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ENL 4122
English Novel


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


Class 7

Reading Assignment:

Feb. 1 Tom Jones Books IV-VI, through p. 210
    Post #3 (Group B)
    Historical Annotation: Michelle Carey presentation

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Class Objectives:

  • To compare the Molly Seagrim and Sophia Western
  • To compare Tom Jones and Blifil
  • To consider the question: What makes the figure of a bastard child so interesting/ troubling in eighteenth-century novels?

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Notes and Discussion Questions:

Before we begin today's reading questions, we will return to the discussion of the narrator's purpose -- specifically as outlined in his dedicatory letter on page 7. In conjunction with Tucker's post, we will consider how Fielding represents the inner and outer qualities of a character. Does the outer representation of character serve as a true measure of the inner character? If not, how do we judge a person? This is a central problem the novel takes up over and over again. See also book III. chap. VIII.

Note how the author ascribes beauty to virtue. Is this an outer beauty or an inner beauty? Can they ever be confused?

Also we will return to Allworthy's view of LOVE because this, too, is important for the development of the plot. See three posts.

1. Molly Seagrim and Sophia Western

Tom Jones is thematically unified by the question of how one makes a valid judgment. The novel begins with Allworthy's judgment of Jenny Jones and of Tom Jones in two separate "crimes." Fielding's narrative structure highlights the readers' ability to judge as well, as he draws you into a story of half-truths, understatements and hyperbole. He tests the readers ability to read carefully.

See page 138 the opening chapter of Book V on contrast. Note how this parallel returns us to the issue of outer beauty / inner beauty.

If, as Samuel Johnson would say, all judgment is comparative, than Fielding provides us many opportunities to practice our judgment in this section. We will focus on the comparisons among the four chief "lovers" of this section: Molly, Sophia, Tom and Blifil.

How does the narrator introduce Sophia? What is the effect of this?

Why is Sophia inclined toward TJ and not Blifil?

How is Molly Seagrim described? (Compare the narrator's use of the mock-epic mode in the Molly narrative.)

Why, THEN, is TJ NOT inclined toward Sophia? What is "gallantry" and what role does it play in TJ's character?

How can TJ love Sophia but "cavort" with Molly?

Given the attitudes toward FORNICATION described by Allworthy (and evident in the laws discussed by Staves), what happens to our "fornicators"? How does the narrator treat this "sin"?

Examine Fielding's representation of Sophia's love as a disease (p. 130). What does the metaphor suggest about her "condition"?

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2. Tom Jones and Blifil

Early on Sophia discerns the differences between Tom Jones and Blifil -- how does she assess them?

After the initial Molly episode, how does TJ feel about Sophia and how do we know? How does he resolve his conflict of duty toward Molly?

Fielding's depiction of Blifil's "courtship" and the approval he receives from the paternal figures of the novel creates an ironic tension in the relationship between Sophia and Tom. Why is Blifil approved?

How do each of these male characters respond to Allworthy's impending death? To Mrs. Bridget Allworthy's actual death?

What errors lead to Jone's dismissal from Paradise?

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3. Implications

With regard to marriage, at this point in the novel, what role does love actually play? What role does the narrative suggest love SHOULD play and what creates the difference?

What role does class or wealth or status play?

How are marriage decisions different for men than for women in this novel?



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