Study Guide

Tom Jones Hypocrisy

By Henry Fielding

Advertisement - Guide continues below


There are loads of examples in Tom Jones of people saying one thing and doing another: Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square preach morality but have no interest in practicing it. Mrs. Fitzpatrick talks a good game about protecting Sophia from a bad marriage to Mr. Blifil, but she's the one who rats out her cousin to Squire Western. Even Ensign Northerton has a big mouth about honor, but he throws a bottle at Tom's head.

But while these liars often seem obvious and ridiculous in their self-deception, the narrator also has something earnest to say about the dangers of hypocrisy. He tells us that, "a treacherous friend is the most dangerous enemy" (3.4.3). Fielding uses broad jokes about hypocrites to say something deadly serious about how much damage they can do.

Questions About Hypocrisy

  1. At the end of Tom Jones when they are making up, Squire Allworthy congratulates Tom that "hypocrisy […] was never among [his] faults" (18.10.2). What makes hypocrisy so particularly dangerous, according to Squire Allworthy? What specific damage do we see hypocrisy doing over the course of the novel?
  2. Are there some kinds of hypocrisy in Tom Jones that are worse than others? Or are all hypocrites equally dangerous in this book?
  3. Is there a difference between hypocrisy and self-deception? Are there characters who show signs of one but not the other? What overall character traits appear to go with hypocrisy, self-deception, or both?

Chew on This

While some hypocrites in this novel are worse than others, Tom Jones does not distinguish morally between people who pretend to feel love that they do not really feel (such as Mr. Blifil towards Squire Allworthy) and characters who pretend to follow spiritual or philosophical teachings that they do not obey (such as Mr. Thwackum's cruelty in spite of his religious faith).

The ethical difference between hypocrisy and self-deception in Tom Jones is that hypocrisy damages other people while self-deception turns in on the individual.

Tom Jones Hypocrisy Study Group

Ask questions, get answers, and discuss with others.

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

This is a premium product

Please Wait...