Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Contrasts in varieties of life
Henry Fielding's work presents a 'slice of life' and in doing so, it naturally presents all the natural varieties of living too. This becomes a major theme because it is apparent at more than one place. Not only are characters contrasted but also - situations, human reactions and even predicaments. It is through these contrasts that Fielding manages to paint a realistic picture of life. This picture is believable and exciting all at once. And, owing to these contrasts, we are better able to appreciate the positive and deride the negatives. This theme is carried forth to the very end, when Tom Jones and Blifil are contrasted yet again.
This is an obvious theme of all novels, but even more so - of this one. And, Fielding states this purpose very plainly and clearly. Human Nature is depicted in its many forms with its strengths as well as weaknesses. It is this aspect that enriches the novel and contributes to its enjoyment. It also leaves the reader with the view that he has learnt much-learning that might enable him/her to understand his/her environment better. It is this very theme that drives home the lesson that it is not advisable to repress instincts all the time. Ideal human nature should be a balance of instinct and intellect.
Contributing to the humor in the novel, is the pursuit motif. This is built very ably by Fielding, who depicts how people chase one another till the final resolution. And, at the center of all this chasing is Sophia and Tom's pursuit of each other. Most of the other pursuits are centrally linked to this crucial one. And, with the ending of this pursuit, the others reach a conclusion too. This motif adds pace and interest to the narrative. It is integral to the very backbone of the story and it is handled extremely well.
Tom's curious innocence
This too is central to the plot. It is Tom's naivete and strange sense of honor that often gets him into trouble. It is this same aspect that leads him into amorous affairs with women, other than the one who he truly loves. It is this very instinctive innocence that, Tom has to overcome in order to strike the ideal balance in human nature - that of intellect and spontaneous instinct. And, when this balance is struck. Tom attains the two things that build his fortune - his love - Sophia and Squire Allworthy's estate.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick's story
Mrs. Fitzpatrick is Miss Western's cousin Harriet. While Sophia flees her father to go to London Mrs. Fitzpatrick too flees her husband. The two cousins meet on the way by pure coincidence and strike up their friendship again. Mrs. Fitzpatrick's story is contrasted with Sophia's own; this contrast exhibits Sophia's qualities of endurance and her own chastity. Mrs. Fitzpatrick's story then assumes the mantle of a minor theme in the novel.
Mr. Square and Mr.Thwackum's hypocrisy
Both these characters are examples of false intellect claiming surreptitious superiority over instinct. The hypocrisy of both these characters is revealed at once. The revelation of Square's false values is the most dramatic. In contrast to them both, is their pupil, Tom Jones, who claims no false pretensions to intellect and whose instinctive goodness can be trusted more than their pretended virtuousness. Mr. Square and Mr.Thwackum together make a minor theme for what they stand for - stilted pretence.
The question of Tom's parentage
Since Tom Jones is a major protagonist, the question of Tom's parentage too becomes a question of concern. It turns into a minor theme of the novel as it is bears relevance from the beginning, till the very end. And, when this question is finally resolved it comes as a major revelation to us. Those who were considered to be Tom's guilty parents are in reality innocent of the crime.
The mood of the novel is that of a satiric bawdy romance. While in main, the story is about Tom and Sophia and how they finally get together; there is also much intended satire on the false conventions of society. A vivid Hogarthian panorama Tom Jones thus becomes both a romance and a comedy.
While the basic plot of the story may be founded on romance; the treatment of the theme is not merely romantic. It is much more than that - the narrative spans adventures, love affairs, seductions, wars; in short-life in all its richness and variety. And that is the reason - the mood never becomes melancholic. The pace is always a fast one and the mood is never really downcast even if the events are disappointing, the novel can make you laugh, grin and even smirk - but rarely does it enable you to cry. The novel remains a comic, entertaining romance worth a read and entertaining in its taste.