Literature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 17 Chapters 1 5 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 17, Chapters 1–5 : Containing Three Days. | Summary

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Summary

Book 17, Chapter 1

The narrator notes his comedy has turned into a tragedy and he is still left with the task of delivering "this rogue, whom we have unfortunately made our hero." He promises not to use any supernatural means; he would rather see him hanged at Tyburn "than forfeit our integrity, or shock the faith of our reader."

Book 17, Chapter 2

Blifil sits down to breakfast with Mrs. Miller and Mr. Allworthy and says Mr. Jones "has proved one of the greatest villains upon earth." Mrs. Miller vigorously defends Jones, and Mr. Allworthy is surprised she knows him. She says he is the best of men and has saved her family from ruin. Mr. Allworthy says he has shown baseness and ingratitude toward Blifil. He continues his story, saying Jones has murdered a man.

Book 17, Chapter 3

Squire Western has arrived to tell the company he is being attacked by his sister and Lady Bellaston to consent to have Sophia marry Fellamar. Mr. Allworthy immediately releases Western from "any engagement," but Western is still bent on his first choice. Mr. Allworthy praises Sophia's many fine qualities, calling her a jewel, but he says it is wrong to force a woman into a marriage. Blifil begs for a little more time to change Sophia's mind. After Western leaves he advises Blifil to examine his heart to determine whether he has a "vicious" passion in loving a woman who seems to hate him.

Book 17, Chapter 4

Mrs. Western says his lordship is coming to visit and she will leave Sophia alone with him. Sophia strenuously objects, complaining Fellamar tried to rape her. Mrs. Western proceeds to blame the victim, saying she herself would not have endured such liberties. She begins reminiscing about her younger days and how she turned down lovers, and Sophia uses flattery to say her aunt is still eligible and attractive and has waited, so why can't she wait? Thus she buys herself some time.

Book 17, Chapter 5

Mrs. Miller and Nightingale visit Jones in prison, and Partridge comes in to say actually Mr. Fitzpatrick is alive although still in danger. Even though he was defending himself, Tom feels remorse about shedding blood. He is also depressed about losing Sophia. Mrs. Miller knows the whole story from Partridge, and she vows to do what she can to help him; thus he gives her a letter for Sophia.

Analysis

It is difficult not to criticize the lack of prudence Mr. Allworthy displays toward the end of the novel when he stands up for Blifil after Mrs. Miller rebukes him in Book 17, Chapter 2 for calling Tom one of the devil's beloved. Mr. Allworthy not only takes Blifil's part but also says any aspersions cast on him "must only come from the wickedest of men, [and] they would only serve, if that were possible, to heighten my resentment against him" (meaning Tom). Mr. Allworthy claims Blifil has been Tom's "warmest advocate" while Tom has been "the ungrateful wretch." While it is understandable that Mr. Allworthy thinks badly of Tom for the acts he has committed, given they have been taken out of context, it is still hard to see how they rise to the level of earning Tom the title of the "wickedest of men." Further, how is it Mr. Allworthy has completely forgotten the Tom he knew before he began viewing him through the distorted lens of his half brother Blifil? Mr. Allworthy also shows a lack of discernment as the evidence piles up that Sophia does not wish to marry Blifil and Western is the one pushing the marriage. Yet he continues to support Blifil's goal of winning Sophia through "perseverance." The closest he comes to a rebuke of Blifil is to say "love ... is the child of love" and his desire to pursue someone who hates him is unnatural. He asks Blifil to examine his heart to determine, through "virtue and religion," whether he has a "vicious passion," and if so to drive it from his heart.

Mr. Allworthy clearly has enough evidence to understand that Blifil is conspiring with Squire Western to force Sophia into marrying him, yet he continues to participate in Sophia's persecution. At the same time he has enough evidence to know Tom cannot be as bad as Blifil claims, and as a magistrate should know he is continually getting one side of the story. Mr. Allworthy is lacking in the cardinal virtue of prudence—manifested as practical wisdom, arrived at through discriminative thinking, and acted upon with certain knowledge.

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