Tom Jones: English Fiction - Summary and Analysis

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Summary
      Tom Jones is Fielding's masterpiece. The History of Tom Jones is the greatest novel of the eighteenth century. Here Fielding takes an enormous canvas and crowds it with figures. The hero of the novel is a foundling who is brought up in the west of England by a squire named Allworthy with whom, however, he quarrels and he travels to London in search of fortune. Tom falls in love with the beautiful Sophia Western, daughter of a neighbouring squire. But the romance ends with a reversal of fortune for the hero. The second part of the story records the swift dramatic succession of adventures on the road. The third and last part is set in London, where Tom establishes himself. Sophia flees to avoid being forced into marriage with Blifil. Her father pursues her; Mr. Allworthy arrives in town in search of his nephew. A number of amorous intrigues add to the complexity of the plot. The reader is kept in suspense until the close as the final resolution of the action. Villainy is exposed, and Tom, his origin no longer a mystery is restored to favour and gains his beloved and the inheritances of his uncle, Blifil's punishnment is a case of poetic justice. He is forced to turn Methodist in order a marry to rich widow of the faith.

Tom Jones is Fielding's masterpiece.
Tom Jones

Critical Analysis
      Tom Jones is a major contribution to the development of English fiction. In spite of the large number of characters and the many changes of scene, the plot is constructed with great care. It is epical in structure, or rather an alternation of epic and dramatic. Tom has a series of involved adventures, which are shaped towards their climax by the hand of a dramatist. The rigid linking of cause and effect lies partly in the nature of comedy and is partly the direct result of Fielding's philosophy. Tom Jones may also claim to be the first novel written to a theory. Behind all the chance encounters, incongruities and anomalies that make up the affairs of man is a scheme, a pattern, perhaps a little too artfully contrived, but due at all events to comic deliberation. The novel also gives the fullest and richest picture of English life about the middle of the eighteenth century. Tom Jones is an epic novel. Diana Neill observes "It is a great book in itself, and a microcosm of the next hundred years in prose fiction." It provides a broad picture of the snobbery, selfishness, rudence or the eghteenth century people. Against this background stand Tom and Sophia who are prompted by spontaneous urges. Tom Jones is an unheroic hero. He is generous and brave but sensual. He acts on impulse, and lacks a settled idea of duty.

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