Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 1, Chapter 6

By Henry Fielding

Book 1, Chapter 6

Mrs. Wilkins Is Introduced into the Parish With a Simile. A Short Account of Jenny Jones, With the Difficulties and Discouragements Which May Attend Young Women in the Pursuit of Learning

  • Because Mrs. Wilkins is a servant to Squire Allworthy, she likes to bully the people even lower down than she is on the social ladder. What a sweetie.
  • As she swoops into Squire Allworthy's village, all the poor residents hide themselves from her.
  • She goes straight to the house of an elderly woman in the village.
  • Together, the two of them try to figure who among the girls in the village might be the mother of this baby.
  • They decide that it must be Jenny Jones.
  • Mrs. Wilkins remembers that Jenny Jones has been spending a lot of time at Squire Allworthy's house lately.
  • In fact, she was there the day before Squire Allworthy returned home! (This must be suspicious!)
  • Mrs. Wilkins demands to see Jenny.
  • She accuses Jenny of being the mother of a bastard.
  • Jenny admits that she is the one who left the baby in Squire Allworthy's bed.
  • The villagers (who have all gathered around to watch the commotion) join Mrs. Wilkins in shouting insults at Jenny Jones.
  • Mrs. Wilkins rushes to tell Squire Allworthy the news.
  • (In addition to being a wealthy landowner, Squire Allworthy is also the local magistrate (a "magistrate" is a small-time, local judge).
  • So Mrs. Wilkins wants Squire Allworthy to treat Jenny Jones as a criminal.)
  • Bridget and Squire Allworthy are both shocked that Jenny is the child's mother because they have always had a good opinion of her.
  • Squire Allworthy tells Mrs. Wilkins to bring Jenny to him.
  • Mrs. Wilkins and the villagers want Squire Allworthy to send Jenny to a "House of Correction."
  • (A "house of correction" was a kind of minimum-security prison for low-level criminal offenders, beggars, and homeless people.)
  • According to English law back in the day, poor people sent to these houses of correction could be forced to work as punishment for their petty crimes.