tom Jones’ is primarily high comedy, as illustrated by the techniques of hyperbole and double meaning in the novel. These techniques are also a part of ‘School for Wives’ by Moliere and ‘Henry IV, Part One’. There is a good example of hyperbole in ‘Tom Jones.’ Partridge’s fears as they are travelling to London are exaggerated to the point of being a flaw. Fear can be sensible to a certain extent. For instance, being fearful of having one’s house robbed if the door is left unlocked at night is a reasonable fear. However, Partridge is frightened to an extreme that causes him trouble with character judgement. He is afraid of the old woman, who offers him and Tom lodging, because he thinks she is a witch. Actually, she is simply the kind servant of the master of the house. Hyperbole is also used in Moliere’s play with the character
Arnolphe. In this case, Arnolphe’s wish for order is exaggerated to a fault. A desire for order is fine to a certain degree. One can understand the need for a calendar to remember appointments, for instance. However, Arnolphe takes his wish for order too far. He thinks he can place Fate in the sequence he wants. He has decided to raise Agnes to be his simple and submissive wife, tell her he will marry her, and then wed her. Obviously, his plan is not wise because Agnes does not want to be part of his plan.
In Shakespeare’s play Falstaff’s presentation of himself in a positive light is overstated to his own detriment. One should bring up his actual strengths when he is on a job interview trying to impress a company. ‘Tom Jones’ is generally high comedy, as exemplified by the hyperbole and double meanings in the novel. One sees the exaggeration and double meanings in ‘School for Wives’ and ‘Henry IV, Part One’ as well. The double meanings are clever. Finally, the exaggeration of normally acceptable qualities to flaws in these great works should teach one not to take fear, the want of order, and bragging about oneself to extremes.