Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.


The narrator invokes the motif of food in relation to the process of writing, the process of reading, love, and war. He begins the novel by referring to himself as a Restauranteer who will provide the reader with a feast. He later defines lust as a person's appetite for a good chunk of white flesh.


Where the narrator opens the novel with a reference to food, he concludes the novel with a reference to travel, casting himself as the reader's fellow traveler. This represents the culmination of a travel motif throughout the novel. As the characters journey from the country to the city, the narrator includes himself as a fellow traveler, remarking that he will not plod through the journey, but will hasten and slow down as he pleases.

The Law

The narrator infuses his language—and the speech of his characters—with legal terms. For example, after a petty domestic argument with Squire Western, Mrs. Western refers to their reconciliation as the signing of a "treaty." Such examples reveal the narrator's technique of hyperbole—he uses technical jargon to build up events that are actually irrelevant. However, there are also cases in which the narrator's legal motif is genuine, as both Allworthy and Western are Justices of the Peace, and the lawyer Dowling plays a large part in the plot against Tom.

The Stage

It is noteworthy that Fielding constantly alludes to the theater, since his novel is in some ways more "dramatic" than it is "literary." The motif of the stage reminds one that Fielding thinks of his characters as "actors." Nevertheless, the fact that Fielding refuses to provide detailed visual descriptions of his characters slightly undermines his theatrical motif. Clearly, he wishes to vacillate between the visual world of the dramatic and the written word of the prose novel.