Literature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 12 Chapters 11 14 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 12, Chapters 11–14 : Containing the Same Individual Time with the Former. | Summary

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Summary

Book 12, Chapter 11

The guide admits they have missed the road to Coventry. Partridge, a superstitious man, fears they've been bewitched; nonetheless they soldier on.

Book 12, Chapter 12

The party sees a light in the distance and comes upon a band of gypsies celebrating a wedding. The king of the gypsies invites Jones to dine at his table and tells him something of gypsy customs. During the festivities Partridge goes off to get his fortune told and ends up in a compromising position with the fortune-teller, whose husband finds them and demands money for the offense. They are brought in front of the king, who questions the husband and learns he kept watch during the entire transaction, so he pardons Partridge and sentences the husband to wear the horns of the cuckold and the wife to be called whore for a month.

With some verbal irony (in which what is said is different from reality) the narrator says that he is a supporter of absolute monarchy, since no other form of government can rise to the perfection of being ruled under a single master. The only problem, he says, is to find a man who qualifies for the office: moderation, wisdom, and goodness in sufficient quantities.

Book 12, Chapter 13

Tom arrives at an inn Sophia has left just a few hours before, but he has to wait for fresh horses and Partridge wants to eat. Partridge mentions Tom might use the money in Sophia's pocketbook, to which Tom responds that taking found property when you know the owner is the same as stealing. The two briefly quarrel then make up.

Book 12, Chapter 14

After they hit the road again a stranger asks if he may ride with them for safety's sake. Partridge mentions Tom is carrying a banknote, and the stranger pulls a pistol, demanding the money. Tom wrests the gun away from him. The pistol is unloaded, and the highwayman pleads for mercy, saying this is his first robbery because his family is in distress. Tom gives him two of his three guineas and lets him go.

Analysis

Fielding uses the interlude with the gypsies in Book 12, Chapter 12 for some political satire. The justice of the gypsies is fair and straightforward, unlike much of what passed for justice in the English system. The gypsy couple is acting as prostitute and pimp, and the gypsy king immediately sees through their scam. Although Partridge is also at fault for being lured by the fortune-teller, he is a mark. The husband interrupts them before anything happens between Partridge and the gypsy's wife, but he demands money to assuage his honor. The gypsy king absolves Partridge, and since the gypsy community fears being shamed he shames both husband and wife before the entire community. The narrator admires his ruling, but in sarcastically professing admiration for absolute monarchy he points out its obvious shortcoming: the imperfections of man. Fielding was a staunch supporter of the Protestant kings, who in turn supported a limited monarchy and under whose rein the country was moving toward a more democratic form of government. Since the uprising of the Scottish Pretender to the English throne occurred while Fielding was writing the novel, he makes a direct hit on the Catholic idea of absolute monarchy in his commentary on gypsy justice.

Partridge again reveals he is a scoundrel by suggesting in Book 12, Chapter 13 that Tom use the money in Sophia's pocketbook. A similar situation occurred when Black George pockets Tom's money, and while the law cannot actually prosecute someone for this act—as Mr. Allworthy learns at the end of the novel—it is clearly morally wrong, a fact that escapes Partridge. The squirrely schoolmaster is responsible for the highwayman pulling a gun on Tom, once more because he blabs without thinking. Partridge shows his cowardice by running away and his lack of compassion when he scolds Tom for letting the robber go and even giving him some money.

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