HomeLiterature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 4 Chapters 1 5 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 4, Chapters 1–5 : Containing the Time of a Year. | Summary

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Summary

Book 4, Chapter 1

Fielding begins Book 4 by making a lot of jokes about the ways in which authors and playwrights introduce heroes and heroines—with high-flown language and fanfare. Thus he intends to introduce his heroine with "solemnity" and "elevation of style, and all other circumstances proper to raise the veneration of our reader."

Book 4, Chapter 2

The author uses mock-epic style to bring his beautiful heroine on stage: "For lo! Adorned with all the charms in which nature can array her; bedecked with beauty, youth, sprightliness, innocence, modesty, and tenderness, breathing sweetness from her rosy lips, and darting brightness from her sparkling eyes, the lovely Sophia comes!"

Book 4, Chapter 3

Sophia is 17 or 18 and the beloved only child of her widowed father. Since Mr. Allworthy and Squire Western are neighbors, their children grew up together and were playmates. Not surprisingly "the gaiety of Tom's temper suited better with Sophia, than the grave and sober disposition of Master Blifil."

The narrator now provides a flashback: When Sophia was about 13, Tom gave her a bird he had nursed from babyhood and taught to sing. She named the bird Tommy and kept it with her by tying a string to its leg. One day Blifil asked to hold the bird and then purposely slipped off the string and threw Tommy in the air. Climbing a tree, Tom tried to get the bird back but fell in a canal. Blifil claimed to his elders that he felt sorry for the bird having to be kept in a cage. When Sophia learned a hawk made off with her bird, she cried.

Book 4, Chapter 4

Still relating the flashback the narrator continues: Square complimented Master Blifil for setting the bird free, since liberty is "the law of nature," while Thwackum claimed Blifil simply acted from Christian teaching, learned from him. Mr. Allworthy was sorry for what Blifil had done, although he allowed he acted from a "generous" motive. The two pedagogues began arguing again about who is more responsible for Tom's wrong-headedness and Blifil's correct principles.

Book 4, Chapter 5

After this incident, the narrator says, Sophia felt more kindness toward Tom and more aversion for Blifil—feelings reinforced by subsequent incidents over the years and her own powers of observation. Sophia goes to live with her aunt for three years and seldom sees the boys in that period. When she returns to her father's house she presides at his table. Tom, now about 20, is often at the house since he and the squire hunt together. While Sophia has a romantic interest in Tom his affections are elsewhere. However, Tom is gallant toward Sophia, which only increases her affection.

When Tom gets the opportunity he asks Sophia to intervene on behalf of Black George, to which she agrees. He is so overjoyed he takes her hand and kisses it, and Sophia blushes and feels new sensations "to which she had been before a stranger." Sophia is successful in convincing her father to hire Black George.

Analysis

Fielding lapses from time to time into the language of mock epic, as he does upon introducing the character of Sophia, and his prose is reminiscent of the descriptions of heroes found in Homer's epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The names of Fielding's characters are often significant: Mr. Allworthy has a spotless reputation; Thwackum likes to hit people; Square is related to geometry with his rule of right; Black George has a bad character; and Sophia—whose name means "wisdom"—is the embodiment of that quality, even at her young age. This practice is reflective of English writer John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678), where allegorical characters represent virtues and vices in accordance with the late-Medieval "rhetorics" and Morality plays. As pointed out by the critic Martin Battestin, Tom becomes worthy of Sophia, his ultimate goal both literally and figuratively, only after he learns prudence, one of the four cardinal virtues. Prudence in the humanist tradition is the ability to distinguish good from evil, explains Battestin, to see things as they are and not how they appear to be and to act from that knowledge.

Tom and Sophia love each other from childhood, although they are not aware this love will blossom into romance. When Tom makes Sophia the present of the bird in Book 4, Chapter 3 he forever ties himself to her heart, even if Blifil allows Tommy the bird to escape. Of course the bird symbolizes Tom Jones. Like him the bird prefers to be a free spirit and flies away at the first opportunity, just as Tom flies from Sophia upon his first temptation. But Tom's willingness to risk his life to get the bird back also shows his heart is in the right place with regard to Sophia.

When Sophia returns to her father's house in Book 4, Chapter 5 she falls in love with Tom, who has grown into an extremely handsome and gallant young man. But Sophia clearly discerns the character of both Blifil and Tom, and she loves the latter for both his internal and external beauty. She is glad to help Tom with Black George, not only because it pleases her to do him a favor but also because she also sees George's need and tells Tom she sent George's wife a gown, some linen, and some money. Sophia provides charity to the Seagrim family even as her father is in the process of prosecuting George for the theft of the hare. This shows that although she loves and respects her father she follows her own conscience in her behavior. Sophia not only convinces her father to drop the charges but also to hire George as gamekeeper. Neither Blifil nor the tutors are happy with Tom's success in his mission, but Mr. Allworthy commends Tom's "perseverance and integrity of his friendship." Unfortunately his actions will soon be seen in a very different light.

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