Literature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 1 Chapters 10 13 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 1, Chapters 10–13 : Containing as much of the Birth of the Foundling as is necessary or proper to acquaint the Reader with in the Beginning of this History. | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Chapter 10

The narrator remarks on Mr. Allworthy's hospitality, saying he shut neither his heart nor his house to "any part of mankind" although he preferred "men of merit." A frequent visitor is the unsuccessful Dr. Blifil, who is attracted to Bridget. Since he is married he decides to arrange for his single brother, Captain Blifil, to meet her. Within a week of the captain's stay at Mr. Allworthy's he is slyly courting the lady.

Book 1, Chapter 11

The captain is unattractive, but Bridget likes the charms of his conversation, the narrator says. For his part he would "choose to possess every convenience of life with an ugly woman, than a handsome one without any of those conveniences" and is much taken with Mr. Allworthy's wealth, since his sister is his chief heir. The captain hides his intentions, thinking Mr. Allworthy will disapprove of so uneven a match.

Book 1, Chapter 12

The captain and Bridget secretly marry within a month, and Dr. Blifil brings Mr. Allworthy the news, pretending to be angry and shocked and expecting anger from his benefactor. To the doctor's surprise Mr. Allworthy says his sister is old enough to know her own mind and what will make her happy.

Book 1, Chapter 13

Although the captain has his brother to thank for his fortunate marriage, he now turns on him. "One of the maxims which the devil, in a late visit upon earth, left to his disciples, is, when once you are got up, to kick the stool from under you," says the narrator. Thus the captain is so rude to his brother when he visits that he stops coming altogether. The narrator says, "He died soon after of a broken heart."

Analysis

Mr. Allworthy is the gentle target of the narrator's humor when he claims in Book 1, Chapter 10 he preferred "men of merit" at his table and then immediately describes two men at Mr. Allworthy's table whose merit is questionable. The doctor is unsuccessful in his profession as well as his marriage, apparently, which is why he is drawn to Bridget. He surreptitiously introduces his brother to the household—the fortune-hunting captain who doesn't mind marrying an ugly woman if she is rich. Thus Mr. Allworthy is shown to be completely oblivious to the motives of these two scheming brothers, the first instance of many in which he will exhibit a lack of discernment.

Captain Blifil's ingratitude toward his brother in Book 1, Chapter 13 is stunning, and the narrator doesn't provide a reason for it other than to say that the devil teaches people to discard those who help them once they are no longer needed. The novel is filled with sarcastic and witty remarks about man's inhumanity to man and instances of the petty crimes of ingratitude, meanness, and spitefulness. Fielding wishes to show that people are a mixed bag of goodness and imperfections, some critics have said. Another way to view the novel is to see that its author was somewhat jaded and perhaps cynical about human nature. Almost all the characters in the novel exhibit despicable behavior: acts of deliberate unkindness, spitefulness, selfishness, or maliciousness. Only four characters perform deliberately good actions: Mr. Allworthy, Tom Jones, Sophia, and Mrs. Miller. It would appear, based on the characters in the novel, that goodness is the exception to the general rule of human behavior.

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