Since the previous book was about the "Passion of Love," this book will probe the notion of love even further. The narrator defines love by means of four points: first, there are minds that do not experience love; second, love cannot be ruled by lust; third, love does seek self-satisfaction; lastly, when love acts toward one of the opposite sex, it appeals to lust for help. The narrator believes many people exist who enjoy giving happiness to others and this is the highest form of love.
Back at Western's house, everyone celebrates Allworthy's recovery except for Sophia. Her father does not notice Sophia's melancholy, but Mrs. Western, who has "lived about the Court, and seen the World," quickly discerns that Sophia has fallen in love. Although Mrs. Western has not suffered this state herself, she is as well read in love as she is in politics. When Mrs. Western tells her brother that Sophia is in love with Mr. Blifil, Western is furious that Sophia has fallen in love without his permission. Mrs. Western pities his "Country Ignorance," while he scorns her "Town Learning." Mrs. Western eventually wins the Squire's approval of the match, but he worries that Allworthy will not agree to it, since "Money hath no Effect" on him. The Squire believes that "Petticoats should not meddle" in politics, but when Mrs. Western threatens to leave, the Squire remembers that he is to inherit her fortune, and tries to mollify her. She suggests that they "sign a Treaty of Peace."
Sophia suspects that her aunt has realized her affection for Tom, and she attempts to conceal her feelings by paying more attention to Blifil than to Tom. This baffles Mrs. Western, who reckons that Sophia's behavior must be "extreme Art in Sophia" to deflect her from the truth. Mr. Western invites Allworthy to dinner and proposes a match between Sophia and Blifil directly afterward. Allworthy considers the "Alliance" to be a sensible one, and greatly praises Sophia. He appreciates Sophia's grand fortune, but will only ratify the plan only if Sophia and Blifil profess mutual tenderness. This answer upsets Western, who believes that parents have a better knack for choosing marriage partners than their children. The narrator suggests that Allworthy is an avatar of moderation.
Allworthy proposes the match to Blifil, who admits he has not once entertained the thought of marrying Sophia. His appetites, the narrator confides, are so moderate that they can easily be supplanted with philosophy or study. Since Blifil does possess a healthy portion of "Avarice and Ambition," however, he gravitates toward the idea of Sophia's fortune. Allworthy disapproves of the cold answer from Blifil; Allworthy himself "possessed much Fire in his Youth, and had married a beautiful Woman for Love." Blifil subdues Allworthy's concern with a learned exposition on "Love and Marriage." Allworthy and Western, by letter, arrange a courtship opportunity for the young lovers.
Mrs. Western finds Sophia reading in her bedroom and they debate the merits of the book. Mrs. Western tells Sophia that she has long perceived the aura of love about her. Sophia need disclose her passion no further, since Squire Western has proposed the match to Allworthy, who has wholeheartedly complied. Sophia, overcome with surprise and joy, blurts out: "So brave, and yet so gentle; so witty, yet so inoffensive; so humane, so civil, so genteel, so handsome! What signifies his being base born, when compared with such Qualifications as these?" The words "base born" alert her aunt to the fact that they are talking about different men. Mrs. Western is enraged that Sophia can consider dishonoring the prestigious Western family line by marrying a bastard. Sophia begs Mrs. Western not to tell her father her secret. Her aunt agrees on the condition that Sophia will agree to meet Blifil that afternoon.
Mrs. Honour finds Sophia in tears and begs Sophia to tell her what has happened, even though she has, in fact, been listening to the conversation through the keyhole. Mrs. Honour responds to Sophia's dire news with a long speech in her country dialect. She believes Sophia should be free to choose the man she finds "most handsomest." After Honour mentions having seen Tom walking by the canal that morning, Sophia immediately dons her hat, but, deciding that the ribbon in the hat does not suit her, orders Honour to fetch her another. The ribbon exchange results in Sophia's missing Tom by a few minutes. The narrator takes this opportunity to warn all female readers against vanity.
Blifil and Sophia have an awkward courtship meeting. For the first quarter of an hour Blifil can hardly get a word out. Suddenly he breaks into a "Torrent of farfetched and high-strained Compliments." Sophia bears as much as she can, then exits the room. Blifil leaves perfectly satisfied with the meeting, since he does not care about possessing Sophia's heart, but only "her Fortune and her Person." Blifil entertains no idea that Tom loves Sophia because Tom has stopped confiding in Blifil since their brawl. Western begins to "caper and dance about his Hall" when he hears from Blifil how successfully the meeting went. Seeing that her father is so happy, Sophia decides this is the best time to break the bad news to him. Confirming first that her father does indeed "place all his Joy in his Sophy's Happiness," Sophia begs him not to force her to marry a man whom she utterly despises. Mr. Western damns Sophia and threatens to turn her out of the house. He agrees to let Tom try to talk some sense into the girl.
Sophia trembles with fear when Tom appears in her room. Tom laments that he has been sent by Mr. Western to praise Blifil to Sophia. He declares his love for her and intimates that he hopes to have some in return. Sophia, however, warns of the terrible repercussions of crossing her father. It will be the ruin of Tom, and therefore of herself. Tom says that he fears nothing except losing Sophia. The lovers cannot draw their hands from each other. The narrator breaks the chapter, since some readers might think it has "lasted long enough."
