Literature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 6 Chapters 1 5 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 6, Chapters 1–5 : Containing about Three Weeks. | Summary

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Summary

Book 6, Chapter 1

The narrator pauses to give a discourse on love. He says "the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate white human flesh" is not love. But while love satisfies itself more delicately than desire, it does "seek its own satisfaction." When partners love each other they wish to experience physical gratification, which "heightens all [love's] delights to a degree scarce imaginable by those who have never been susceptible of any other emotions than what have proceeded from appetite alone."

The narrator also says some people are gratified merely in contributing to the happiness of others, and this type of love may or may not have a sexual component. Moreover, "esteem and gratitude are the proper motives to love, as youth and beauty are to desire"; thus in the case of men and women in relationships when desire ends with sickness and/or old age, love continues.

Book 6, Chapter 2

Sophia remains in a grave mood, and Mrs. Western (who is visiting) tells her brother Sophia is "desperately in love" with Mr. Blifil. Mrs. Western saw that Sophia fainted upon seeing him lying on the ground and noted additional changes in her niece's demeanor—not realizing they are related to Tom Jones. Western is overjoyed by this "news," as nothing would serve him better than to join his and Mr. Allworthy's estate through matrimony, and his sister urges him to propose the match.

Book 6, Chapter 3

Once Mr. Allworthy is well enough, he fulfills a previous engagement to dine at the Westerns, and when the family is at dinner Sophia directs all her remarks to Blifil to mislead her aunt. She thinks Mrs. Western suspects her feelings for Tom. After dinner Western takes Mr. Allworthy aside to propose the match between Blifil and his daughter. Mr. Allworthy praises Sophia's virtues and says the match would be excellent from a material point of view; he says if the young people like each other he will be happy to match them.

Book 6, Chapter 4

When Mr. Allworthy gets home he speaks to Blifil, who is not in the least attracted to Sophia, although he feels some passion for her wealth. Blifil agrees to "submit himself to [Mr. Allworthy's] pleasure." Mr. Allworthy is put off by Blifil's lack of enthusiasm for Sophia, but when Blifil begins to speak philosophically about love and marriage Mr. Allworthy becomes convinced his heart is in the right place. He writes to Western saying his nephew has accepted the proposal, and Western asks his sister to communicate with Sophia.

Book 6, Chapter 5

Mrs. Western tells Sophia she approves of her passion. A flustered Sophia responds, "What signifies his being base born," stopping her aunt in her tracks. The women now understand each other, and Mrs. Western asks how she could possibly think of disgracing the family by marrying a bastard. Sophia points out that her secret was pried out of her and that she would do nothing against her father's will. She begs her aunt to keep her secret and give her time to get over her distinct aversion to Mr. Blifil.

Analysis

In the first chapter, which Fielding generally reserves for comic remarks about how to write and assess a novel, he makes serious and frank remarks about the subject of love and desire, a strong theme in the novel. Once again he uses the motif of food to indicate enjoyment of something that is not food related—specifically sex, saying love is not merely satisfying oneself with another's flesh. Nonetheless, he does not have a prudish aversion to sexual desire. In fact he notes the pleasures of sex are enhanced when love is present. He does not shy away from the idea that women have sexual desire as much as men do—something no writer before him and many who followed in the 18th and 19th centuries were too shy to mention because women's sexual desires remained a taboo subject for hundreds of years in Western culture. He notes that love is based on esteem of another person and gratitude for what they give, as desire is based on youth (sexual urges) and beauty (attraction to the love object). Nonetheless, when real love exists love does not disappear when sex does—whether the end of sex is a result of old age (the slowdown of desire) or sickness (the inability to have sex).

Mrs. Western, Sophia's single aunt, arrives on the scene and is the female equivalent of her brother, although on the surface they are quite different—he has taken up hunting and country pursuits and she is preoccupied with society, royalty, and other markers of sophisticated town life. Mrs. Western thinks she is quite worldly and seriously overestimates her own insight. In Book 6, Chapter 2 she perceives Sophia is in love but she gets the love object wrong because she cannot conceive that her niece would fall in love with a poor man. Brother and sister are alike in their greed and materialism, and the prospect of uniting their property with a family on their social level is too tempting to resist—even if it means ruining the life of Sophia. Fielding takes a page out of Richardson's book in this scenario; in the novel Clarissa the heroine also finds herself at the mercy of her greedy relatives who wish her to marry against her will to increase their property. But Sophia is more successful than Clarissa in outsmarting her relatives.

When Mr. Allworthy speaks to Blifil about the match in Book 6, Chapter 4, he is surprised his nephew is not more taken with Sophia's charms because he himself "had possessed much fire in his youth, and had married a beautiful woman for love." He is taken in by Blifil, however, when he begins to "discourse so wisely and religiously on love and marriage, that he would have stopped the mouth of a parent much less devoutly inclined than was his uncle." Blifil has a great deal of prudence, but it is of the negative variety, or, as noted by the critic Martin Battestin, the practice of double dealing for some selfish purpose.

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