Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The narrative begins with the voice of the author predominating. He tells his readers what the theme will be and what they can expect from the history. Human Nature is a predominant theme and we learn that we will see it in it's many forms. Fielding is excellent at unique similes, metaphors and comparisons and we get a sample of this in the first chapter itself. This is when he equates the narrative to a meal that will be served and which will satisfy every appetite.
We are then introduced to two main characters who are responsible for the growth of this narrative. They are Squire Allworthy and his sister, Miss Bridget Allworthy. Each introduction of a character is accompanied by a description of the person. We learn immediately that the Squire will be presented in a positive light throughout. He is blessed with both Fortune and Nature's blessings. Miss Bridget seems to be a prude and a hypocrite though.
Fielding does not delay in jumping right into the narrative. When Squire Allworthy comes back home and is about to go to sleep, he finds a little baby in his bed. This finding is the main fount of the narrative. We see that the Squire is a kind man who does not remove the baby, just because it is a bastard. He asks his elderly maidservant to look after it. It is not for no reason that the Squire enjoys a reputation of being benevolent. But, his character is one of the few large hearted characters in the story. There is also a bevy of small-minded people such as Mrs. Deborah Wilkins, who is a maidservant in the Squire's house. She condemns the infant for being a bastard and is only reconciled to look after it, because of her master's orders. Chapters 2-7 revolve around the circumstance of this baby's being found in the Squire's bed.
The Squire wishes to find out who the mother is and his servant - Mrs. Deborah Wilkins is given this task. She loves scrounging around matters such as this and easily lifts the blame off any of the maidservants at the house. She has a selfish motive behind this and that is that she has hired these women and she wouldn't have liked to accept the fact that any of them are guilty. So, she resolves to go to the parish to find out the culprit. Once again, Fielding uses an excellent simile to describe how Mrs. Deborah descends on the parish. She is equated with a kite and the equation is not a very flattering one. She consults with an old matron and their suspicion falls on Jenny Jones.
Jenny Jones seems to be an interesting and a contradictory character. She is plain looking and yet attractive. She is intelligent and diligent. She is educated by a schoolmaster Partridge and grows to learn more than him. We are surprised to see that she confesses without any trouble and gives no defense. It is much later that we learn why she behaves like this. But, for now we are surprised at her self-control and her refined manners. She is indeed quite unlike an ordinary maid. She meets the Squire and he gives her a long talk about morals. She seems to have great respect for him and cries in his presence. She refuses to reveal the name of the father though and says that he is beyond Mr. Allworthy's governance and that is quite true, since we later learn that it is a Mr. Summers that she is talking about and that he had died by the time his son was born.
We see how the Squire is a man with a large heart and a sense of justice. He feels sympathetic for Jenny and decides to have her removed far away from her village, so that she might not continue to be insulted. The generosity of the Squire is revealed at many other occasions in the novel. But, despite his large heart, he at times is not discerning enough to see the truth. We also note how he misreads the character of his foundling Tom and wrongly throws him out of the house. At the same time, he doesn't realize the viciousness of Blifil, till very late.
In the first seven chapters, the base of the story is founded, and we meet the little infant who is the main hero of the story. The background of his birth is important as it effects the future course of events. We also meet the lady who plays a crucial part in this background and that is none other than Miss Bridget. She, as well as Mrs. Wilkins seem to be well versed with the hypocrisies practiced by the human race, especially by women. Both can be diplomatic and can reveal their true intentions and opinions artfully. They go more by what would benefit them and then behave accordingly.