“Tom Jones”, analysis of the novel by Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding, an astounding author born on the 22nd of April 1707, is most well-known for his literary masterpiece that is the book known as ‘The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling’. The intended comical book is known to be both a Bildungsroman, meaning a novel intended to deal with one’s spiritual education, and a picaresque novel, meaning a genre portraying a character that is rogue yet likeable.

Of the characters, we see four of note, these being Sophia Western, Tom Jones, Allworthy and Blifil. Regarding Sophia, it is widely believed for the entirety of her character to represent an allegory based on the feminine ideal, which is why she is kept as anonymous as possible. This can be seen through no details of Sophia’s character or appearance being seen at the beginning of the novel. Secondly, Tom Jones represents Fielding’s human and flawed character, who clearly has a philosophical understanding for the concept of virtue. The way in which Jones returns the interest of woman onto him perpetuates that although he is indeed a flawed character, he should still be regarded as a ‘good’ individual, and thus treated with respect. Thirdly, Allworthy, as seen through his name, is yet another clever allegorical figure that Fielding has created. Allworthy does not undergo any significant change throughout the entirety of the book, thus showing the characteristics found in characters known for theatrical comedy. Finally, Blifil who is the essential antagonist of the book, is the antithesis of his Uncle Tom Jones. Blifil acts in a selfish and cruel manner, coating his hatred with a spreading of hypocrisy. He cares about nothing and no-one, with the exception of a few of his only values which include marrying a rich woman.

We start off in this fascinating book by being introduced to the well-known country gentleman known as Allworthy, who lives in the quaint county of Somersetshire with his yet to be married sister Bridget Allworthy. When Allworthy finally gets home from a trip he took to the English city of London, he is more then surprised to stumble upon a small baby boy in bed. Allworthy takes it upon himself to find the true mother and father to the child, and in doing so finds it to be a woman local to the town known as Jenny Jones, alongside her tutor Mr. Partridge. Allworthy then decides to banish Jenny from the county, and the extremely poor Mr.Partridge makes the decision himself to leave the county. Contrary to the common opinion, Allworthy makes the decision to raise the child himself, and soon after this Bridget marries a man named Captain Blifil and has a child of her own, also named Blifil. Captain Blifil regards Tom Jones, the aforementioned young child with a large amount of jealousy as he wished to have the entirety of the Allworthy estate for himself. Whilst all this is occurring, Captain Blifil dies due to an apoplexy.

We then skip forward an entire twelve years, where Blifil and Tom Jones have been raised together, but receive extremely different treatment than that to the rest of the house. The only character who is consistent in their affection for Tom is Allworthy. The local reverend Thwackum, who happens to be the tutor of the two boys, is cruel to Tom yet kind to Blifil, as Tom is flawed and Blifil is held-back and pious. Tom’s usual activities include stealing apples and ducks to support the family of Black George, a servant of Allworthy. Tom speaks of his stories to Blifil, who then goes onto to mention this to Allworthy and Thwackum, thereby getting Tom in significant trouble. The parish’s people hear of the kind acts of Tom and begin to speak kindly of him, and condemn Blifil for his abuse of trust.

Tom spends the majority of his time with Allworthy’s neighbour, known as Squire Western. Sophia Wester, the daughter of Squire Western, falls in-love with Tom due to his kindness and compassion, yet Tom has already bestowed his love up onto Molly Seagrim, the daughter of Black George. After Molly becomes pregnant, Tom halts her from being sentenced to prison by claiming that he is indeed the father of her child. Tom now falls deeply in-love with Sophie and even begins to resent Molly, the girl he previously saved. Despite this, he stays with Molly out of honour and respect. Tom confesses his feelings to Sophia after discovering Molly has been having affairs, which frees him as the father.

Mrs. Western, the Aunt of Sophia, comes to stay with her. Despite the Squire’s and her constant bickering, they unite over a plan to marry Blifil and Sophia. Mrs. Western blackmails Sophia, only offering to keep her secret of loving Tom is she Marries Blifil. Due to Sophia’s love for Tom, he is banished from the county and agrees, due to him believing that it is the honourable path. Tom ends up in Bristol where he bumps into Partridge, his former tutor. Partridge then decides to become the loyal and caring servant of Tom. Tom rescues a woman known as Mrs.Walters from being robbed, consequentially causing him to have an affair with her at a small inn. After Sophia runs away from the county in an attempt to get out of a marriage to Blifil, she catches Tom and this very Inn having an affair.

After being separated yet again, Tom arrives in London with Partridge, and they stay in the house of a woman called Mrs. Miller with a daughter known as Nancy. Tom realises he has a deep love for Nancy, and shortly after she falls pregnant. Shortly after this, Sophia and Tom reconcile and begin to love each other once again. Mrs. Waters then reveals the ghastly news that Bridget Allworthy was actually Tom’s mother, and Tom becomes Allworthy’s heir due to his honourable action whilst he was ill. Sophia and Tom then marry each other in a satisfying conclusion of many ridiculous events, and they then live happily on the estate of Western, showering all those around them with kindness, love and generosity.

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