A comic writer concludes when his characters reach the happiest of states; a tragic writer concludes when his characters descend to the most wretched of states. If this were a tragedy, the narrator's work would be finished. He provides a possible tragic ending: Sophia could be given in marriage to Blifil or Fellamar, and Jones could be hanged at Tyburn. The ancient writers had the benefit of bringing Divine Intervention to their assistance in saving their characters; he has to rely on natural methods. Jones still has worse news to face.
Blifil finds Allworthy and Mrs. Miller at breakfast and tells them that Tom is a villain. Mrs. Miller vehemently stands up for Tom, surprising Allworthy, who tells her not to treat Blifil so rudely. Mrs. Miller says that although she has to acknowledge that Tom has faults, they are merely the "Faults of Wildness and of Youth." She promises to tell Allworthy stories of Tom's humanity and generosity. Blifil now recounts that Tom has killed a man. Mrs. Miller argues that Tom must have been provoked. A visitor arrives for Allworthy.
Squire Western arrives in Mrs. Miller's kitchen and tells the company about Mrs. Western's plan for Sophia to marry Lord Fellamar. Allworthy has to translate Western's dialect. After listening to Western's speech, Allworthy strongly discourages Western from forcing Sophia into any marriage. Western bellows that he begat Sophia and thus has a right to govern her. Blifil begs that he may be allowed to persevere with Sophia. Allworthy is concerned that he is pursuing Sophia out of lust rather than love and encourages Blifil to examine his heart. When Blifil alludes to the fact that Tom has committed a "murder," Western sings and dances about the room in joy. The narrator promises to return to Sophia's story, since he "can no longer bear to be absent" from her.
The narrator compares Sophia, pursued now by Lord Fellamar as well as by Blifil, to a hunted doe. Mrs. Western threatens to take Sophia back to her father if she does not agree to meet with Fellamar.
Sophia tells her aunt that Fellamar attempted to violate her—the proof of which she still has on her left breast. Mrs. Western is horrified—no man has ever treated a woman of the Western family in such a way before. Sophia reminds her aunt that she herself has turned down many suitors. Sophia wants to know why she cannot do the same. This sets Mrs. Western boasting of her love "conquests" and "cruelty" for half an hour. Mrs. Western's mood improves to the point that she agrees that some distance between Sophia and Fellamar is appropriate.
Mrs. Miller, Nightingale, and Partridge—the most faithful of friends—visit Jones in jail. Partridge announces the happy news that Fitzpatrick has not died. Relief washes over Jones—until he begins to think of the helpless situation with Sophia. Mrs. Miller, who has learned about Sophia from Partridge, offers to speak to Sophia on behalf of Jones. Tom thus entrusts a letter for Sophia with Mrs. Miller, who has already been "so warm an Advocate to Mr. Allworthy" on account of Tom. Nightingale promises to investigate Fitzpatrick's state of health, and to discover who else was at the duel.