HomeLiterature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 18 Chapters 9 12 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 18, Chapters 9–12 : Containing about Six Days. | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 9

Mr. Allworthy visits Sophia and tells her he has learned Blifil is a villain. He also says Tom is his nephew and asks her if she would allow him to court her. Sophia says she will not because she will never marry without her father's consent. When Squire Western barges in, Mr. Allworthy points out his cruel treatment of his daughter. Once Western hears Tom is Mr. Allworthy's nephew, he begins urging Sophia to marry Tom, but Mr. Allworthy stops him and again scolds him for his abuse of Sophia.

Chapter 10

Tom is exonerated and released from prison, and he has a tender reunion with his foster father at Mrs. Miller's house. By now he has also learned from Mrs. Waters the details of his parentage. Mr. Allworthy apologizes profusely for his treatment of Jones and tells him of all the dirty tricks that have been played by Blifil. Mrs. Miller takes Tom aside and says she has told Sophia he used the ploy of writing Lady Bellaston a proposal to get rid of her. Nonetheless, Sophia says that doesn't excuse him from being sexually immoral. Mrs. Miller tries to smooth Tom's path by also telling Sophia Tom has turned down Arabella Hunt. When Mr. Western arrives he greets Tom heartily, noting one Christian should forgive another.

Chapter 11

Tom tells Mr. Allworthy and Mrs. Miller that he was freed when two surgeons testified on his behalf, together with two lords, with one offering his sincere apologies to Tom. This occurs after Fitzpatrick clears Tom's name with Fellamar when he learned from Mrs. Waters that Tom wasn't sleeping with his wife. Fellamar then does everything in his power to make Tom whole because he feels remorse.

Tom asks Mr. Allworthy to be merciful to Blifil, and later tells his brother he will do all he can to help them reconcile and to help him financially. Tom also hears how Black George robbed him but can't be prosecuted. Tom wishes to forgive George, but his uncle says "mistaken mercy is not only weakness, but borders on injustice."

Chapter 12

The Allworthys visit the Westerns, and Tom and Sophia get some private time. Tom asks for another chance, and Sophia wants to know how she can trust a man who seems incapable of constancy. Time alone can convince her he is truly sorry, she says. Sophia says she needs 12 months to forgive him entirely, but then her father breaks in as usual and demands she get married immediately, and this time she consents to obeying her father.

Analysis

In the closing chapters several people repent and make amends, and both Tom and Mr. Allworthy have learned prudence in their respective areas. While Mr. Allworthy is an exemplary Christian and a model of virtue, his deliberate refusal to see the flaws in other people's character has led to serious lapses in judgment with grave consequences. Moreover, his reluctance to mete out punishment where it is deserved (while overcompensating by being too harsh when a reprimand may not be called for) has caused more than one hardship in the lives of others. Mr. Allworthy is a humble man, however, unlike Squire Western, who can never own up to a bad decision and sticks with it simply so he does not have to admit being wrong. Thus the first thing Mr. Allworthy does upon learning the truth about his nephews is to approach Sophia and ask her pardon for his part in pushing Blifil at her. He knows she loves Tom and vice versa, so he now asks if Tom may court her. Mr. Allworthy humbly apologizes to Tom, who holds no malice toward his benefactor and is simply overjoyed to be back in his good graces. Mr. Allworthy also forcefully stands up to Squire Western for the first time about his treatment of his daughter. Last he tells Tom that misplaced mercy may be no better than injustice. As a result of his experiences Mr. Allworthy will likely make a better magistrate in the future.

Tom has a good, kind, and generous nature, but his faults include carelessness, and in the course of his journey he finally learns prudence. For him prudence means learning to say no to the wrong women. The mark of Tom's reform is his ability to turn down three women: Mrs. Hunt, the heiress; Mrs. Fitzpatrick; and Mrs. Waters. He has grown strong enough to act on what he knows to be right and uses knowledge to guide his decisions. This is the meaning of prudence in the classical sense—active wisdom. For this reason Sophia can finally say yes to him since he has become worthy of her.

Mr. Western is one character who cannot change. Once he learns Tom will be Mr. Allworthy's heir in Book 18, Chapter 9, he quickly changes his allegiance from Blifil to Tom and hypocritically tells Tom to forgive him (Western) since it is the Christian thing to do. Sophia at first tells Tom he will have to prove himself before she can marry him, but then she agrees to marry him immediately because her father told her to do so; in actuality marrying Tom is her desire. Thus Sophia remains prudent until the end of the story and is able to successfully steer her life in the right direction.

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