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Tom Jones | Plot Summary

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Summary

Books 1–6

Mr. Thomas Allworthy, a landowner and philanthropist widely known for his kindness and works of charity, finds an infant boy in his bed and decides to keep him and rear him like a son. Mr. Allworthy lives with his single sister, Bridget, and they employ an elderly servant, Mrs. Wilkins. Mr. Allworthy names the baby Thomas, after himself. It soon comes to light, through Mrs. Wilkins's investigations, that someone named Jenny Jones is the likely mother of the child. Mr. Allworthy as magistrate calls her before him, and she owns the child but will not reveal the name of the father, saying she is honor bound for now to keep his name secret. After giving Jenny a lecture, Mr. Allworthy sends her away so she can make a fresh start where nobody knows her, and he also provides her with money. After further investigation Mrs. Wilkins uncovers the name of the father, Mr. Partridge, the local schoolmaster, who has been accused by his wife of fathering the child. Jenny was a servant in the Partridge household. When Partridge comes before Mr. Allworthy, he strenuously denies paternity. But Mr. Allworthy is less merciful with him, taking away his annuity. Mr. Partridge loses his school, and after his wife dies he leaves the area in destitution.

Mr. Allworthy has regular guests, including Dr. Blifil, who invites his brother, Captain Blifil, to Mr. Allworthy's table. Bridget and the Captain hit it off, marry, and have a child eight months after the marriage. The young Blifil is to be brought up with little Tom. Captain Blifil dies after a few years of marriage. Mr. Allworthy hires two tutors for the boys: Reverend Thwackum and Mr. Square, a philosopher, with opposing views of morality that Mr. Allworthy hopes will balance each other out. What the tutors have in common, however, is hypocrisy. Both favor Blifil and dislike Tom because Blifil is better at pretending to mind them and Tom has a wild streak and does not always show proper respect.

Tom befriends Black George, Mr. Allworthy's gamekeeper, who has a large family and is often short of money. To help him out Tom pilfers food and game, which gives him the reputation as a thief. By the time Tom is about 20 he begins getting into trouble with women—specifically, he has sexual relations with Molly, the daughter of Black George, who gets pregnant—but whose baby might actually belong to her previous lover. Tom is in love with Sophia, however, Squire Western's daughter, and she feels the same. Given his status, though, a marriage between them is unlikely. Tom promises to take care of Molly's child but gives up the idea of marrying her when he finds her in bed with Mr. Square.

Mrs. Western, the squire's single sister, comes to visit and notices that Sophia is in love but mistakes her object of affection. She tells Squire Western to arrange a match with Blifil, and when the older Westerns find out she despises him and doesn't wish to marry they insist she must. Blifil is Mr. Allworthy's heir, and their lands will be joined as a result of a union between the young people. Squire Western forces her to entertain Blifil and is preparing for an immediate marriage. Mr. Allworthy consents with the provision that Sophia voluntarily agree.

Meanwhile Blifil and the tutors are continually filling Mr. Allworthy's ears with the sins of Tom, often telling half-truths so that he is seen in the worst light. After Tom gets into a fist fight with Blifil and Thwackum, Mr. Allworthy throws him out but gives him £500 to make a start in the world. In his grief Tom immediately loses this money, which is found and pocketed by Black George.

Books 7–12

Cast out into the world and having no money, Tom decides to become a volunteer with some soldiers he meets. They are preparing to fight the Young Pretender, Charles Stuart, who has recently brought troops into England in a vain attempt to topple the Hanover king and restore the Catholic Stuarts to power. He is sidetracked, however, when an ensign gives him a head injury, and he must temporarily stay behind at an inn. There he meets Mr. Partridge, who attaches himself to Tom with the idea that he can convince him to return home. Partridge thinks Tom has run away and hopes to restore himself to the good graces of Mr. Allworthy by bringing the young man back. Partridge becomes Tom's companion and servant. When Tom recovers, the two of them travel to meet the soldiers but are sidetracked when Tom rescues Mrs. Waters from an attacker and brings her to another inn. He ends up in bed with her shortly thereafter. Staying at the inn is Sophia's cousin, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who is running away from her Irish husband. Fitzpatrick arrives at the inn and hears that there is a lady in bed with Tom. Fitzpatrick bursts in on Tom, thinking he is with his wife. When Mrs. Fitzpatrick hears the commotion she quietly slips away. In the meantime Sophia has also arrived at the same inn. She is with her maid, Mrs. Honour, and is running away from her father so she doesn't have to marry Blifil. She learns that Tom is at the inn and asks to see him, but Partridge tells Mrs. Honour he is with a wench. Sophia leaves in a huff, leaving her muff behind for Tom as a reprimand.

Tom is distraught when he realizes he has missed Sophia and perhaps lost her for good because of his faithless behavior. He gets back on the road with Partridge and runs into a beggar, who sells him a pocketbook he found, which turns out to belong to Sophia. Tom now has a good excuse to put dreams of soldiering aside and seek out Sophia to return her property. He picks up her trail at a nearby inn, where a post boy (guide) tells him she is headed to London. As it turns out Sophia ran into her cousin on the road. When the two women stopped to rest, Mrs. Fitzpatrick ran into a friend—an Irish nobleman—who offered them a ride in his coach. Tom now heads in the direction of London.

