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ENL 4122
English Novel


Spring 2006
Time: Monday and Wednesday
11-12:15 pm


Class 6

Reading Assignment:

Jan. 30 Tom Jones Books I-III, through p. 98
    Post #3 (Group A)
    Historical Annotation: presentation

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Class Objectives:

  • To discuss the differences between Fielding and Defoe (briefly)
  • To discuss the "foundling" -- allegory -- and character of Tom Jones
  • To discuss the representation of LOVE!

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Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Fielding and Defoe

While Defoe is sometimes included in traditional accounts of the "rise of the novel" (a narrative that in itself has been somewhat exploded), Fielding has always occupied a secure place as a founding father of the novel. What strikes you about their differences in writing style and matter? How might this account for their relative positions in the history of the novel?

The novel, Tom Jones is by many accounts the greatest comic novel of the century; its publication came at one of the most remarkable times in history of English novel. Dec. 6, 1748 the final volumes of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa – the greatest tragic novel of century was published. There was a public antipathy between these two novelists, yet Fielding loved Clarissa and sent Richardson a letter of praise on it. Feb. 10, 1749 -- two months later -- was publication date for Tom Jones. It was already sold out of first edition by that date. The novel went through a total of four editions of 10,000 copies by September 1749 (for more details, see the Textual Appendix by Sheridan Baker in our text, p. 642).

What makes this novel unique? What features can you identify that differ in technique or form? What features can you identify in terms of tone, or philosophical outlook? What features can you identify in terms of scope, character or setting?

In particular, pay attention to Fielding's method of telling a story. How is this different from Defoe? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

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2. "Foundling" -- Allegory and the character of Tom Jones

Foundling: Date: 14th century : an infant found after its unknown parents have abandoned it.

At the heart of the novel is the mystery of Tom Jones parents. Abandoning a child is a sin and a crime as is -- as you learned from the Staves article -- FORNICATION. Examine the "trial" of Jenny Jones and Partridge. What is Allworthy most concerned about?

In what sense is this opening action symbolic or allegorical? (Consider that it is the story of a bastard abandoned in Paradise, who – through the excesses of his character and the malice of his enemies – is banished by the end of Book VI. [This revelation cannot be too much of a plot spoiler, can it? You saw it coming...])

How does Fielding's habit of naming characters and places contribute to the allegorical or universal implications of the plot?

Examine the character of Tom Jones. What is he like? (Compare and contrast with our narrator from Roxana.) Note that Fielding introduces our hero early in Book I only to leave his character undeveloped for eighty pages. In the meantime he shows us the characters of those who surround him. What is the point of this characterization? What can we learn from the context of Jones’ birth and upbringing? Why is this important?

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3. LOVE

Finally you guys get to talk about LOVE. But is this the sort of love you have in mind when you think of romance?

Fielding tells us in his letter of dedication that he is strictly concerned to "recommend Goodness and Innocence" in this history. He makes an elaborate metaphor between the attraction a man feels toward a beautiful woman and the appeal of virtue personified as a beautiful female. He tells us that men's "true interest directs them to a Pursuit of her." The novel develops this parallel in many ways. In what sense is virtue beautiful? In what sense is beauty virtuous? And how does a man, namely Tom Jones, know where his "true interest lies"?

Examine Allworthy's first mention of love in his didactic lecture to Jenny Jones on her loss of chastity, p. 37. What type of LOVE does Allworthy recommend? How would you characterize Allworthy's judgment in this instance?

Examine these other opportunities for discussing LOVE:

  • Fielding’s playful description of Briget’s desire on page 46.
  • Allworthy’s justification of Briget’s marriage (for love) on 49-50.

    What type(s) of Love is the story about? Does money play any role in these love-relationships?



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