Tom Jones

Summary

Book VIII

Summary Book VIII

Chapter XIII

The Man of the Hill now becomes part of Watson's gambling gang and lives a life of roller-coaster fortunes. One night, he assists a man who has been robbed and beaten in the street—it turns out to be his father, who came to London specifically to search for him. The Man of the Hill goes home with his father and immerses himself in Philosophy and the Scriptures. Four years later, his father dies and life becomes difficult as his older brother runs the household and often entertains "Sportsmen" in the house. On the advice of a doctor, he leaves home to drink Bath waters. There he saves a man who attempts suicide by throwing himself into a river. The Man of the Hill, on visiting this man, discovers that it is his old friend Watson.

Chapter XIV

The Man of the Hill gives Watson one hundred pounds on the condition that he use it to set himself up in an honest profession. He catches Watson gambling some of the money away, however. Watson and the Man of the Hill talk politics. The Man of the Hill is anti-Jacobite, and is worried about what the Protestant religion will suffer under a "popish Prince." Tom interrupts and informs the Man of the Hill that two rebellions aimed at putting the son of King James on the throne have taken place. The Man of the Hill returns to his story. He and Watson join the army, but Watson betrays the Man of the Hill to the Jacobite forces trying to restore King James to the throne. The Man of the Hill manages to escape, but resolves in the future to avoid all humans. He visits his brother, who gives him a stingy payment, then settles on his hill. He has, however, traveled to most places in Europe.

Chapter XV

The Man of the Hill gives a brief summary of the people of various nations. He says his main purpose in traveling was to see nature. He says that people are the one creation of God that "doth him any Dishonour." Jones argues for the diversity of humanity and expresses surprise that the Man of the Hill can fill up so many hours in solitude. He strongly opposes the Man of the Hill's hatred for humankind, arguing that he has generalized the behavior of the worst men, when he should have generalized the behavior of the best. Partridge has fallen asleep during this debate. The narrator invites the reader, like Partridge, to rest, since this is the end of the eighth book.

Analysis

Book VIII traces Tom's journey from Bristol to Gloucester, and witnesses the beginning of his relationship with Partridge, who becomes his servant. The abundance of characters and scenes introduced in this chapter is further complicated by the fact that Partridge, when he first meets Jones, is living under the pseudonym of "little Benjamin." Fielding uses this ploy of entangling people's names and stories later in the novel to magnify the novel's intrigue. As the novel progresses into more and more social terrain, people's identities become more suspect. In Chapter II, Fielding mocks the attitude of landlords and landladies, who flock to travelers whom they perceive to be of the gentry and reject those of the lower classes. Typically, Fielding dresses up this criticism as a positive quality, but the perceptions of these sycophants are based on appearance alone.

It is noteworthy that the final five chapters of Book VIII are dominated by the history of the Man of the Hill, this being the longest of the narrator's deviations from the central story. These digressions allow one to group Tom Jones with Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy, which self-consciously rejects coherent, linear narrative in favor of a sporadic, disrupted narrative. Both Fielding and Sterne distinguished themselves from their time by their tendency toward fragmentation.

Yet Fielding's structural decisions could also be put down to the fact that he thinks of his work as an epic, along the lines of the twelve-book Aeneid.. Tom's adventures, and the integration of other characters' adventures, propel the novel to epic heights. Yet in Chapter I of Book VIII, Fielding separates his epic from Classical epics by distinguishing his genre—the "Marvellous"—from the "Incredible." Aeneas, the hero of Virgil's Aeneid, and Ulysses, the hero of Homer's Odyssey, are constantly saved from calamity by "supernatural Agents." Fielding refuses to write according to such laws—his characters must all be human—and even introduces real people into his fictional work. In Chapter VIII he refers in passing to a "Mr. Timothy Harris," who was an inn-keeper during Fielding's time. Such references not only keep Fielding's work grounded in reality, but also add an authenticity to Fielding's narrative.