Study Guide

Tom Jones Family

By Henry Fielding

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Tom Jones is a foundling, which means that he's not related by blood to any of the people who raise him (or so he thinks). But Tom definitely has a family: he admires Squire Allworthy a whole heck of a lot, he fights with Mr. Blifil the way any mismatched set of siblings might, and he wants to marry Sophia enough to change his entire way of living for her by the end of the novel.

So Tom Jones raises all kinds of questions about the otherkinds of bonds that draw together (or tear apart) families, including love, obedience, gratitude, and respect. It's an old saying that you can't choose your family. But that saying isn't true in Tom Jones: the characters in this book can and do choose who fits in to their families—and who just doesn't belong.

Questions About Family

  1. Tom Jones includes a number of characters who have been disowned by their families. What behaviors have lead to these disownments? What do these characters have in common? Why are some successful in returning to their families while some are not?
  2. A lot of the family drama in Tom Jones happens between siblings. How does Fielding portray brothers and sisters? How do the arguments between brothers and sisters in this novel compare to those between husband and wife or parent and kid?
  3. What makes a good parent in Tom Jones? Who are the good parents in this novel, and how do they differ from the bad ones?

Chew on This

Tom Jones presents a contradictory model for good parent-child relationships, in which parents must have power over their children but not use it (like Squire Allworthy), while children should have free choice but must still listen to their parents (like Tom Jones, eventually).

While Tom Jones emphasizes the importance of respecting positive authority of father figures such as Squire Allworthy, the oppressiveness of bad fathers such as Squire Western or Nightingale Senior imply that it is legitimate for children to be disobedient if their guardians are unwise or unjust.

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