Literature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 2 Chapters 1 5 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 2, Chapters 1–5 : Containing Scenes of Matrimonial Felicity in Different Degrees of Life; and Various Other Transactions During the First Two Years After the Marriage Between Captain Blifil and Miss Bridget Allworthy. | Summary

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Summary

Book 2, Chapter 1

The narrator reminds the reader he is writing a history and not "a life," but he will not follow historians by relaying details about uneventful periods of time and will instead skip to the good parts. "I am, in reality, the founder of a new province of writing, so I am at liberty to make what laws I please therein," he says.

Book 2, Chapter 2

Bridget delivers a baby boy eight months after the wedding, "by reason of a fright." Mr. Allworthy is pleased with his new nephew but remains loyal to the first child, named Thomas after himself. Bridget readily agrees to bring the boys up together, although Captain Blifil quotes scripture to Mr. Allworthy supporting the idea that bastards should not be coddled. Mr. Allworthy says that to punish an innocent child for the sins of the parents is "indecent, if not blasphemous" and goes against "the first principles of natural justice." Meanwhile, Mrs. Wilkins has been nosing around to uncover the name of the baby's father.

Book 2, Chapter 3

The narrator reminds the reader that Jenny Jones lived with the schoolmaster and his wife and had been schooled for four years in Latin by Mr. Partridge. Mrs. Partridge is a jealous shrew who accused her husband of infidelity, although later her suspicions proved not to be true.

Book 2, Chapter 4

One day at the chandler's shop where all the local gossips gather, Mrs. Partridge asks if anyone has news of Jenny. For the first time she hears she has given birth to two bastard children, and she immediately jumps to the conclusion that her husband is father of at least one. Mrs. Partridge reacts by violently beating her husband until he finally restrains her.

Book 2, Chapter 5

To ingratiate herself with Captain Blifil, Mrs. Wilkins helps to spread a new rumor, that Partridge is the father of Tom, and she repeats it to the captain, who takes the first opportunity to inform Mr. Allworthy. He responds by sending Mrs. Wilkins to town to verify the truth of the story.

Analysis

An important theme in the novel is how appearance often masks the truth of a situation, and in these chapters the narrator tells the reader with his verbal irony—that what is said is different from what is meant—that Bridget consummated her relationship with the captain before they were actually married. Appearance and reality are at odds when Mrs. Partridge assumes Jenny Jones has been sleeping with her husband. She doesn't seem to know that the child in question is Tom—rather she is told Jenny has given birth to two children outside the parish—but it now looks suspicious to her that Jenny has left town, and her mind jumps to her earlier jealousy concerning Jenny. Captain Blifil appears to object to Mr. Allworthy's coddling of Tom on religious grounds since he was born in sin, but in fact he is envious of Tom Jones's place in the family now that he has a son he reckons should be the heir of Mr. Allworthy's property.

Tom's precarious position is evident from the beginning of his life, and his only protector is Mr. Allworthy. Even though he is her son Bridget cannot protect him without looking suspicious. Meanwhile, Tom is assailed on the one hand by Captain Blifil, who is trying to push him aside, and on the other by Mrs. Wilkins, who tries to ingratiate herself with the captain in Book 2, Chapter 5, whom she imagines will eventually be the master of Paradise Hall. Mr. Allworthy shows his Christian mercy and compassion, however, when he faults the captain on his views and stands firm in his decision to foster Tom.

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