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The narrator claims that it is difficult to write introductory chapters.
They are not ordered in a particular manner—any of them could grace the
beginning of any chapter. Their purpose is simply to whet the critic's appetite.
Western and Sophia—who is still confined to her room—argue
about Blifil. A messenger arrives from Lord Fellamar, who intends to pay
his respects to Sophia that afternoon. Western answers that Sophia is already
"disposed of." The messenger asks whether Western knows what kind of man he is
declining. Western rudely retort that he hates all lords and begins to caper
angrily about the room. Sophia joins in her father's rancor by stomping her foot
on the floor and running screaming from her room. Once Fellamar's messenger has
departed, Western heads straight for Sophia's room, where they weep together and
express their love for each other. Sophia says that she promises not to marry at
all—she will devote herself to her father. This refuels his anger.
The narrator confides in the reader that Western "really doated on his Daughter,
and to give her any Kind of Pleasure was the highest Satisfaction of his Life."
Black George carries up a pullet with eggs for Sophia's dinner. Although
Sophia has been refusing food, Black George manages to entice her with the
pullet, which is her favorite dish. She finds a letter from Tom inside its
belly. The letter labors the point that Tom only wishes to see Sophia happy.
While she reads the letter, Sophia hears a fracas downstairs between her father
and her Aunt Western, who has just arrived in London.
Mrs. Western asks for her niece. When Squire Western reports that he has locked
the wayward Sophia in her room, Mrs. Western reminds him of his promise not
to take such drastic actions against his daughter's disobedience. She stresses
the ideal of female liberty, and the narrator compares her to Thalestris, that
Amazonian champion of women. Eventually Squire Western tosses down the key and
Mrs. Western departs to find Sophia. No sooner has she left than her brother
damns her and invites Parson Supple for a drink. Squire Western allows Mrs.
Western to take Sophia to her own lodging. Mrs. Western begs her brother not to
see Mrs. Fitzpatrick if she seeks him out.
Black George delivers a letter to Tom from Sophia. She tells Tom that she is
with her Aunt Western and has promised not to write any further to Tom. She does
give her word, however, that she will marry no other man. Tom is torn by
happiness and grief. Tom spends three hours reading and kissing the epistle,
after which he joins Mrs. Miller, Betsey, and Partridge at the playhouse
to watch a performance of Hamlet. Partridge becomes fully immersed in the
play and trembles at the ghost of Hamlet's father—whom he believes to be a
real ghoul. He shouts out to Hamlet when the latter picks up the skull of
Yorrick, and amuses all the spectators around him with his running commentary on
the play. After the performance, Mrs. Fitzpatrick approaches Jones and
invites him to meet with her the following afternoon.
The narrator considers all the characters in the novel as children. He harbors
an "extraordinary Tenderness" for Sophia. Soon after Mr. Western departed for
London, he sent a note to Blifil encouraging the lad to come to London as soon
as possible to be married to Sophia. Blifil's motive for marrying Sophia has
become pure hatred. Since Sophia ran away from home, Allworthy has suspected
Sophia's dislike for Blifil. Blifil and Thwackum tried to convince Allworthy
that Blifil should still pursue the young lady. Allworthy's tenderness
eventually conquered his prudence and he agreed to accompany Blifil to London.
Allworthy and Blifil arrive in London while Jones is watching Hamlet.
Western insists on taking Blifil to Mrs. Western's residence immediately.
Mrs. Western is reading Sophia a lecture on the prudence and politics of
marriage when Mr. Western barges in with Blifil. Mrs. Western chastises him for
not following the principles of a decorous entrance and sends Sophia—who
she claims has been shaken by the event—to her bedroom. Blifil blubbers
and blunders in fear. Mrs. Western says that he may leave a message for Sophia.
Blifil leaves, less pleased with the meeting than Western. Western puts their
failure down to Mrs. Western's mood, but Blifil suspects something more lurks
beneath the surface.
Fellamar is still passionately in love with Sophia and, inspired by Lady
Bellaston, has commissioned Captain Egglane to force Tom onto a ship. Mrs.
Western sent a greeting card to Lady Bellaston on her arrival in London. Lady
Bellaston, delighted to have a female partner in crime, runs to Mrs. Western
with her news about Lord Fellamar. Mrs. Western dubs Blifil a "hideous kind of
Fellow" like "all country Gentlemen." Lady Bellaston now gives Mrs. Western the
marriage proposal she received from Tom. She says she hopes the letter will
change Sophia's mind. It was directly after this conference that Western and
Blifil made their appearance, which explains Mrs. Western's icy behavior to the
Jones meets with Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who suggests that Jones should try to get
access to Sophia by flirting with Mrs. Western. She reminds him that this is
what Mr. Fitzpatrick did in order to court her, and it worked. Jones politely
declines the suggestion, infuriating Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Jones attempts to assuage
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who now takes a fancy to Jones. Out of vanity she believes
herself to be one of the finest ladies in the world. As Jones leaves, Mrs.
Fitzpatrick gazes at him seductively and invites him to visit her the following
day. Jones's thoughts, however, tend only toward Sophia and he resolves not to
call on Mrs. Fitzpatrick.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, who has tracked his wife to London, arrives at her doorstep
as Jones is departing. Jones recognizes him from the inn at Upton and greets him
amicably, but Fitzpatrick punches him and draws his sword out. Jones knows
nothing about fencing but manages to retaliate and plunges the sword into
Fitzpatrick. Jones, calling for assistance for Fitzpatrick, is apprehended by a
gang of men employed by Lord Fellamar. Jones lands up in jail after a trial.
Partridge visits Jones at the prison with news of Fitzpatrick's death. Sophia
sends Tom a letter saying that she has seen his proposal letter to Lady
Bellaston and wishes to have nothing more to do with him.
Book XVI brings the novel to its climax: it builds steadily through the
collusion of Mrs. Western, Lady Bellaston, and Mrs.
Fitzpatrick—each of whom harbors her own reason for wanting to contrive
a marriage between Sophia and Lord Fellamar—and culminates in the
duel between Tom Jones and Fitzpatrick. Fellamar's courtly status as a
"lord" and the fact that he is one of the richest men in England appeals to Mrs.
Western, who now calls Blifil a "vile" countryman. Her attitude contrasts
with that of Squire Western, which sets the two fighting for control of Sophia
in Chapter IV. Squire Western grows in the reader's estimation in this chapter
since the narrator admits in Chapter III that Western "really doated on his
Daughter, and to give her any Kind of Pleasure was the highest Satisfaction of
his Life." Although Lady Bellaston has lost all chances with Tom, out of spite
she wishes to keep him apart from Sophia. Mrs. Fitzpatrick is still trying to
restore herself to the favor of her aunt and uncle by procuring a good marriage
Fielding's philosophy about his prefacing chapters, expressed in Chapter I,
contrasts with the finely designed linear narrative of Book XVI. By claiming
that the prefacing chapters have been randomly placed and deserve no particular
order, Fielding sets up a "timeless" axis as opposed to his "time-dependent"
axis. His introductory chapters and intrusive philosophical musings belong to
the former axis, while his highly contrived narrative belongs to the latter
Ace your assignments with our guide to Tom Jones!