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MonkeyNotes-Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
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Humor in the novel

The humor in 'Tom Jones' is primarily high comedy, as illustrated by the techniques of hyperbole and double meaning in the novel. These techniques are also a part of 'School for Wives' by Moliere and 'Henry IV, Part One'. There is a good example of hyperbole in 'Tom Jones.' Partridge's fears as they are travelling to London are exaggerated to the point of being a flaw. Fear can be sensible to a certain extent. For instance, being fearful of having one's house robbed if the door is left unlocked at night is a reasonable fear. However, Partridge is frightened to an extreme that causes him trouble with character judgement. He is afraid of the old woman, who offers him and Tom lodging, because he thinks she is a witch. Actually, she is simply the kind servant of the master of the house.

Hyperbole is also used in Moliere's play with the character Arnolphe. In this case, Arnolphe's wish for order is exaggerated to a fault. A desire for order is fine to a certain degree. One can understand the need for a calendar to remember appointments, for instance. However, Arnolphe takes his wish for order too far. He thinks he can place Fate in the sequence he wants. He has decided to raise Agnes to be his simple and submissive wife, tell her he will marry her, and then wed her. Obviously, his plan is not wise because Agnes does not want to be part of his plan.


In Shakespeare's play Falstaff's presentation of himself in a positive light is overstated to his own detriment. One should bring up his actual strengths when he is on a job interview trying to impress a company. 'Tom Jones' is generally high comedy, as exemplified by the hyperbole and double meanings in the novel. One sees the exaggeration and double meanings in 'School for Wives' and 'Henry IV, Part One' as well. The double meanings are clever. Finally, the exaggeration of normally acceptable qualities to flaws in these great works should teach one not to take fear, the want of order, and bragging about oneself to extremes.

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