Study Guide

Tom Jones Plot Analysis

By Henry Fielding

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Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

Kindly Squire Adopts Unknown Baby

The big mystery at the start of Tom Jones surrounds our hero's origin story: is Tom really the son of Jenny Jones, the servant, and Mr. Partridge, the former schoolteacher? As an illegitimate child, Tom can't really expect to inherit a ton of money from Squire Allworthy. The whole estate is going to go to the squire's legitimate nephew Blifil. So what's going to happen to Tom, who is technically lower class by birth, but who is also still being raised as an upper-class gentleman? How is he going to find any stability in his life, when he is caught between high and low social positions and has no money to his name?


Kindly Squire Decides that Unknown Baby (Now Grown Up and Named Tom) is Kind of a Jerk, Throws Him Out of the House

Fast forward a decade and a half or so. Tom is becoming a big player with the ladies. He already has a girlfriend, Molly Seagrim, when he realizes that he is actually truly, desperately in love with his neighbor, Sophia Western. While it turns out that Molly's child isn't necessarily Tom's after all (luckily for Tom), the fact that he has been seducing women in the area does not impress his guardian, Squire Allworthy. And when Sophia refuses to marry the squire's nephew Mr. Blifil because she's already in love with Tom, that's another black mark against him in the squire's book.

The final straw for Squire Allworthy's relationship with Tom comes when Mr. Blifil makes up a whole story about Tom being a nasty, punch-happy drunk. This story isn't true, but Squire Allworthy believes it. So, three strikes and Tom is out: between the women, the drinking, and the violence, Squire Allworthy cuts Tom off from his financial support and kicks Tom out of his house. Since Tom has no direct legal or blood relationship to Squire Allworthy, he can't protest this treatment. So Tom loses his girl and his home in the space of just a few chapters.


Tom Tries to Figure Out What the Heck to Do Next; His Girlfriend Also Runs Away From Home

While Tom is off walking the roads of southwest England trying to find something for himself to do, things aren't completely peaceful back home in Somerset. Squire Western tries to force Sophia to marry Mr. Blifil against her will. Sophia decides her only option is to run away from home. So now, both the lovers are out on the road, Tom and Sophia. Will they meet somewhere in this wide, wild world? Will they make their star-crossed romance work, in spite of the fact that Squire Western is dead set against his daughter marrying a bastard like Tom?


Tom and His Girlfriend Cross Paths While Tom's In Bed With Another Woman: Total Disaster

Since Tom and Sophia are both on the road in roughly the same area, we aren't too surprised that they cross paths during their travels. What is a little surprising is that Tom is hooking up with another woman at this inn at Upton when Sophia arrives and hears that he is there. Why does Tom sleep with someone else when he is supposed to be desperately in love with Sophia? Well, he may adore Sophia. But he also recognizes that the two of them are probably never going to get married. And he likes sex. So when Mrs. Waters—who is a total hottie—makes Tom an offer, he decides to take her up on it.

It is Tom's horrible luck that Sophia happens to be around at the inn while all of this is going on. Once Sophia hears (a) that Tom is in bed with someone else, and (b) that there is a lot of gossip circulating about her (since she assumes that Tom has been blabbing her name all over the place), she decides to go straight to London (do not pass Go, do not collect $200). So now, Tom and Sophia's relationship seems as far from settled as it's possible to get: Sophia thinks Tom has betrayed her, and Tom doesn't know where she is, so he can't apologize.


How Is Tom Supposed to Get His Girl Back When She Thinks He's a Lying, Cheating, Snake?

Once Tom and Sophia reach London, things are kind of at a standstill. Even though they are in the same city at last, it seems harder than ever to make their relationship work. Sophia is torn between Lady Bellaston and then Mrs. Western, who both eagerly want her to marry Lord Fellamar (even though he almost rapes her). When Squire Western comes back into the picture, he also starts up his old tune of Sophia-you-have-to-marry-Mr.-Blifil-right-now-or-I-will-hate-you-forever. (Urgh.)

And as for Tom, he is stuck in the clutches of Lady Bellaston, who is (a) giving him money (which is very important for keeping clothes on his back and a roof over his head while Tom is in London) and (b) making his love life very difficult. As Lady Bellaston continues to sleep with Tom, she also knows all about his feelings for Sophia. She is so dead set against Tom ending up with Sophia that she finally convinces Lord Fellamar to try and kidnap Tom to get rid of him. (Her logic is of the if-I-can't-have-him-no-one-can variety.)

So during their stay in London, Tom and Sophia barely have time to think of each other, let alone pursue a romantic relationship. The fact that Sophia knows Tom has slept with Mrs. Waters and even proposed to Lady Bellaston makes it hard to imagine that these two kids will ever make it work.


Tom Apologizes and Swears—This Time, It'll Be Different, Baby!

There are a bunch of things standing in the way of Tom and Sophia's marriage, including Tom's low birth, his total lack of cash or a permanent home, and the Westerns' desire for Sophia to marry Lord Fellamar or Mr. Blifil or anyone-but-Tom. But the biggest obstacle is really Sophia's anger at Tom for his unfaithfulness. Tom keeps saying that he loves Sophia and only Sophia, but the fact that he sleeps with Molly Seagrim, Mrs. Waters, and Lady Bellaston makes his love difficult for Sophia to believe.

It's in Book 17, Chapter 6 when Tom honestly swears to Sophia that he is going to stay 100% true to her, that we see a light at the end of the tunnel. Tom is finally going to behave like a real fiancé to Sophia, instead of a guy who loves her a lot but also likes the look of lots other ladies. There are a ton of loose ends that the novel spends most of Books 17 and 18 fully wrapping up. But we identify this moment as the real beginning of Tom Jones's denouement, when all of the details of the book begin to come together.


Actually, Tom Really Has Turned Over a New Leaf, and Both His Girlfriend and the Kindly Squire Forgive Him for Being Kind of a Jerk (Especially Since It's Not All His Fault)

After solving all of the major, outstanding mysteries of the plot of Tom Jones in Books 17 and 18, the last chapter of Tom Jones gives us the low-down on the final fates of each of our major characters. A few of the bad characters are punished: for example, Mr. Blifil receives a smallish allowance of three hundred pounds a year, but he has been totally cut off from that huge inheritance he was expecting.

There are also lots of marriages for the good guys (since this is a comedy with a classic happy ending): Mrs. Waters marries Mr. Supple, Molly Seagrim is going to marry Partridge, and of course, Tom marries Sophia. Tom could not be happier with this outcome. The big mystery of his origin story has also been solved, and he is rich and respected throughout the area. So all is well that end's well with Tom Jones.

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