Literature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 5 Chapters 9 12 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 5, Chapters 9–12 : Containing a Portion of Time Somewhat Longer Than Half a Year. | Summary

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Summary

Book 5, Chapter 9

Tom has been keeping vigil at the bedside of his foster father and is overjoyed when he learns he is out of danger. He gets drunk at dinner, kissing the doctor and acting with immoderate merriment. Blifil and Jones get into a fight when the latter refers to Jones's illegitimate birth while reprimanding him for his merriment during a time when the house is in mourning for Bridget.

Book 5, Chapter 10

Jones goes out for a walk to clear his head and begins to think about Sophia when he runs into Molly, who has been working in the fields. The two become amorous and "[retire] into the thickest part of the grove." The narrator notes "Jones probably thought one woman better than none, and Molly as probably imagined two men to be better than one." Unfortunately Blifil and Thwackum are also taking a walk, and Blifil spies "a fellow and wench," whom they immediately investigate.

Book 5, Chapter 11

Tom has heard them coming, so he hides Molly. Thwackum demands Jones bring forth the other person, and when he continues to bar the way he gets into a fight with his former master and his foster brother. Thwackum is a more worthy opponent, although the two of them together begin getting the best of Tom. At this point Mr. Weston intervenes on Tom's side, having suddenly come upon the scene of the fight, and the two of them prevail.

Book 5, Chapter 12

The rest of Mr. Weston's party now arrives: Mr. Supple, Mrs. Western, Sophia's aunt and Western's sister, and Sophia herself. The party first seeks to revive Blifil, but then Sophia falls into a swoon. Jones, who has been helping with his foster brother, now runs to Sophia, picks her up, and carries her to the stream and begins sprinkling her face with water. Sophia regains consciousness, and Western once again praises him for saving Sophia and then urges him to clean up. Jones is bloody and black and blue from Thwackum's fists. Western asks what the fight was about and Sophia overhears that a "wench" was involved.

Analysis

Tom, who has "naturally violent animal spirits," is so relieved to hear his foster father is out of danger in Book 5, Chapter 9 that he acts in a reckless manner and gets drunk. Blifil is not wrong to chastise him for forgetting the fact that Bridget has just died and the house is in mourning, but Blifil doesn't actually show any grief on his mother's account, and he gets angry at Tom merely for not following proper protocol. Still this is another instance in which Tom disregards the rules of decorum to his detriment.

Considering Tom has now decided to commit his heart to Sophia, his agreeing to a final fling with Molly in Book 5, Chapter 10 is more than a little ill advised. The narrator admits that drinking tends to inflame the passions already in the mind, and certainly Tom is feeling passionate about Sophia and now uses Molly in Sophia's place. Moreover, the narrator notes "he was not at this time perfect master of that wonderful power of reason, which so well enables grave and wise men to subdue their unruly passions, and to decline any of these prohibited amusements." The real trouble starts in Book 5, Chapter 11 when Tom is found out by Thwackum and Blifil and gallantly protects Molly's identity from them. He gets into such a fierce battle with them that Sophia faints when she sees Tom bloody and black and blue. Tom so lacks discretion that he follows Western back to the house in Book 5, Chapter 12, even after Sophia finds out the fight concerned a "wench."

In these chapters Tom is at his worst in displaying a lack of prudence. First, he should not have gotten drunk, and second, he should not have allowed Molly to lure him to commit still another indiscretion. Tom knows it is wrong to have sex with Molly, but he gives in to his instinctual nature. He does the right thing in protecting her from exposure to his enemies, but to do so he must fight them, which is also wrong. Not surprisingly this episode leads to Tom's losing the protection of Mr. Allworthy.

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