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MonkeyNotes-Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
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Book Two

Chapters 1 - 5

Summary

In the first chapter of this book, the author writes what kind of history this narrative will be and what it will not be like. He elaborates that some chapters will be short, and the others long, sometimes the history will fly, and other times it will stand still.

In the second chapter, history proceeds. A child is born to Bridget and Captain Blifil. But, Squire Allworthy continues to be fond of his foundling, named little Tommy. The Captain does not approve of such favor to Tom and often tells the Squire that it is sinful to harbor a bastard. But, the Squire is not convinced by such arguments. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Deborah makes a discovery of who she thinks is the bastard's father.

Here, it is related how the above discovery is made. It is related that Jenny had worked for four years at Mr. Partridge's house. This man is described as poor, but witty and a scholar. He undertakes to teach Jenny Jones and Mrs. Partridge allows this only because Jenny is quite plain looking. It is related that Partridge's wife is very jealous and on seeing Jenny smile at her master once, she suspects that they are having an affair. She turns Jenny out in a fit of temper and Partridge cannot say anything.

In the fourth chapter, Mrs. Partridge learns from some gossiping women that Jenny had delivered an illegitimate son. On hearing this, she immediately suspects her own husband and on going home, attacks him with fury. Partridge is surprised at this assault and thinks that his wife is having a fit. He calls out for help and when neighbors appear, Mrs. Partridge complains that her husband had attacked her. She later tells Partridge what she suspected him of and he is not given an opportunity to defend himself.

The whole village starts gossiping about the quarrel between the Partridges. Mrs. Deborah Wilkins hears that Partridge is suspected of being Tom's father. She thinks that she should keep Captain Blifil happy, as he one day will be her master. So, she communicates this news to him and he keeps it to himself for some time, before divulging it to Squire Allworthy one day. The Squire is surprised and summons Mrs. Deborah to go and check if Partridge is indeed the father.


Notes

The narrator often appears in the middle of the narration to make comments on the story or to add his notes on life in general. Thus, he assumes the role of an omniscient narrator who sees all and who wields power over his narrative. His appearance here is also to make a point and that is that his history will not always follow the same tone. It will heave up and down, sometimes at a fast pace and a slower one at other times. By writing this, the narrator seeks to prepare the reader mentally.

We now see how the second generation in the Squire's family comes about. Mrs. Blifil gives birth to a little boy. But, while the Squire is happy for his sister, he continues to be fond of the little foundling too. The foundling is named Tommy. We see that the Squire is broad minded enough not to hold Tommy's birth against him. He is fond of the little kid. But, Captain Blifil does not approve of this affection and naturally so. He does not want the foundling to retain the Squire's affection, which might mean that he would inherit the property too. Captain Blifil is selfish and concerned about his interests alone.

The Captain often tells the Squire how it is sinful to keep a bastard at home. But, the Squire's religion is not as narrow as the Captain's and he refuses to remove the child from his home. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Deborah's curiosity has not abated and she is still as keen to know the father of the bastard child. Now, is related the background of Jenny and how the suspicion of Tom's birth falls on a school master Partridge. Partridge is described in a positive manner and we will later see how he will play a more major role in the upcoming narration. The accusation of being Tomís father is mainly a product of his wife's jealous mind. Partridge in turn is unable to defend himself before an Amazonian woman.

We see the perils of having a bad tempered wife. Mrs. Partridge is not only unfairly suspicious of her husband, she even resorts to violence with him. Moreover, after attacking him herself, she later blames him for having laid violent hands on her. We see that society tends to believe the violence of a man against a woman more than that of a woman against a man.

Village gossip once again plays a role. When the villagers starts gossiping about the Partridges, news eventually reaches Mrs. Wilkins and when she hears that Partridge might be the father of Tom, she informs Captain Blifil. We see Mrs. Deborah's vicious mind working again. She only informs the captain so that she may be in his good books, for he might be her master one day. Indeed, she is a selfish, self - seeking maidservant. Captain Blifil is no less vicious and waits patiently to reveal the news of Tom's father to the Squire. Eventually, he tells the Squire about Partridge. The Squire immediately summons Mrs. Deborah, who seems to have become the arbitrator in all such matters. A man like Partridge is condemned already if a vicious character such as Mrs. Wilkins is given the mantle of assessing him.

Fielding has mastered the art of handling many events and characters together. We see this is the way he narrates the various diverse incidents within these chapters. Partridge is a crucial character who is introduced here. While we do not see much of him here, we fall in love with his quirky ways later.

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