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The narrator reminds us of his earlier warning that his History will not
document every second of time, and that the reader must therefore flesh out the
time by arriving at his own opinions of the characters. Through a series of
rhetorical questions, the narrator suggests that he does not need to describe
the grief Allworthy experienced at the death of Captain Blifil, nor does
he need to elaborate on the character of Mrs. Bridget Blifil. The narrator
says that such analysis would be for a lower class of reader, and he expects
much more from "the upper Graduates in Criticism." Since the narrator knows that
most of his readers are of superior intellect, he has granted them twelve years
in which to exercise their skills of penetration. Now he is impatient to
introduce the novel's hero at fourteen years of age.
Tom Jones, is introduced with an unfortunate anecdote. Tom possesses many
faults, chief among them being his passion for stealing. Tom has recently stolen
fruit from an orchard, a farmer's duck, and a ball from the pocket of Master
Blifil, the son of the late Captain Blifil. Master Blifil abounds in "Virtues"
and is praised by the neighborhood whereas Tom is despised. Blifil's virtues, in
a nutshell, are sobriety, discretion, and piety.
The narrator presenta us with a vignette to reveal these boys' opposing
characters. Tom's only friend is one of the servants of the household, a gamekeeper, and Tom's give the things he steals to this man's family. One day, Tom
goes hunting with the game-keeper, and, at Tom's bidding, they follow some
partridges into the estate of Allworthy's neighbor, which Allworthy has
warned the game-keeper not to do. The neighbor hears the sound of the game-
keeper shooting one of the partridges and, arriving at the scene of the crime,
finds Tom with the dead bird, since the game-keeper has leapt into a bush to
hide himself. The neighbor goes straight to Allworthy and tells Allworthy there
must have been two people involved because he found two guns. Yet when Allworthy
asks Tom who his accomplice was, but the boy maintains that he was alone. The
game-keeper also pleads innocent. Tom receives a flogging from Mr. Thwackum,
the Reverend whom Allworthy has hired to educate Tom and Master Blifil. Later,
Allworthy relents and tries to remedy the situation by giving Tom a little horse
as a present. The narrator predicts that a dinner between Allworthy, Thwackum,
and a third unnamed gentleman will soon ensue.
Mr. Square, who has been living some time with Allworthy, is introduced.
Although not naturally intelligent, Square has improved himself through
education, and is well-read in the ancient philosophers. Square believes that a
man should always be a speculator and sees virtue as a "Matter of Theory."
Square and Thwackum are always arguing, and their only similarity is that
neither will ever refer to the concept of "Goodness" in arguments. Square
maintains that human nature is inherently virtuous, while Thwackum believes in
original sin. Over dinner at Allworthy's table, Square and Thwackum debate
whether honor can exist independent of religion. Their voices rise in volume and
anger until something interrupts their debate. The narrator tells us we will
have to wait until the next chapter to find out the nature of the interruption.
Before continuing his story, the narrator takes it upon himself to rebut the
arguments of both Square and Thwackum, arguing that neither of them
should ignore the "natural Goodness of Heart."
The dinner is interrupted by Master Blifil who has a bloody nose from a
fight with Tom. Tom is smaller, but is by far the better boxer, and Blifil
has "Tears galloping
from his Eyes." Tom explains that he punched Blifil
after the latter called him a "Beggarly Bastard." Blifil denies this and accuses
Tom of lying. Blifil reveals that Tom's accomplice in the partridge incident was
Black George, the game-keeper. Tom pleads with Allworthy to have mercy on
Black George and his family, and takes full blame for the incident, saying it
was his idea to trespass. Allworthy dismisses the boys, asking them to treat one
another more amicably in future.
As usual, Square and Thwackum take Blifil's side, praising him and
denouncing Tom. Allworthy refuses to let Thwackum beat Tom, but he
summons Black George and dismisses him from the Estate, albeit with a generous
severance package. Allworthy's harsh punishment stems from his belief that it is
worse to lie to save yourself than it is to save another. When the story begins
to circulate, many people applaud Allworthy's judgment, commend Tom as "a brave
Lad," and indict Blifil as a "sneaking Rascal."
Blifil has won over Square and Thwackum by always agreeing with their doctrines,
which means that he has to keep silent when they are together, since their
teachings always clash. Blifil, young as he is, has also learnt the art of
"second-hand flattery"—praising Square and Thwackum to Allworthy, who
goodheartedly conveys all of Blifil's compliments back to the men. Thwackum was
recommended to Allworthy by a friend, and although Allworthy perceives
Thwackum's faults, he has faith that Square will balance them out. Square and
Thwackum despise Tom, who, the narrator admits, is "a thoughtless, giddy Youth,
with little Sobriety in his Manners." Allworthy, however, allows Tom to call him
Both Square and Thwackum are interested in Bridget. The narrator
says that one may wonder why so many male visitors to Allworthy's house have
been attracted to Bridget, who is neither beautiful nor young. He then
elaborates that men "have a Kind of natural Propensity to particular Females at
the House of a Friend
when they are rich." Both of the men have
discovered that the easiest way to curry favor with Bridget is to show kindness
to Blifil and contempt for Tom. Although Bridget flirts with both Square
and Thwackum, all she truly desires is "Flattery and Courtship," for she does
not wish to remarry. Square notices, however, that Bridget has hardly anything
to do with the upbringing of her son, and harbors animosity towards Blifil
because of the bitter memory of his father. On the other hand, she thrives on
carrying out Allworthy's plans for Tom's well-being. The neighbors attribute
Bridget's devotion to Tom to her obedience to her brother, but the narrator
suggests that the maturing Tom has become attractive to women. Once the
neighbors realize that Bridget is smitten with Tom, they call him a "rival" to
Square and Thwackum. Bridget now revels in Tom's company.
