Tom Jones, A Foundling (Fielding)

Fielding, Henry.  Tom Jones, A Foundling. New York: Everyman’s Library, [1991].

The author, Henry Fielding, likely drew upon his extensive experience in legal settings to give us this delightful comedy of errors. Comedy, though, in this case means a happy ending.  The book is quite serious.

 This is one of the first novels in English.  At the time there really was not the category of novel. The author is quite clear it is a history, although it really does not function as one. This allows him to let the reader come to his own conclusions.

He tells the story of a young foundling, Tom Jones.  Tom might be free with his virtue at times, but he genuinely likes other people and will sacrifice his needs for their good. He is like Andy from Parks and Recreation.

It is hard not to love Tom.  He is not perfect, but his imperfections, namely being somewhat loose with his virtue, often come from the lack of a father figure. True, Mr Allsworthy, the functional mayor of the village, has more or less adopted Tom, but he never quite gives Tom the fatherly care he needs.

There is a theme in this work.  Love is a rational passion that seeks the good of its object. Tom must learn to cultivate the rational aspect of this virtue. It takes time and trial and error.  Without the needed father figure, it often involves more error.

The book’s reputation suggests that Tom is jumping in and out of bed with different women.  He is not.  There are only three episodes of such by my counting.  One is implied and the other mentioned in passing.  None of it is any different from the book of Proverbs’ explaining the fools’ walk the wayward woman’s house.

The ending of the book is satisfactory.  Fielding expertly ties all his loose ends.  As regarding Tom’s surprise lineage, it is not what you expect.  You will begin to have an idea of who the father is by the middle of the book.  Pay attention to one key female character (which leads to a hilariously erroneous inference by Jones’s servant Partridge).


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