Study Guide

Tom Jones Lies and Deceit

By Henry Fielding

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Lies and Deceit

Lots of people lie in Tom Jones: Bridget lies about being Tom's mom, Mr. Blifil lies about Tom attacking him, and Lady Bellaston lies to Lord Fellamar about Tom's class status. But we're less interested in those outright untruths; the real fibs that we care about are the ones that the characters tell to themselves.

These self-deceptions go from tiny white lies to huge whoppers. On the lower end of the scale would be Partridge, who is very puffed up about his "learning," when it's clear his Latin sucks. On the upper end of the self-deception scale would be Tom's belief that he can truly love Sophia—and convince her of the fact—while still sleeping with a series of women on the side. It's only once Tom recognizes how badly he's hurting Sophia with his behavior that the two of them can begin to patch things up.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Is there anyone in this novel who does not lie? How does this honesty affect their characterization? If there are multiple characters who do not lie, then what traits do they share in common? If there are no totally honest characters, than what does this say about the novel's portrayal of human nature?
  2. When is lying justified in Tom Jones? Are there moments when it would be immoral or unethical to tell the truth?
  3. How do lies relate to gossip in this novel? If a gossiping character says something false without realizing that he is exaggerating or misspeaking, is it still a lie? What untruths circulate in the novel, and how do they affect the plot?

Chew on This

In Tom Jones, the fact that the gossip circulating around the innsis generally exaggerated and incorrect implies that the tendency of groups of people will always be to lie and deceive.

Squire Allworthy never lies, but his own honesty makes it hard for him to see deceitfulness in other people. Thus, in a sense, Squire Allworthy's honesty is actually a social and moral obstacle for him, because it makes it more difficult for him to judge his fellow characters correctly.

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