As soon as Allworthy realizes that Bridget now neglects Blifil in favor of Tom,
his relentless compassion for the underdog induces him to protect Blifil. The
narrator preaches prudence and circumspection, arguing that it is not enough to
be virtuous inside, and that one must take care to ensure that one's virtue
shines through to the outside as well. The narrator hails himself as a kind of
Half a year has passed since Tom sold the horse Allworthy gave him at a fair.
When Tom will not tell Thwackum what he has done with the money from the
sale, Thwackum prepares to beat him. Allworthy walks in and questions Tom in
private. Tom calls Thwackum a "tyrannical Rascal," and Allworthy cautions him
against using such language. Tom tells Allworthy he gave all the money from the
horse to Black George and his family, who have been living in poverty since
Allworthy dismissed them. Allworthy sheds some tears in appreciation of Tom's
Some time before, Tom sold a Bible given to him by
Allworthy to Blifil. Blifil has been wielding the book about the house, reading
from it more than he ever did from his own. Because Blifil flaunts the book so
much, Thwackum eventually notices Tom's name on the Bible, "obliging" Blifil to
divulge how he obtained the book. Thwackum condemns Tom's action as sacrilege,
but Square and Bridget Blifil do not agree.
Squire Western, Allworthy's neighbor, arrives with further accusations
against Black George head. On an evening walk, however, Tom leads Allworthy and
Blifil to Black George's abode, where the family's poverty excites Allworthy's
empathy. Allworthy gives money to Black George's wife for clothes for the
children. At home, Tom further on the family's behalf, and Allworthy promises to
support them. Tom runs through the rain to tell them the good news. The narrator
warns, however, that Black George's fortune is about to take a down turn.
Although Blifil remains mute in Tom's presence, when Tom leaves he recalls an
incident that occurred about a year after Allworthy dismissed Black George: with
his family on the brink of starvation, Black George killed and sold a hare to a
middleman. The middleman was suspected of poaching and, obliged to provide a
scapegoat named Black George to Squire Western. In telling the story, Blifil
contorts the facts and says that Black George poached dozens of hares.
Disgusted, Allworthy promises Tom he will continue to support Black George's
family, but he does not want to hear Tom mention the game-keeper's name again.
Tom attempts to clear Black George's name by appealing directly to Squire
Western, with whom he has become friendly through his sporting skills. Squire
Western, vastly impressed with Tom, now shares his horses, dogs, and guns freely
with Tom. Squire Western loves his seventeen-year-old daughter, and Tom
therefore decides to take his appeal to her. However, since this girl is "the
intended Heroine of this Work," the narrator does not deem it appropriate to
introduce her at the end of a book. The narrator cautions us that he himself is
in love with her, and expects many readers to fall in love with her by the end
of the novel.
Book III charts the maturation of the novel's hero, Tom Jones, from age
fourteen to nineteen. Although the narrator feigns reserve in Chapter II at
having to introduce a flawed hero, his admiration for Tom's generosity and
altruism subtly emerges in the way that he contrasts Tom Jones with his foil,
Master Blifil. The characterization of these rivals is typical of Fielding's
characterization throughout the novel: he couches bad characters' vices in a
favorable light, while feigning a cheeky disapproval of the good characters'
vices. For example, the narrator makes it clear that Blifil's "virtues" breed
nothing but a sniveling predilection for tattling. This method of
characterization results in the narrator developing an ironic stance toward
Blifil, and the obvious differences between what the narrator claims he wants to
show of Blifil and what he actually does show creates a rift that works to
reveal Blifil's hypocrisy.
The narrator does not intend, however, for us to see Tom and Allworthy as
perfect. Indeed, by calling Tom his "Heroe," he means to reinvent the term, for,
as he clearly states in Chapter V, he does not "pretend to introduce any
infallible characters into this History."
The narrator mockingly elevates the small scale of his plot by using
hyperbolical language. The exaggerated idea of Blifil's tears "galloping" from
his eyes in Chapter IV underscores Blifil's parochial small-mindedness. In spite
of his concern for language and terminology, the narrator admits that he prefers
to show rather than tell, and his use of stage metaphors in relation to the
writing process underscores his desire to depict scenes rather than states of
mind. The worthiest characters in the book conform to this style of narration by
being particularly active: Allworthy and Jones constantly engage in charitable
actions, while the only action the allegedly pious Square and Thwackum indulge
in is whipping Tom.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Tom Jones!