Tom Jones, Fielding's imperfect and "mortal" hero, is the character through whom Fielding gives voice to his philosophy of Virtue. In contrast to the moral philosophizing of many of Fielding's contemporaries, Fielding does not suggest that Tom's affairs with Molly Seagrim, Mrs. Waters, and Lady Bellaston should reflect badly on his character. Rather, keeping with the Romantic genre, Fielding seems to admire Tom's adherence to the principles of Gallantry, which require that a man return the interest of a woman. Interestingly, all of Tom's love affairs, including his relationship with Sophia, his true love, are initiated by the woman in question, which is Fielding's way of excusing Tom from the charge of lustful depravity.
Moreover, the fact that Tom's lovers include a feisty, unfeminine wench and two middle-aged women suggest that his motives are various. Tom also treats women with the utmost respect, obliging their desire to be courted by pretending to be the seducer even when they are seducing him. Tom refuses to abandon Molly for Sophia and is plagued by his obligations to Lady Bellaston. Nonetheless, Tom's refusal of the tempting marriage proposal of Arabella Hunt—whose last name underscores the fact that Tom is hunted more often than he is the hunter—indicates that he has mended his wild ways and is ready to become Sophia's husband. Tom's gallantry reveals itself in his relationships with men as well as women, however. This spirit is evident in Tom's insistence on paying the drinking bill for the army men at Bristol, and in his gallant defense of himself in the duel.
Sophia Western, according to critic Martin Battestin, is an allegorical figure, meant to represent the feminine ideal and therefore kept as anonymous as possible. For example, the narrator does not provide concrete details of Sophia's appearance and character when he introduces her at the beginning of the novel, and by the end of the novel, we do not know much more. Although Sophia's decision to run away from her violent father Squire Western signals her courage and bravery—which the narrator says is becoming in a woman—she actually does very little in the novel. As a woman and obedient daughter, Sophia must allow herself to be acted upon, and even though she falls in love with Tom Jones before he falls in love with her, she cannot, in all decency, say anything. Similarly, Sophia puts up little resistance to her father's violence toward her.
Sophia becomes the spokeswoman for male chastity at the end of the novel—ironically, through her lecture to Jones, she provides the final obstacle to their marriage and thus to the fulfillment of the comic plot. Through her generosity and genuine courtesy, Sophia becomes a representative, along with Jones and Allworthy of Fielding's vision of Virtue. She combines the best of the country and the city, since she has manners, unlike her country father, but they are genuine, unlike those of her courtly aunt, Mrs. Western. Similarly, Sophia combines the merits of the novel's two other heroes without any of their faults—she is kind like Tom, but also remains chaste, and is generous toward others, like Allworthy, without being blind to their faults.
Allworthy, as his name implies, is also an allegorical figure of sorts. His character does not undergo any dramatic changes and thus possesses the consistency and stability found in stock characters in theatrical comedy. Allworthy, as Fielding's moral yardstick and as the novel's ultimate dispenser of justice and mercy, almost takes on the role of a god, although he is still mortal enough to make incorrect judgments. Allworthy's blindness to the evil designs of his nephew Blifil and to Thwackum's insidiousness lead him to make mistakes which propel the plot of the novel forward. For example, it is Allworthy who banishes Tom Jones from his county.
Blifil, the antagonist of Tom Jones, is a foil to his uncle Allworthy. In contrast to Allworthy, whose altruism is almost excessive, Blifil not only acts vilely, but coats his evil with sugary hypocrisy. When Allworthy and Tom confront Blifil with his crimes, Blifil weeps not out of remorse, but rather out of terror. He does not reform his ways, but merely his religion, expediently converting to Methodism in order to marry a rich woman. As the static villain, Blifil stands opposite the consistent goodness of Allworthy. Fielding uses Blifil's lack of passion to condone Tom's abundance of "animal spirits" and to sharpen his definition of love. The reader does not admire Blifil's chastity, since it stems from an excessive interest in Sophia's fortune and in a desire to eclipse Tom. Fielding's claim that physical pleasure is a necessary part of true love is further validated when Tom's philandering is contrasted with Blifil's bitter chastity.
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