HomeLiterature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 18 Chapters 1 4 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 18, Chapters 1–4 : Containing about Six Days. | Summary

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Summary

Book 18, Chapter 1

Fielding says goodbye to the reader, likening the time they have spent together to a journey on a stagecoach. At the end of the journey all disagreements are put aside. He addresses the reader as "friend," begging not to be called a "scurrilous fellow." He feels sure this page will long outlive him, the author, as well as the works of his "abusive contemporaries."

Book 18, Chapter 2

Partridge comes in to Jones's cell, "paler than ashes" and tells Tom the lady who just left is his mother. Tom says, "Fortune will never have done with me 'till she has driven me to distraction," but then allows that he himself has caused his misery. Tom sends Partridge to find Mrs. Waters, and a few hours later he receives a letter from her saying she will acquaint him with "a matter of ... high importance" when she next sees him. She also tells him Fitzpatrick is out of danger.

Black George visits Tom in jail and says Mrs. Western brought Sophia back to her father. After the siblings got into an argument about Fellamar and Sophia took her father's side, he began showing his daughter affection.

Book 18, Chapter 3

Mr. Allworthy keeps his promise to Mrs. Miller to visit his acquaintance old Nightingale to reconcile him with Jack. Mr. Allworthy sees Black George there and learns from Nightingale that he has saved £500 and wants to invest it in some real estate. Mr. Allworthy tells Nightingale that George stole the money but asks him to hold onto it for now and not say anything to the thief.

Mr. Allworthy tells Mrs. Miller old Nightingale has agreed to see his son and that he's tracked down Tom's lost money. Jack now brings news that Fitzpatrick has openly admitted he started the fight. He tells Mr. Allworthy Tom always speaks highly of his foster father, which brings tears to the old man's eyes.

Book 18, Chapter 4

Mr. Allworthy gets a letter from Mr. Square saying he is dying—and writing to make amends. He admits to having been unjust to Mr. Allworthy's adopted son, testifying Tom was the only one who expressed real concern when Mr. Allworthy seemed to be dying; he went wild with joy when he was out of danger. A second letter from Thwackum in the same post says he has heard from Blifil of Jones's villainy and assigns blame to Mr. Allworthy for being too permissive with him. The purpose of his writing is for Mr. Allworthy to consider him for a vicarage because the current pastor is in bad health.

Analysis

In Book 18, Chapter 2, when Tom gets the news in jail that he has slept with his mother, he hits rock bottom in his fall from grace, and the letter from Mrs. Waters (Jenny Jones) prolongs his agony because its wording seems to indicate she is confirming the horrible news he receives from Partridge: "little did I think, when I passed that happy day at Upton, the reflection upon which is like to embitter all my future life, who it was to whom I owed such perfect happiness." She will reveal to Tom in Book 18, Chapter 10 that she is not his mother; her letter in fact alludes to how hard she fell for Tom and that her night of bliss with him will embitter her future life because she doesn't expect anything that comes after it to equal that happiness.

But for the time being Partridge's revelation echoes the famous Greek tragedy of King Oedipus, whose mother kills herself after learning she has slept with her son, while Oedipus puts out his own eyes. Tom merely sits in his personal purgatory, mulling over the results of his indiscretions. Although his encounter with Mrs. Waters seems like terrible luck, he knows he has only himself to blame for putting himself in fate's line of fire. If he has ruined his life and his chance for happiness with Sophia, he has no one to blame but himself.

While Jones is repenting his sins and resolving to sin no more, his friends outside the prison are working to clear his name and address the wrongs that have been done to him. In Book 18, Chapter 3 Mr. Allworthy learns about the heartless theft committed by Black George, and a dying Square has found God and writes an atonement letter in which he owns the way in which Tom's behavior on the night he got drunk was misrepresented to Mr. Allworthy. Tom's foster father receives a second letter from Thwackum, who writes to berate Tom and also ask a favor, remaining his unregenerate self.

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