AD's English Literature : The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749) by Henry Fielding: Short Questions for Competitive Examination

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749) by Henry Fielding: Short Questions for Competitive Examination

Genre: Comic epic of the picaresque tradition
The main character: Tom Jones
Heroine: Sophia
Other characters: Captain Waters, Mrs. Waters, Thomas Allworthy, John Blifil, Mr. Fitzpatrick, ‘Black George’ Seagrim, Lady Bellaston, Nancy Miller, Mr. Partridge etc.

Give the identity of Thomas Allworthy.

Thomas Allworthy is owner of one of the largest estates is Somersetshire. He is an agreeable, pleasant and benevolent man, ‘who might be deemed, as Fielding observes, the favourite of Nature and Fortune’. He is the elder brother of Bridget and the maternal uncle of the hero, Tom Jones. The only cause of his unhappiness is that his wife and three children have predeceased him.

Who was John Blifil and how he die?

Captain John Blifil is a retired army officer who is also the brother of Dr. Blifil. Persuaded by his brother and enticed by the prospect of fortune, he wooed and married Miss Bridget, squire Allsworthy’s sister. He died of an apoplexy after son’s birth and died at the very instant when his heart was exulting in meditation on the happiness which would accrue to him by Mr. Allworthy’s death.

Are there any digressions in Tom Jones? Mention at least two such digressions.

Digressions are natural in any long narrative, and this is true of the epical novel, Tom Jones too; The greatest digressive episode in Tom Jones is the story of the Man of the Hill in book viii. The story is the familiar one of the promising youth who is spoilt at the university in London and later is rescued from such life boy his father. The other digressive episode consist of the Mr. Fitzpatrick episode in which Harriet Fitzpatrick in Book xi describes how are husband supported a mistress and demanded the small remainder of the fortune and how are she managed to escape from him.

Tom Jones furnishes a sketch of the history and development of three leading personages. Who are they?

The leading personages are Tom Jones himself, Master Blifil and Sophia Western.

What role does Mrs. Waters play in the novel?

 Mrs. Waters is none other than Jenny Jones, the intelligent servant in the house of the school master, who is accused of being Tom’s mother. She is reprimanded by squire Allworthy and takes name, Mrs. Waters. On his way to London Tom rescues her from the attacks of ensign Northerton, and the grateful Mrs. Waters has a passionate sexual affair with him. Miss Sophia Western finds them to be together at Upton Inn, and leaves off her pursuit of Tom in dismay. Thus Mrs. Waters is responsible revealing Tom’s true identity Squire Allworthy.

What do you know about ‘Black George’?   

‘Black George’ Seagrim is the impoverished father of a large family, and the father of Tom’s first mistress, Molly seagrim. He serves as squire Western’s gate keeper and attendant. Although Tom befriends him and gives him money and food to sustain his family, he takes the opportunity of robbing the bell for five hundred pounds which squire Allworthy had given to Tom.

What is the importance of Upton Inn in the novel?

Structurally, the episode of the Upton Inn involving Tom’s affair with Mrs. Waters and its discovery by Sophia Western, gives a long way towards bringing them agonizingly close to a meeting and separating them again. Symbolically, it introduces the device of Sophia’s muff. It also gives the reader a certain comic relief in the midst of vicissitudes of the road. Structurally, its assurance at the exact centre of the novel indicates that this is the place of the climactic, action.

What is the theme of the second part of Tom Jones?

The second part of Tom Jones describes the adventures of Tom and Sophia in their journey from their country homes to London.

Why did Lady Bellaston hatch a plot to ruin Tom?

Lady Bellaston, an extremely wealthy and debauched woman in London, with whom Sophia Western takes shelter for a while falls in love with Tom and favours  him with gifts and herself. Tom initially pays some attention to her in spite of her being much older, but on finding Sophia in London, beings to avoid her. Finding her advances rejected. ‘Hell’ hath no fury like woman second. She therefore instigates Lord Fell mare to ravish Sophia and takes delight in the fact that Tom is to be hanged for the apparent killing of Fitzpatrick. 

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert, 
      2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature

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