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Since the previous book was about the "Passion of Love," this book will probe
the notion of love even further. The narrator defines love by means of four
points: first, there are minds that do not experience love; second, love cannot
be ruled by lust; third, love does seek self-satisfaction; lastly, when love
acts toward one of the opposite sex, it appeals to lust for help. The narrator
believes many people exist who enjoy giving happiness to others and this is the
highest form of love.
Back at Western's house, everyone celebrates Allworthy's recovery except
for Sophia. Her father does not notice Sophia's melancholy, but Mrs.
Western, who has "lived about the Court, and
seen the World," quickly
discerns that Sophia has fallen in love. Although Mrs. Western has not suffered
this state herself, she is as well read in love as she is in politics. When Mrs.
Western tells her brother that Sophia is in love with Mr. Blifil, Western is
furious that Sophia has fallen in love without his permission. Mrs. Western
pities his "Country Ignorance," while he scorns her "Town Learning." Mrs.
Western eventually wins the Squire's approval of the match, but he worries that
Allworthy will not agree to it, since "Money hath no Effect" on him. The Squire
believes that "Petticoats should not meddle" in politics, but when Mrs. Western
threatens to leave, the Squire remembers that he is to inherit her fortune, and
tries to mollify her. She suggests that they "sign a Treaty of Peace."
Sophia suspects that her aunt has realized her affection for Tom, and she
attempts to conceal her feelings by paying more attention to Blifil than to Tom.
This baffles Mrs. Western, who reckons that Sophia's behavior must be "extreme
Art in Sophia" to deflect her from the truth. Mr. Western invites Allworthy to
dinner and proposes a match between Sophia and Blifil directly afterward.
Allworthy considers the "Alliance" to be a sensible one, and greatly praises
Sophia. He appreciates Sophia's grand fortune, but will only ratify the plan
only if Sophia and Blifil profess mutual tenderness. This answer upsets Western,
who believes that parents have a better knack for choosing marriage partners
than their children. The narrator suggests that Allworthy is an avatar of
Allworthy proposes the match to Blifil, who admits he has not once entertained
the thought of marrying Sophia. His appetites, the narrator confides, are so
moderate that they can easily be supplanted with philosophy or study. Since
Blifil does possess a healthy portion of "Avarice and Ambition," however, he
gravitates toward the idea of Sophia's fortune. Allworthy disapproves of the
cold answer from Blifil; Allworthy himself "possessed much Fire in his Youth,
and had married a beautiful Woman for Love." Blifil subdues Allworthy's concern
with a learned exposition on "Love and Marriage." Allworthy and Western, by
letter, arrange a courtship opportunity for the young lovers.
Mrs. Western finds Sophia reading in her bedroom and they debate the merits of
the book. Mrs. Western tells Sophia that she has long perceived the aura of love
about her. Sophia need disclose her passion no further, since Squire Western has
proposed the match to Allworthy, who has wholeheartedly complied. Sophia,
overcome with surprise and joy, blurts out: "So brave, and yet so gentle; so
witty, yet so inoffensive; so humane, so civil, so genteel, so handsome! What
signifies his being base born, when compared with such Qualifications as these?"
The words "base born" alert her aunt to the fact that they are talking about
different men. Mrs. Western is enraged that Sophia can consider dishonoring the
prestigious Western family line by marrying a bastard. Sophia begs Mrs. Western
not to tell her father her secret. Her aunt agrees on the condition that Sophia
will agree to meet Blifil that afternoon.
Mrs. Honour finds Sophia in tears and begs Sophia to tell her what has happened,
even though she has, in fact, been listening to the conversation through the
keyhole. Mrs. Honour responds to Sophia's dire news with a long speech in her
country dialect. She believes Sophia should be free to choose the man she finds
"most handsomest." After Honour mentions having seen Tom walking by the canal
that morning, Sophia immediately dons her hat, but, deciding that the ribbon in
the hat does not suit her, orders Honour to fetch her another. The ribbon
exchange results in Sophia's missing Tom by a few minutes. The narrator takes
this opportunity to warn all female readers against vanity.
Blifil and Sophia have an awkward courtship meeting. For the first quarter of an
hour Blifil can hardly get a word out. Suddenly he breaks into a "Torrent of
farfetched and high-strained Compliments." Sophia bears as much as she can, then
exits the room. Blifil leaves perfectly satisfied with the meeting, since he
does not care about possessing Sophia's heart, but only "her Fortune and her
Person." Blifil entertains no idea that Tom loves Sophia because Tom has stopped
confiding in Blifil since their brawl. Western begins to "caper and dance about
his Hall" when he hears from Blifil how successfully the meeting went. Seeing
that her father is so happy, Sophia decides this is the best time to break the
bad news to him. Confirming first that her father does indeed "place all his Joy
in his Sophy's Happiness," Sophia begs him not to force her to marry a man whom
she utterly despises. Mr. Western damns Sophia and threatens to turn her out of
the house. He agrees to let Tom try to talk some sense into the girl.
Sophia trembles with fear when Tom appears in her room. Tom laments that he
has been sent by Mr. Western to praise Blifil to Sophia. He declares his love
for her and intimates that he hopes to have some in return. Sophia, however,
warns of the terrible repercussions of crossing her father. It will be the ruin
of Tom, and therefore of herself. Tom says that he fears nothing except losing
Sophia. The lovers cannot draw their hands from each other. The narrator breaks
the chapter, since some readers might think it has "lasted long enough."
