Study Guide

Squire Western in Tom Jones

By Henry Fielding

Squire Western

Squire Western lives on the estate next door to Squire Allworthy's, but he is a very different kind of authority figure. He loves drinking and hunting and spends pretty much all of his time riding around the countryside trying to kill small animals. As a result, his language is rough and filled with sports lingo, and he doesn't spend too much of his time thinking or reading, the way Squire Allworthy does.

Squire Western also does not have the same strict moral compass that his nearest neighbor has: when he hears that Molly Seagrim is pregnant, he assumes Tom is the father of her illegitimate child. He thinks it's great that Tom and Molly have been getting it on, since he would "as soon rid the country of foxes" (5.12.18) as stop the local village women from having sex outside of marriage. Clearly, Squire Western enjoys physical pleasure, be it drinking or sex. He's not going to step in to put a stop to anyone else's fun.

Hey Man, She's Your Daughter, Not Your Clone

Still, all of this is not to say that Squire Western is some kind of free-and-easy, laid-back dude. Nope, Squire Western's biggest problem is that he has definite boundary issues. He's happy as a clam as long as everyone around him does exactly what he tells them to. He loves his daughter, Sophia, desperately. He wants her sitting in front of him playing the harpsichord as often as possible. But as soon as Sophia shows any signs of independent thought by refusing to marry Mr. Blifil as her father wishes, he immediately tells her to "die and be d—d" (6.7.12). He becomes completely verbally abusive at a moment's notice.

Squire Western's sudden rage at his supposedly beloved daughter is, frankly, a little scary. He refuses to believe that she can be a good daughter while still remaining an independent woman with her own thoughts and feelings. And Squire Western's rage at Sophia is intense: he actually locks her in a room until she can escape with the help of her maid, Mrs. Honor. And when he finds her again in London, at Lady Bellaston's house, he locks her up once more at his inn after attacking her verbally and nearly hitting her.

Weirdly, though, Squire Western's horribly abusive treatment of Sophia doesn't come in for any kind of punishment in the book. While the novel disapproves of his violence and rage, he never meets any kind of comeuppance. In fact, he gets exactly what he wants: Sophia marries Squire Allworthy's heir (Squire Western doesn't care at all that it's Tom and not Mr. Blifil), settles down in the neighborhood, and gives him two lovely grandchildren. Tom takes over the management of Squire Western's estate, leaving him free to spend all of his time hunting.

Why does Squire Western get a happy ending, even though he's such a bully? One reason may be because of Tom Jones's genre. In our section on "Genre," we mentioned that this book is a classic comedy. One of the original goals of comedy is to bring families back together. But honestly, considering how dangerous Squire Western is to Sophia, we think that the price of family togetherness—Sophia letting bygones be bygones with her violent dad—may be too high.

Squire Western's use of slang and his frequent, blustery arguments with his sister mark him as a comic character. But honestly, we just don't find him that funny. In fact, it's really icky when Tom is trying to woo Sophia in Book 18, Chapter 12, and Squire Western stands right behind him to egg him on.

And when Squire Allworthy comments that Sophia is looking particularly beautiful one night, her father adds that it's good for Tom because "d—n me if he shan't ha the tousling her" (18.12.2). In other words, Squire Western swears to Squire Allworthy that it will be Tom who takes his daughter's virginity. Gross! That's his daughter! Honestly, sometimes this guy gives us the heebie-jeebies.

This Guy's a Judge, Seriously?

Squire Western's bullying tendencies don't just damage his family relationships. He, like Squire Allworthy, is also a local judge for the villagers on his estate. And we find out that he has gotten into trouble several times for making legal decisions based on his own opinions rather than on the strict letter of the law.

It's only the word of his clerk (who actually knows something about law) that keeps Squire Western from using his office as Justice of the Peace to prosecute Mrs. Honour for being rude to Mrs. Western. As the clerk points out, "you cannot legally commit any one to [prison] only for ill-breeding" (7.9.3).

Fielding uses Squire Western to criticize the legal system of his day, where local landed aristocracy often had the right to administer law on their own lands. But just being born a rich gentleman doesn't actually qualify you to be an authority on legal issues. Squire Western knows about as much English Common Law as a cat does, but he has a lot more power than your average feline. Squire Western's fierce temper and strong personal opinions make him an awful judge, but his social position gives him the right to be one. And how is that a good idea?