HomeLiterature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 5 Chapters 1 4 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 5, Chapters 1–4 : Containing a Portion of Time Somewhat Longer Than Half a Year. | Summary

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Summary

Book 5, Chapter 1

The narrator pauses in this introductory chapter to Book 5 to justify his right to break the rules of the ancients in what he calls "prosai-comi-epic writing." He first berates the critics and then provides a reason for the "several digressive essays" in his literary work. He wishes to provide contrast, he says—or more specifically, the serious and the comic. Moreover, he hopes the "soporific parts" will better offset the more interesting bits.

Book 5, Chapter 2

Tom gets many visits during his convalescence. When Sophia comes with her father she cannot help but reveal her feelings in expression and manner from time to time. The narrator says that since Tom had never "entertained any thought of possessing [Sophia] ... he had a much stronger passion for her than he himself was acquainted with." But now that he perceives Sophia's mutual attraction he allows himself to feel the fullness of his passion.

Book 5, Chapter 3

Tom is tortured by his new feelings. First, he is not completely sure Sophia loves him. Second, he knows her father wants her to marry a rich man, and he would not ungratefully abuse Western's hospitality by courting Sophia behind his back or disgrace himself in his foster father's eyes by doing so. Finally, he feels an obligation to Molly. Thus he resolves to forget about Sophia.

Book 5, Chapter 4

Mrs. Honour also visits Tom when he is convalescing. She tells him Sophia reclaimed the old muff she had put aside after she learned Tom had kissed it, and now she wears it on her arm all the time. When she and her father come to visit Tom and it gets in the way of her playing the harpsichord, her father snatches it and tries to throw it in the fire. Sophia, however, rescues the muff from the flames, and this makes a strong impression on Tom and he surrenders to his loving feelings.

Analysis

Tom knows there are several obstacles to a union with Sophia. Jones is consistently characterized as someone who feels gratitude for those who do him a service, and gratitude is a virtue much extolled in the novel. Tom knows Western expects to marry his daughter to "one of the richest men in the county." Tom owes a debt to Western, not only for taking in George and his family but also for offering Tom himself continuous hospitality and friendship by hunting with him and having him to dine. Tom is grateful to his foster father for rearing him as if he were his own son, and while he sometimes disappoints Mr. Allworthy with his behavior he is incapable of doing something that would so deliberately violate his benefactor's ethics, which are also his own. Tom believes Molly has "sacrificed her innocence" as a result of her love for him. Thus in Book 5, Chapter 3 he initially decides to forget about Sophia and stick with Molly. Mr. Allworthy and Tom are not different in their moral structure, but Tom lacks prudence when it comes to his sexual desire. On the other hand Mr. Allworthy lacks prudence in his judgment of people.

After finding out about Jones's dalliance with Molly, Sophia initially decided to strip him out of her heart, but as the narrator notes in Book 4, Chapter 12 love is like a disease, and its symptoms returned every time she saw Jones. Honour now continues to fan the flames of passion, carrying tales between the would-be lovers. When Tom watches Sophia rescue her muff from the flames in Book 5, Chapter 4, "the citadel of Jones was ... taken by surprise. All those considerations of honour and prudence which our hero had lately with so much military wisdom placed as guards over the avenues of his heart, ran away from their posts, and the god of Love marched in, in triumph."

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