Tom Jones: Book 8 - Summary & Analysis

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Partridge appears on the scene and decides to accompany Tom. They go to the top of a hill and meet the 'Man of the Hill'; the story of the 'Man of the Hill'.

Chapter-wise Summary

      Next morning, a surgeon came to dress Tom's wounds. The doctor found that his pulse was agitated and apprehended that fever was coming. He told Jones that he would be bled. But Jones plainly refused to be bled. The surgeon asked Jones to pay him for the treatment he had given and declared that he would not attend him any more. Jones replied: "You have used me rascally and I will not pay you a farthing." So the doctor went away in a rage.

      In the evening Tom was attended by a barber whose name was little Benjamin. He frequently spoke Latin and was a very witty fellow. Jones soon developed friendship with the barber and related to him the previous history of his life.

      Next morning, Jones felt uneasy and his wound was not dressed. He was told that the barber, who was with him last night, was one of the ablest men who knew surgery. The barber was sent for. After he had dressed the wound, Jones requested him to relate to him his life story. Benjamin fastened the door and related his story to him. He asked Jones: "Did you never hear, sir, of one Partridge who had the honor of being reputed your father, and the misfortune of being ruined by that honor?" Jones replied that he had heard and had always believed himself to be his son. But Benjamin said: "Well Sir, I am that Partridge, but I here absolve you from all filial duty for I do assure you, you are no son of mine." He added: "And it is possible that a false suspicion should have drawn all the ill-consequences upon you with which I am too well-acquainted I have loved you ever since I heard of your behavior to Black George, as I told you, and I am convinced from this extraordinary meeting that you are born to make me amends for all I have suffered on that account." He told Jones that he had dreamt last night that he was riding behind him on a milk white mare, and that dream was a good omen and token of much good fortune. He, therefore, requested Jones to allow him to accompany him in his adventurous life. He said that his entire money was at his disposal. Jones did not accept his money but consented to have Mr. Partridge as his companion, on his future expeditions.

      Partridge had another reason, too, for following Jones. He thought that Jones had run away from his home and if he could persuade him in going back home, Squire Allworthy would be pleased and would grant him again the annual allowance. Next morning, Jones and Partridge set out on their journey.

      After a long walk, they reached Gloucester and stayed at an inn called the Bell. But here, they did not receive good treatment; so they soon left the place.

      It was evening. Partridge was unwilling to commence the journey in darkness because he was afraid of ghosts. Out of fear, Partridge felt very cold while proceeding on their journey.

      After they had traveled a few miles, they saw a glimmering light through some trees. They went in the same direction and soon reached the door of a cottage. The woman within refused to open the door but when Jones promised to pay half a crown, she opened it. But she asked them to warm themselves by the fireside and then leave the house as soon as possible as she expected her master, who was called the 'Man of the Hill', soon, and who would be terribly angry if he found them there. Just at the same instant, they heard more than one voice outside the door. The master of the cottage was attacked by some unknown ruffians. Tom Jones, on hearing the cries of the old man, snatched an old rusty sword hanging on the wall, at once rushed out of the room and found an old gentleman struggling with two ruffians and begging for mercy. Jones attacked them with his sword and drove them away. This old man was the Man of the Hill.

      The Man of the Hill thanked Jones for saving his life, but Jones said: "Be thankful then to that Providence to which you owe your deliverance; as to my part, I have only discharged the common duties of humanity and what I would have done for any fellow creature in your situation." The old man was wonder-struck at the humanity and nobility of Tom's character. He could not help saying:

      “Let me look at you a little longer. You are a human creature then"

      At the request of Tom, the Man of the Hill related to him the story of his life.

      He said that after having completed his school studies, he joined the Exeter College at Oxford. He was a very studious boy and his parents naturally built up high hopes about his future. But then he fell into bad company. Among his acquaintances, there was a young man known as Sir George, who was wicked and licentious and who wasted his money on horses, on prostitutes, and many other evil things. The Man of the Hill also indulged in all sorts of vices and squandered money. Once he happened to steal, from one of his college fellows, a sum of fifty pounds with which he fled away to London, where he wasted all the money by indulging in all sorts of vices and then he came to the point of starvation for want of money. One day, he met one of his old college friends, Watson, by name, who introduced him to a gambling house and who engaged him as his assistant in doing all sorts of evil deeds. Another day, he accidentally came across an old person who had been robbed by certain scoundrels, and who was finally discovered to be his own father from whom he had parted many days ago. The father conducted the Man of the Hill to his house where he stayed for four years, and again devoted himself to studies. He studied both the Bible and Philosophy. His father died after four years. He could not live any longer in his father's house because his brother was extremely selfish. So he had to join the Revolution in which he would have been killed but very narrowly escaped from death. Since the Revolution, he had been living in that lonely cottage. (The story of the Man of the Hill is irrelevant to the main plot, but such digressions are characteristic of the eighteenth-century novel.)

      At day-break, the Man of the Hill proposed that, as it was a beautiful morning, Jones might accompany him to enjoy the sight of some very fine prospects. As Partridge wks asleep, Jones set out for a morning walk along with the Man of the Hill.

Critical Analysis

      The book throws light partly on the question of Tom's parentage. Partridge reveals that Tom is not his son. We must wait till the final disclosure about Tom's parentage. In this way, Fielding sustains the suspense of the reader. Partridge, the schoolmaster, will hereafter be a companion of Tom during his travels. Partridge resembles Parson Adams in Joseph Andrews. Both follow their masters, trust people and get into difficulties. They, however, explain their respective masters' conduct and also throw light on the manners and conventions of the age. Both are rather trustful and know little of the ways of the world. The story of the Man of the Hill is a digression which does not further the movement of the novel. It, however, emphasizes the difference between two attitudes to life. The old man leads a secluded life in the hills because he has been wronged by others. Tom, too, has been harmed by many persons but he has faith in the goodness of humanity. Fielding believes that the old man's seclusion is an escape from society and, therefore, a negative approach to life. Tom has suffered but still he trusts human nature and hopes for the best. The author seems to agree with the ideals which he expresses through the character of Tom.

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