Study Guide

Tom Jones Foolishness and Folly

By Henry Fielding

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Foolishness and Folly

It doesn't get much more foolish than blaming the spread of gossip on a witch's curse. Or sending a woman a marriage proposal to make her break up with you. Or assuming that a girl traveling with her maid must be the princess of a distant rebellion.

The characters of Tom Jones do all of these idiotic things (and more). Tom Jones is a satire, which means that it focuses on the folly and weakness of human beings. It exposes its characters' pride, vanity, self-deception—all of those things that make people as a group kind of annoying.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. How does the topic of "Foolishness and Folly" interact with "Society and Class"? Are some social classes more foolish than others in this book?
  2. In this novel, what are some of the differences between foolishness and actual immorality or evil? How does Fielding distinguish between the two?
  3. What are some of Fielding's strategies for representing the foolishness of his characters? What tone does the narrator take towards individual examples of folly in the novel?

Chew on This

By keeping a sense of ironic distance from the characters, the narrator maintains the objectivity to portray their foolishness as a moral lesson to the reader.

The tone of the narrator shifts when he portrays foolishness and immorality: the narrator plays on characters' folly for humor, but he treats violence and deliberate deception seriously.

Tom Jones Foolishness and Folly Study Group

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