Study Guide

Mr. Blifil in Tom Jones

By Henry Fielding

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Mr. Blifil

In our Character Analysis of Tom Jones, we said that Tom is like Marvel's Thor: fun loving, cheerful, a little misguided, but well meaning. And we feel like that match-up between Tom and Thor really works. So if Tom is a lot like Thor, then Mr. Blifil should be like Thor's evil, lying manipulative brother, Loki. And they do have some similarities, but honestly, Loki is a heck of a lot crazier, and a heck of a lot cooler.

Like Loki, Mr. Blifil is a deceptive little weasel who will do his best to win any advantage over the sibling figure (in this case, Tom) that he envies. Yet, while there may be surface similarities between Mr. Blifil and Loki, we don't think that Mr. Blifil could rock a two-foot horned helmet.

As the man who sets out to poison Squire Allworthy's mind against Tom by exaggerating his drinking and womanizing, Mr. Blifil is definitely Tom Jones's main bad guy. But he's not a comic-book-style villain; his bad deeds are pretty local and small-scale. By the end, when he realizes that his wrongs against Tom have been revealed, Mr. Blifil falls at Tom's feet and bursts into tears—trying to suck up once again.

His icky, worm-like willingness to seek out the favor of whoever has the most power in the room leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths. This scene when he totally abandons his self-respect in front of a man he still hates and despises shows us how truly low and pathetic Mr. Blifil is.

Where Mr. Blifil Goes Wrong

We know that Mr. Blifil is bad because he doesn't have a first name. As readers, we're on a first-name basis with Tom right away—he's always going by Tom or by Jones, but rarely by Mr. Jones. Fielding keeps it super-formal with Mr. Blifil, though.

Even when he's a child, the novel addresses him as Master Blifil. "Master" was a formal way that servants and common-folk talked to the children of their local gentlemen and lords. This use of "Master" for young Blifil keeps up the novel's sense of distance from this character, as though Blifil thinks he's too good to go by his first name with us, the readers. In comparison with the free-and-easy way the novel addresses Tom, Master/Mister Blifil seems standoffish and unsympathetic.

But beyond how the novel names Mr. Blifil, there are many other traits that mark him as a villain. Here are a few:

Paging the Marquis de Sade

A sadist is a person who enjoys the pain of other people. The novel strongly hints that Mr. Blifil has a deeply sadistic nature. So, when he first hears of the idea that Squire Western wants him to marry Sophia, he agrees because he wants her money. Like his father's relationship to Bridget Allworthy, the woman seems to come in second in importance to the lands and cash Mr. Blifil will get through their marriage.

But as Mr. Blifil realizes that Sophia hates him and loves Tom, he starts to have pretty gross thoughts. In fact, Mr. Blifil thinks the idea of forcing Sophia to marry him against her will is exciting. Not only does Mr. Blifil find Sophia more attractive when she is looking at him with hatred, but he also likes the idea of, in some sense, defeating both her and Tom, the man he envies and despises. As the narrator says, the fact that Mr. Blifil disgusts Sophia "served rather to heighten the pleasure he proposed in rifling her charms, as it added triumph to lust" (7.6.12).

We can contrast Mr. Blifil's desire to rape Sophia with Tom's sexual habits. Tom really enjoys women, but there is always enthusiastic consent on both sides. The novel specifies that Molly Seagrim, Mrs. Waters, and Lady Bellaston all set out to seduce Tom, rather than the other way around. Fielding is definitely drawing a moral distinction between the violent, controlling lust that Mr. Blifil feels and Tom's positive and respectful sexual desire.

Ask No Favors

Okay, we'll give an example of Mr. Blifil's ungenerous nature. Most of Tom's troubles in Book 3 arise from his friendship with the gamekeeper, Black George. Even though Black George is a bit of a scoundrel, Tom feels bad for his starving family and does his best to provide them with money and help when he can. Even when Squire Allworthy fires Black George for poaching, Tom still keeps trying to sneak his family cash.

Mr. Blifil, on the other hand, has none of Tom's mercy for this man. He thinks that Black George has broken the law against hunting animals on other people's land, and he should suffer for it. So when Mr. Blifil hears that Tom is trying to get Squire Allworthy to re-hire Black George after a year out of work, Mr. Blifil cannot "endure the though of suffering his uncle to confer favours on the undeserving" (3.10.2). In other words, he can't stand the thought that Squire Allworthy is going to do a favor for this rule-breaker. So Mr. Blifil makes sure to turn Squire Allworthy against Black George once more.

In spite of the fact that he is, himself, a liar, Mr. Blifil absolutely insists on the importance of maintaining the appearance of good, law-abiding behavior. In fact, maybe it is because he is such a cheater that he cares so much about punishing people without mercy. He's trying to show the world what an upstanding man he is by viciously correcting everyone else around him. But while his mercilessness and lack of generosity may fool people like Mr. Thwackum into thinking he is a virtuous man, we know the truth.

Hyper Hypocrite

Even when Mr. Blifil is a kid, we see signs of his two-faced nature. He flatters Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square whenever he gets the chance. Even though the two men have totally opposed ideas about the world, "with one he was all religion, with the other he was all virtue. And when both were present, he was profoundly silent, which both interpreted in his favor and their own" (3.5.11). So, Mr. Blifil is a deeply successful suck-up. And with Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square on his side, Mr. Blifil has two more tools to use against Tom.

We've said that hypocrisy is one of the major themes of Tom Jones. (For more on this, go check out our "Quotes and Thoughts" section.) Fielding really hates liars, like, above all else. And since Mr. Blifil is one of the biggest hypocrites of them all, it makes sense that he comes across as the worst villain of this novel.

Mr. Blifil in Tom Jones Study Group

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