Books 13–18

Tom arrives in London and luckily finds where Mrs. Fitzpatrick is staying. She is a bit evasive around Tom because she thinks he is Blifil. Later she learns about Tom Jones from her servant, who has the story from Mrs. Honour. Nonetheless she thinks it best to keep her cousin away from a pauper, bastard, and rake—that is, a troublemaker and womanizer. She consults Lady Bellaston on the matter, a relation of Mrs. Western whom Sophia is staying with. Since Bellaston, a single woman of an older age, is herself a rake, she is curious to see Tom Jones, who is reputed to be exceedingly handsome.

When Bellaston sees Tom at Mrs. Fitzpatrick's, she immediately wants him for a lover. She sends him an anonymous invitation to a masked ball, and he goes thinking the invitation is from Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who might give him more information about Sophia.

Tom is staying with Mrs. Miller, an old friend of Mrs. Allworthy's who runs a boarding house, and he becomes friends with another boarder, Mr. Nightingale. At the masked ball Lady Bellaston flirts with Tom and lures him to a house where they spend the night together. Bellaston quizzes Tom about Sophia, and he assures her he simply wants to see her one more time. She promises to make that happen but then puts him off. In the meantime she gives Tom money and dresses him in fine clothes, and Tom feels obligated to continue sleeping with her. At one point Bellaston is forced to invite Tom to her house, and he accidentally runs into Sophia and learns for the first time she is staying there. Tom and Bellaston pretend not to know each other, while Sophia pretends not to know Tom.

Bellaston hatches a plan to get rid of Sophia by encouraging Lord Fellamar, a friend of hers who has fallen in love with Sophia, to court her. Sophia is uninterested, so Bellaston counsels Fellamar to rape her so she will have to marry him to save her honor. Fellaston reluctantly agrees to this plan, and when he is alone with her he begins to make advances but is interrupted when her father arrives in a rage looking for his daughter. Squire Western has tracked Sophia down in London and takes her back to his lodgings, again pressing her to agree to a marriage with Blifil. Soon after Mrs. Western also arrives in London to advance the marriage plan, and Mr. Allworthy is expected with Blifil. Since Mr. Allworthy is arriving, Tom finds other lodgings.

Bellaston steps up her demands on Tom, and Nightingale, who knows her reputation, advises him to propose marriage to get rid of her. This plan works, and Bellaston breaks it off. To avenge herself on Tom, Bellaston convinces Lord Fellamar to have Tom picked up and impressed (forcibly drafted onto a naval vessel). But Tom is arrested instead after he stabs Mr. Fitzpatrick, who attacks him in the street after he sees him leaving his wife's lodgings (although Tom is simply paying Mrs. Fitzpatrick a visit).

In jail Tom finds out from Partridge that Mrs. Waters is Jenny Jones, and he tells Tom he slept with his mother. In an effort to persuade Sophia to forget about Tom for good, Mrs. Western shows Sophia Tom's proposal letter to Bellaston, which Bellaston gave to her cousin Mrs. Western for spite. Tom then gets a letter in jail saying Sophia never wants to see him again.

Tom is at his lowest, but Mrs. Waters come to the rescue. She is also in town and has become the lover of Mr. Fitzpatrick. First, she tells Tom that she is not his mother, that Fitzpatrick is out of danger, and that he has confessed that he started the brawl with Tom once he realized Tom was not sleeping with his wife. Next, she visits Mr. Allworthy and tells him that Tom's real mother is Bridget and explains how the two of them pulled off a ruse to hide the fact from him. During this period of time Mr. Allworthy learns that Blifil is contriving to destroy Tom and also learns other important facts that put Tom's transgressions in a different light. He realizes that Blifil is a villain. He also learns that Blifil concealed a letter from his mother, written on her death bed, in which she says Tom is her son.

Mr. Allworthy now visits Sophia to apologize about allowing her father to torture her with the idea of marrying Blifil, and he makes a case for Tom. Sophia learns from Mrs. Miller that Tom sent the proposal letter to Bellaston to get rid of her. When Western learns that Mr. Allworthy is banishing Blifil and that Tom is his nephew, he immediately switches his allegiance. Tom and Mr. Allworthy reunite. Sophia forgives Tom, and when her father insists she marry him she agrees.

Tom Jones Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Mr. Allworthy adopts the infant he finds in his bed.

Rising Action

2 Bridget Allworthy marries Captain Blifil and has a son.

3 Mr. Allworthy takes ill and Bridget Allworthy dies.

4 Tom Jones is banished from Paradise Hall.

5 Sophia runs away from home rather than marry Mr. Blifil.

6 Sophia learns that Tom Jones has dallied with Mrs. Waters.

7 Tom Jones meets Lady Bellaston and begins an affair.

8 Tom Jones meets Sophia again and resumes courting her.

9 Sophia fights off the rapacious advances of Lord Fellamar.

10 Sophia learns Tom Jones proposed marriage to Lady Bellaston.

Climax

11 Tom Jones receives Sophia's letter of dismissal in prison.

Falling Action

12 Tom and Mr. Allworthy learn they are nephew and uncle.

13 Mr. Allworthy discovers Mr. Blifil has maligned Tom Jones.

14 Tom Jones is reunited with Mr. Allworthy.

Resolution

15 Sophia accepts Tom Jones's marriage proposal.

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