Study Guide

Tom Jones Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Henry Fielding

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Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Obviously, there are lots of different kinds of comedies. Transparent and Groundhog Day are funny, but they have almost nothing else in common. So it's hard to break down what the major aspects of comedy really are: how can you define a "basic plot" for a comedy, when part of the point of comedy is to be inventive and surprising?

Still, one thing that almost all comedies have in common is reconciliation—by the end of the plot line, everything is supposed to be resolved, with the good characters ending happily and the bad characters ending unhappily. By this definition, Tom Jones certainly fulfills Christopher Booker's criteria for classic comedy.

Our Hero's Out On His Own For the First Time Ever (Cue Hilarious Disasters)

When Mr. Blifil convinces Squire Allworthy of Tom's violence, and drunkenness, Tom loses Squire Allworthy's respect and support. He's thrown out onto the street without a lot going for him beyond his (a) excellent good looks, and (b) natural charm.

It takes the whole rest of the book for Tom to regain Squire Allworthy's favor, and for Mr. Blifil to be exposed as a lying dirtbag. But of course, since this is a comedy, the bad guys are exposed and the good guys are proved innocent in the final book of the novel.

Who Is This "Tom" Guy, Anyway?

One of Tom's serious problems in this novel is that he doesn't know who his parents are. This lack of a definite origin story really matters in a social world where a person's parents (and their fortunes) determine that person's own social status. Tom's uncertain birth makes it impossible for him to marry Sophia, and it keeps his relationship with Squire Allworthy unstable and insecure.

It's only once Tom finds out that he really is a blood relation of Squire Allworthy that his life starts looking better. By the end of the novel, we know that Tom is still an illegitimate child (since Bridget Allworthy was not married when she gave birth to Tom). But the fact that he actually has blood ties to Squire Allworthy and that Squire Allworthy has named Tom his official heir resolves the major issues of Tom's birth… and where Tom is going to get his cash flow from.

How the Heck Are These Two Crazy Kids Going to Make It Work?

Poor Tom and Sophia spend about 90% of this novel just missing each other in terms of romance. The two of them never quite seem to be on the same page, emotionally speaking, until the last book of Tom Jones. When Sophia realizes she loves Tom early on in the novel, Tom is attached to Molly Seagrim. When Tom discovers that he loves Sophia back, he realizes that he can't marry her because he is much too poor. When Sophia escapes her father's brutal lockdown to avoid marrying Mr. Blifil, she catches up with Tom only to find him gettin' it on with Mrs. Waters.

And when Tom finally tracks down Sophia in London, she refuses to see him once she finds out that he has also been seeing Lady Bellaston on the side. With all of these twists and turns, we are still a little surprised that Tom and Sophia wind up happily married at the end of the novel. But that's comedy for you: these lovebirds end up in the same nest.

No One's Talking to Anybody Else, So Misunderstandings Multiply

Families are rarely anything but divided in Tom Jones: not only are Tom and Squire Allworthy at odds for two-thirds of the novel, but Sophia has to fight endlessly against the other Westerns to be allowed to make her own choices. Not only does her father try to pressure her into marrying Mr. Blifil against her will, but her aunt also tries to force her to marry Lord Fellamar, even after Mrs. Western finds out that Lord Fellamar tried to rape Sophia. (We still can't believe that.) But in spite of all of these struggles, the novel manages to wrap up these frayed family relations by the end of the book, once Sophia is safely married to now-rich Tom.

By the end of Tom Jones, Tom's true goodness and Mr. Blifil's true evil have both been revealed. All of the good things Tom could wish for—love, family, and money—have come to him, while Mr. Blifil has been sent off to live in the north of England in poverty. Since this novel is a classic comedy, all of the plot twists and turns have been safely reconciled by the conclusion. Phew.

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