Literature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 11 Chapters 1 5 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 11, Chapters 1–5 : Containing about Three Days. | Summary

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Summary

Book 11, Chapter 1

The narrator returns to his critique of critics. The word critic is derived from the Greek and means "judgment," but the modern critic generally is a "common slanderer." And when critics slander a book, he says, they slander the author. Bad critics condemn books they haven't read or condemn a work in general terms, or condemn the entire work for minor imperfections.

Book 11, Chapter 2

The history now returns to Sophia as she travels the side roads to avoid detection. She is about a mile from an inn when her party is overtaken by speeding horses. The travelers are Sophia's cousin, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and her maid and guide. The four women ride together for hours until they reach another inn and decide to take a room and sleep. The landlord, who has heard the rebels are a day away from London, decides the lovely Sophia is Jenny Cameron, the legendary mistress of Charles Stuart, the leader of the rebellion.

Book 11, Chapter 3

The cousins wake around the same time, and the narrator notes that Mrs. Fitzpatrick is very pretty but is eclipsed by Sophia's beauty. Sophia tells Mrs. Fitzpatrick she is going to London. Although Mrs. Fitzpatrick originally planned to go to Bath to see her Aunt Western, she now is also headed to London since she wishes to escape her husband. The two women agree to trade stories.

Book 11, Chapter 4

The two young women spent time together when they were both under the care of their Aunt Western in Bath. After Sophia left Mr. Fitzpatrick courted both Mrs. Western and Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and this created a great deal of gossip. At one point a kind man took Mrs. Fitzpatrick aside and told her to stay away from Fitzpatrick, who is a scoundrel, but she didn't listen to him. She eloped with Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Western disowned her.

Book 11, Chapter 5

After they were married Fitzpatrick insisted his new bride go with him to Ireland. Mrs. Fitzpatrick found a letter written to her husband in which the writer made reference to debts he owed and how he would be marrying for money. When she confronted him he made plausible excuses, but after the couple arrived in Ireland Mrs. Fitzpatrick began to see her husband was a "surly fellow" and an "arrant blockhead." He spent his time hunting, drinking, entertaining unruly company, and belittling Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who got pregnant and had a child during this period.

Analysis

In the meeting of Sophia and Harriet Fitzpatrick, the author provides a study in contrasts, and Harriet is a foil for Sophia as an example of a woman in Sophia's class who imprudently handles the central project of an 18th-century woman's life: love and marriage. When the cousins reconnect in Book 11, Chapter 3 and fondly remember their days together with Mrs. Western, Harriet also recalls the names they had for each other—Miss Giddy and Miss Gravairs; the former name belonged to Harriet and the latter to Sophia. Sophia lived with Mrs. Western for three years in Bath, and after she left the handsome and gallant Mr. Fitzpatrick arrived on the scene.

Although Harriet immediately sees this fortune hunter is courting her old and not very handsome aunt for her money, she fails to see this when he switches his allegiance to her, even as he continues toying with her aunt. Harriet accepts his attentions, flattered that he chooses her over her aunt and all the other eligible women at Bath. Mrs. Western, who thinks herself astute in her judgment of character and her understanding of the world, completely misses that Fitzpatrick is courting her niece, even though everyone else seems to be aware of it. Mrs. Western is also a study in imprudence, although she believes herself to be otherwise. Moreover, she is ill equipped to guide young women, and it is not surprising that Harriet goes astray under her care. Even the advice of a well-intentioned friend falls on deaf ears, and Harriet elopes with Fitzpatrick, creating a lifelong enemy in her Aunt Western. In keeping with the theme of innocence and experience, Harriet soon realizes her mistake, but it is much too late. She is now isolated in a foreign country with a mean, irresponsible husband who begins running through her fortune, and she is further tied down by the child she's carrying. It remains to be seen if Harriet learns from her experience or whether she will continue making the same mistakes.

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