Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 5, Chapter 1

By Henry Fielding

Book 5, Chapter 1

Of the Serious in Writing, and For What Purpose It Is Introduced

  • The parts of Tom Jones that the narrator finds hardest to write are the chapters at the beginning of each book, which lay out a bit of context and theory for this work as a whole.
  • He has decided that his novel needs these chapters because that is what he has decided—why do we need more reason than that?
  • All of these rules about what can and cannot go into drama just exist so that critics find it easier to take apart other people's work.
  • The real job of the critic should be to take notes from the true judgesof artistic merit: the people who actually do the writing.
  • Through the ages, though, critics have become more and more powerful.
  • They do their best to impose their meaningless rules on literary form, without paying any attention to the substance of people's work.
  • That's why our narrator is going to ignore all these critical rules on supposed "good writing."
  • He is going to explain the reasonsfor why he is doing certain things with this novel, so that we can judge his project on our own.
  • The narrator's main goal is to bring out the very beautiful by showing it in contrast with the deeply ugly.
  • The possibilities for comedy in these contrasts are also endless.
  • Many artists use this technique, but they don't focus on the theory of it.
  • Sometimes the plot needs to slow down and get boring to set off the exciting bits even more.
  • So if you hit a patch when things get very serious and dull, you can be sure that's part of the narrator's plan.
  • He has to alternate the fun stuff with the less-fun (like this yawn-inducing chapter).