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Tom Jones

Henry Fielding

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

Classical epics typically rely on the use of Divine Intervention, or the supernatural, in order to shape the outcome of events. Does Tom Jones follow or deviate from this aspect of classical epics in its plot?

Although Fielding's comic plot demands a certain degree of serendipity, Fielding's narrator strongly distinguishes his genre—the "Marvellous"—from the "Incredible." in Chapter I of Book VIII, he commits himself to the "probable" over even just the "possible." Yet the narrator's strenuous insistence seems to mask some disingenuousness. The plot events are so highly contrived that they indeed seem to fall in the "possible" rather than the "probable."

To a certain extent, however, Fielding keeps from using Divine Intervention and turns the outcome of events through his own inventiveness. Fielding's rejection of even a crutch is evident through his conception of a hero whose virtue stems from acts of goodness, rather than from religion and prudence. But if the Gods never come to Tom's and Sophia's rescue, these two characters achieve their own kind of divinity by the end of the novel through other characters' perceptions of them.

Suggested Essay Topics

Fielding wrote Tom Jones at a time when people read to be instructed in questions of morality. Does Fielding advocate certain values and morals in his novel, or does he reject such an approach?

How does Fielding portray the relationship between city and country in Tom Jones?

Although there was much debate during Fielding's time about exactly what constituted a "novel," there was some consensus that it was a work of prose that charted the everyday events of people's lives. Does Tom Jones fit into such a definition?

What do you think Fielding's actual purpose was in writing the chapters that preface each of his eighteen books in Tom Jones? How does this purpose agree with or deviate from his stated purpose?

Discuss the relationship between the narrator and the reader of Tom Jones. How important is this relationship to the overall impact of the novel?

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