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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
Ace your assignments with our guide to Tom Jones!