HomeLiterature Study GuidesTom JonesBook 8 Chapters 11 15 Summary

Tom Jones | Study Guide

Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones | Book 8, Chapters 11–15 : Containing about Two Days. | Summary

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Summary

Book 8, Chapter 11

The "Man of the Hill" was born into a family of gentlemen farmers and was doing well at a university until he ran into a rich young man who encouraged him to begin gambling. The Man is soon in serious debt and even stoops to stealing money from a friend. The Man escapes the authorities, accompanied by a disreputable woman who ends up turning him in to get rid of him. When his case comes to trial his friend doesn't appear, so he goes free.

Book 8, Chapter 12

The Man now leaves Oxford but is ashamed to go home, so he returns to London, where he falls in with another unsavory character, Watson, a swindler and a gambler.

Book 8, Chapter 13

The Man is introduced to a "whole fraternity of sharpers, and was let into their secrets." He becomes addicted to drinking and continues in the company of gamblers and thieves for about two years. One night he helps a stranger who has been robbed and beaten by thugs. This stranger turns out to be his father, and he persuades his son to return home. He takes up his studies again by widely reading, especially applying himself to Christian texts. When his father dies he cannot get along with his brother and goes to Bath, where he runs into Watson again, much in despair and on the brink of suicide.

Book 8, Chapter 14

The Man talks Watson out of killing himself, and the two of them end up fighting with the rebels in 1685 to depose the Catholic king, although Watson ends up betraying him. The Man makes a speech railing against the papists (Catholics), and Tom agrees that expelling King James II (in 1688) was necessary for "the preservation of our religion and liberties." The Man has not heard, however, that two rebellions against the Protestant crown have taken place since then—with the second one currently in progress (in 1745). The man went back home after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and ceded his inheritance to his brother in exchange for £1,000, which he used to travel.

Book 8, Chapter 15

After he finished traveling the Man settled in this place, away from society. He expresses cynicism about human beings, saying "man ... hath basely dishonoured his own nature; and by dishonesty, cruelty, ingratitude, and treachery, has called his Maker's goodness into question, by puzzling us to account how a benevolent being should form so foolish and so vile an animal." Tom says he has known good people in his short life, but he soon drops the argument. The Man offers to show him some vistas.

Analysis

In the telling of his life the Man of the Hill introduces Tom to a host of vices to which a man can give in to, and he serves as an object lesson and a cautionary tale. He comes from the same part of the world as Tom Jones and also has an immoral brother; hence his father pins his hopes on his good son. Unfortunately the Man enters a life of crime that eventually involves whoring, stealing, and gambling; he is saved only by the intervention of his father. The Man is able to reform himself by reading both Greek philosophy and Christian texts. Tom learns in Book 8, Chapter 13 that the works of Aristotle and Plato are "inestimable treasures," despite their rude handling by the likes of Square, and they taught the Man to despise acquiring riches and power. "They elevate the mind, and steel and harden it against the capricious invasions of fortune," he says of these works, and they are necessary to "defend ourselves, with any tolerable security, against the misery which everywhere surrounds and invests us." But even better than the consolations of philosophy are the Christian texts, which "soften and sweeten" the mind.

Despite the Man's praise of Scripture, he has been unable to take its words into his heart because the evil of the world overwhelms him. When he leaves his brother the first time to take the healing waters of Bath, he is once again subjected to the worst aspects of humanity, in the guise of a crooked old associate whom he saves from suicide and ruin only to be repaid with betrayal. This disappointment is followed by another when his brother cheats him out of most of his inheritance, and his negative view of man is confirmed when he travels the world. He comes to the strong conclusion that people are no good—and in fact are the worst of God's creation. Despite the man's considerable learning and claims to Christianity he is unable to understand at an experiential level the teachings of his faith. For example, St. Paul famously counsels in 2 Corinthians that "Love is patient ... it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ... it bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Thus a righteous person ought not to expect a return in this world, according to the teachings of Jesus, but rather imitate him in practicing mercy and forgiveness. The Man exhibits only bitterness, however. The major lesson Tom must learn from the Man is that even when faced with base behavior in one's fellow creatures it is important to keep one's heart soft and sweet and always open to experiences of grace that come through both God and others.

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