During the conversation in the previous chapter, Mrs. Western chanced to meet her brother in the hall. Hearing that Tom is with Sophia, Mrs. Western decides that Sophia has breached her trust. She divulges Sophia's secret to Squire Western, who cannot comprehend that Sophia would fall in love with a poor man. In his eyes, equality of fortune is as necessary to a marriage as difference of sex. Western descends on the two lovers, who are compared to two quaking doves. Finding that his daughter has fainted, however, Western ignores Tom and rushes to the assistance of Sophia. Western then curses Tom and the local parson urges Tom to leave.
Allworthy, satisfied with Blifil's account of the courtship, sincerely wishes for the match between his nephew and Sophia. Western suddenly appears and accuses Allworthy of "breeding up a Bastard like a Gentleman, and letting un come about to Vok's Houses." Allworthy reminds Western that he was averse to Tom's spending so much time at Western's estate. Allworthy asks if the Squire has observed any tokens of love between Sophia and Tom. The Squire has not.
Blifil declares that he will continue his pursuit of Sophia and calls Tom "one of the worst Men in the World." Allworthy asks what he means by this. Blifil tells Allworthy a completely distorted story about Tom's behavior during Allworthy's illness. He says that Tom drank and danced every night, and that when Blifil tried to calm him, Tom beat him. Allworthy calls on Thwackum so as to "examine all the Evidence of this Matter." Thwackum confirms everything Blifil has said and displays his bruises from the fight.
Allworthy confronts Tom with the story, omitting his own illness, which forces Tom to admit to his drunkenness. Tom is so stunned that he cannot excuse himself, and instead decides to confess to everything and beg mercy of Allworthy. Allworthy insists that he has given Tom too much forgiveness in the past, and thus sends him out in the world with some money to support himself until he finds a job to make an honest living. He particularly disapproves of Tom's behavior toward Blifil, who has treated Tom with the utmost "Tenderness and Honour." The neighbors criticize Allworthy for his harshness to Tom, overlooking the fact that Allworthy sent Tom away with no less than five hundred pounds.
The banished Tom sits by a brook and tears out his hair like a Homeric hero. His biggest quandary rests in how to deal with Sophia. He is worried about breaking his own heart by leaving her, but he cannot entertain the idea of "reducing her to Ruin and Beggary," or of betraying Allworthy's wishes. Tom decides the most honorable action is to leave Sophia, and he writes her a letter explaining this. He cannot find any wax to seal the letter, since, in a fit, he threw out everything, including the five hundred pounds from Allworthy. Black George has already found the book and pocketed it, but helps Tom search for it all the same. He promises to deliver Tom's letter to Mrs. Honour. Tom receives a letter from Sophia in return, promising that she will marry no other. Tom reads and kisses the letter one hundred times, then departs from the estate.
Sophia has passed the day listening to lectures from her aunt about how women should exercise Prudence and seek marriages for money. Western confines Sophia to her room and gives the key to Honour. Sophia weeps over Tom's letter, and Honour tries to console her by praising Blifil's appearance and manners. Sophia sends all her money—sixteen guineas—to Tom. Honour gives the money to Black George who, after some deliberation, gives it to Tom.
Mrs. Western chastises her brother for incarcerating Sophia and for ruining all the good she has done with her lectures on prudence. She reminds him of her superior knowledge of the world. When Western invokes politics in his rant, Mrs. Western says he should think about Sophia, who is "in greater Danger than the Nation." The Squire eventually agrees to turn Sophia's care over to his sister, but only because "Women are the properest to manage Women."
Book VI fleshes out the beleaguered love affair of Tom and Sophia, who must rally against Squire Western's traditional view of marriage. Marriages based on fortune were prevalent in Fielding's era, and are condoned by both Mrs. Western and by Mr. Allworthy. Sophia's filial piety creates a further obstruction to the consummation of the lovers' affection for one another.
Tom's banishment from at the end of Book VI foreshadows a shift in the story's milieu, from a static depiction of two country households to the constantly changing environment brought on by travel. Indeed, Fielding's own concerns seem to widen in Book VI, as evidenced by his frequent references to the political conflicts of the time. Western's character is a satire of the conservative country gentleman who opposes the new Hanoverian government led by King George II. In Chapter II, Squire Western reads the London Evening-Post, a Tory newspaper that criticized the Whig government, and which Fielding criticized in some of his other writings.
Where Mrs. Western is thus the stock "city woman," Squire Western is the stock "country man"—making the pair a caricature of the country-city rivalry prevalent in Fielding's time. Their interactions also provide insight into the relationship between men and women of the day. The Squire argues that "Petticoats should not meddle" in political affairs, while Mrs. Western claims to have a "sovereign Contempt" for the male sex. In Chapter XIV, she remarks: "English Women, Brother, I thank Heaven, are no Slaves. We are not to be locked up like the Spanish and Italian Wives. We have as good a Right to Liberty as yourselves." The tension between the Squire's violent methods of dealing with Sophia and Mrs. Western's gentle, diplomatic conversations with her niece will flourish into a point of contention throughout the novel.
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