During the conversation in the previous chapter, Mrs. Western chanced to meet
her brother in the hall. Hearing that Tom is with Sophia, Mrs. Western decides
that Sophia has breached her trust. She divulges Sophia's secret to Squire
Western, who cannot comprehend that Sophia would fall in love with a poor man.
In his eyes, equality of fortune is as necessary to a marriage as difference of
sex. Western descends on the two lovers, who are compared to two quaking doves.
Finding that his daughter has fainted, however, Western ignores Tom and rushes
to the assistance of Sophia. Western then curses Tom and the local parson urges
Tom to leave.
Allworthy, satisfied with Blifil's account of the courtship, sincerely wishes
for the match between his nephew and Sophia. Western suddenly appears and
accuses Allworthy of "breeding up a Bastard like a Gentleman, and letting un
come about to Vok's Houses." Allworthy reminds Western that he was averse to
Tom's spending so much time at Western's estate. Allworthy asks if the Squire
has observed any tokens of love between Sophia and Tom. The Squire has not.
Blifil declares that he will continue his pursuit of Sophia and calls Tom "one
of the worst Men in the World." Allworthy asks what he means by this. Blifil
tells Allworthy a completely distorted story about Tom's behavior during
Allworthy's illness. He says that Tom drank and danced every night, and that
when Blifil tried to calm him, Tom beat him. Allworthy calls on Thwackum so
as to "examine all the Evidence of this Matter." Thwackum confirms everything
Blifil has said and displays his bruises from the fight.
Allworthy confronts Tom with the story, omitting his own illness, which forces
Tom to admit to his drunkenness. Tom is so stunned that he cannot excuse
himself, and instead decides to confess to everything and beg mercy of
Allworthy. Allworthy insists that he has given Tom too much forgiveness in the
past, and thus sends him out in the world with some money to support himself
until he finds a job to make an honest living. He particularly disapproves of
Tom's behavior toward Blifil, who has treated Tom with the utmost "Tenderness
and Honour." The neighbors criticize Allworthy for his harshness to Tom,
overlooking the fact that Allworthy sent Tom away with no less than five hundred
The banished Tom sits by a brook and tears out his hair like a Homeric
hero. His biggest quandary rests in how to deal with Sophia. He
is worried about breaking his own heart by leaving her, but he cannot entertain
the idea of "reducing her to Ruin and Beggary," or of betraying Allworthy's
wishes. Tom decides the most honorable action is to leave Sophia, and he writes
her a letter explaining this. He cannot find any wax to seal the letter, since,
in a fit, he threw out everything, including the five hundred pounds from
Allworthy. Black George has already found the book and pocketed it, but
helps Tom search for it all the same. He promises to deliver Tom's letter to
Mrs. Honour. Tom receives a letter from Sophia in return, promising that she
will marry no other. Tom reads and kisses the letter one hundred times, then
departs from the estate.
Sophia has passed the day listening to lectures from her aunt about how women
should exercise Prudence and seek marriages for money. Western confines Sophia
to her room and gives the key to Honour. Sophia weeps over Tom's letter, and
Honour tries to console her by praising Blifil's appearance and manners. Sophia
sends all her money—sixteen guineas—to Tom. Honour gives the money
to Black George who, after some deliberation, gives it to Tom.
Mrs. Western chastises her brother for incarcerating Sophia and for ruining all
the good she has done with her lectures on prudence. She reminds him of her
superior knowledge of the world. When Western invokes politics in his rant, Mrs.
Western says he should think about Sophia, who is "in greater Danger than the
Nation." The Squire eventually agrees to turn Sophia's care over to his sister,
but only because "Women are the properest to manage Women."
Book VI fleshes out the beleaguered love affair of Tom and Sophia, who
must rally against Squire Western's traditional view of marriage. Marriages
based on fortune were prevalent in Fielding's era, and are condoned by both
Mrs. Western and by Mr. Allworthy. Sophia's filial piety creates a
further obstruction to the consummation of the lovers' affection for one
Tom's banishment from at the end of Book VI foreshadows a shift in the story's
milieu, from a static depiction of two country households to the constantly
changing environment brought on by travel. Indeed, Fielding's own concerns seem
to widen in Book VI, as evidenced by his frequent references to the political
conflicts of the time. Western's character is a satire of the conservative
country gentleman who opposes the new Hanoverian government led by King George
II. In Chapter II, Squire Western reads the London Evening-Post, a Tory
newspaper that criticized the Whig government, and which Fielding criticized in
some of his other writings.
Where Mrs. Western is thus the stock "city woman," Squire Western is the stock
"country man"—making the pair a caricature of the country-city rivalry
prevalent in Fielding's time. Their interactions also provide insight into the
relationship between men and women of the day. The Squire argues that
"Petticoats should not meddle" in political affairs, while Mrs. Western claims
to have a "sovereign Contempt" for the male sex. In Chapter XIV, she remarks:
"English Women, Brother, I thank Heaven, are no Slaves. We are not to be locked
up like the Spanish and Italian Wives. We have as good a Right to Liberty as
yourselves." The tension between the Squire's violent methods of dealing with
Sophia and Mrs. Western's gentle, diplomatic conversations with her niece will
flourish into a point of contention throughout the novel.
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