I’m well into my reading of “Tom Jones,” also known as “The History of Tom Jones – A Foundling.”
As an update, Tom Jones is found shortly after birth in the bed of Squire Allworthy, a wealthy landowner and magistrate. After a search of the local village, Jenny Jones, a common but intelligent young woman, admits that she is the baby’s mother. Allworthy’s household takes the baby as its own (more or less). Its care is placed in the hands of Mrs. Wilkins, the housekeeper, and Bridget Allworthy, the squire’s spinster sister. That’s just about where I left off in my last post about “Tom Jones.”
Allworthy subsequently finances Jenny’s departure to another town to start a new life. Bridget and Mrs. Wilkins take on the task of raising Tom. Allworthy’s hospitality is commonly extended to men of status and learning, and one of those men, a Captain Blifil, spends considerable time and resources courting Bridget. In time, they come to an understanding and eventually marry. They parent a male baby, called by Fielding “Master Blifil,” and he is raised in the household in the company of young Tom.
Since Tom’s presence in the household is due to the compassion of Allworthy and the mistake of a young unmarried woman, his existence becomes a constant source of gossip and speculation. Tom is alternately despised and adored, feared and threatened.
Some people in the Allworthy household plot against Tom, seeing in him a threat to the Allworthy legacy and holdings. Allworthy’s love for Tom grows at the same time that the feelings of others harden toward him. Tom, as I am finding out, is faced with this continual ebb and flow of love and hatred throughout the tale. He somehow manages to incite the most extreme emotions in those with whom he interacts. This quality of Tom makes the story move along and creates interesting situations and subplots.
I’ve reached page 175. So far, I’ve found much to admire in Fielding’s writing, not least of which is his insight into human nature. Although the novel is a “comedy” so to speak, nothing has transpired so far in my reading that could not happen. Every twist and turn in the elaborate plot is completely believable and springs from the emotions and machinations of people who could really have existed. The fascinating plot filled with characters I can relate to, coupled with Fielding’s sense of humor and irony and his masterly use of the English language, make for a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I read on . . .