The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, simply known as Tom Jones, is a comic novel by English playwright and novelist Henry Fielding (1707-1754). It was first published on 28 February 1749. Tom Jones is a comic romance and narrated in 18 books. The concept of the story is, an orphan boy grows under the kindness of his guardian. As he grows up, he becomes a womanizer and witnesses funny and serious mischief. He finally meets his lady love, of course after a lot of mishaps. Let’s see the detailed summary below.
Tom Jones starts with Squire Allworthy, a kind and wealthy landowner who lives with his unmarried sister Bridget at the estate, Paradise Hall, in southwestern England.Allworthy returns from London and finds an abandoned baby sleeping in his bed. After investigating, it appears that a local woman named Jenny Jones is the guilty mother. She accepts that this is her child but refuses to reveal the father’s identity. Kind Mr. Allworthy gives her money and asks her to leave. Despite all criticism, Squire decides to raise the child and names him “Tom”.
Very attractive Bridget Allworthy is the key for gold-digger guys who want to be rich. Since Squire is a widower so all the inherited handsome property would be going to Bridget and her children. Bridget marries Captain Bilfil and then gives birth to a baby boy, Master Blifil. Caption Bilfil disregards and is against Tom Jones as he wants his son to inherit all Allworthy’s property. But Captain Bilfil dies from apoplexy.
The narrator jumps twelve years and Tom is now a teenager. Tom always causes trouble and steals things. Though he is a huge mischief-maker but also a kind-hearted youth. Bilfil and Tom have been brought up together. Tom steals apples and ducks to support the poor family of Black George, servant of Mr. Allworthy. Because of Tom’s behavior, two of his tutor Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square are against Tom and favors Bilfil. Bilfil knows to play games and to be in the good books of anyone.
Sophia Western, daughter of Allworthy’s neighbor Squire Western falls in love with Tom. Tom also likes Sophia but is confused as he is having on and off love affair with Molly Seagrim, daughter of Black George. Molly gets pregnant and Tom saves her from Allworthy who is sending her to prison by admitting that it is his child. Tom discovers that Molly is promiscuous, and he is not the father of Molly’s child. He frees himself from Molly’s and confesses his love to beautiful and charming Sophia. Ahh! at last, but will they live happily ever after? Nope, not so soon ☹
Squire Allworthy falls sick and seems he would die. So, he calls his lawyer and he read out his will. Allworthy’s will states that most of this estate would be inherited by Bilfil, though Tom also gets a favorable amount of his wealth. Tom feels sad by seeing Allworthy’s condition and not leaving his side. But surprisingly, Allworthy gets well. Instead, her sister Bridget dies. Tom gets drunk and celebrates Squire Allworthy’s recovery. While he is sunken in joy and alcohol, he gets into a fight with Bilfil, who calls him an “illegal child”. Later he ends up making love with Molly. Though he loves Sophia, it seems he is a womanizer.
Meanwhile, Sophia’s aunt Mrs. Western visiting the estate realizes that Sophia is in love. But, oops! There is a misconception, she thinks Sophia loves Bilfil. Out of mistake, she keeps this proposal in front of his brother. Since Bilfil is rich and the apple of his eyes, her daughter is marrying the next door. Squire Western accepts the proposal. When Sophia’s aunt comes to know the truth, she tells her brother about the real feeling of Sophia towards Tom. Squire Western angrily disapproves of this love and goes to Squire All worthy.
When Squire Allworthy comes to know about Tom he feels sad. Next, Bilfil comes and adds oil to the fire. He tells Allworthy about Tom’s secret life. He says Tom is a drunker and womanizer. And, when he and Mr. Thwackum try to teach him the right and peaceful life path, Tom attacks them. Honest Tom admits about his earlier fight with Bilfil when he was drunk. After hearing this, Allworthy has no choice and he throws Tom out of the house. Tom does not want to leave Sophia in his situation, but he chooses a respectful path and leaves.
On the other side, Sophia revolts against marring Bilfil. Squire Western gets violent with Sophia and forces her to marry Bilfil. Billfil knows that Sophia hates her. But he wants to marry Sophia for her money which later converts into physical lust. Sophia feels it better to run away instead of marrying Bilfil. So, she sneaks out of her house with her maid, Mrs. Honour.
After leaving the house, Tom wanders around and finds Mr. Partridge. Mr. Partridge is Tom’s rumored father about twenty years ago. But he confirms Tom, I t’s not true. Partridge offers Tom his company on the journey. And Tom accepts his offer. During Tom and Partridge’s wandering, Tom rescues a lady, Mrs. Waters. This attractive old lady, Mrs. Waters, and Tom are having affair and they end up sleeping in a room of a local inn. Later this night Tom witness few visitors. First, Mr. Fitzpatrick, who is searching for his wife. He sees Mrs. Waters with Tom and realizes that the lady is not his wife. Second, Sophia Ohh!! yes, Sophia. Partridge unknowingly tells Sophia about Tom having affair with Mrs. Waters.
Sophia reaches London and stays with her lady relative Lady Bellaston. Soon, Tom and Partridge also arrive in London. Tom starts seeing Lady Bellaston and has an intense affair with her. Lady Bellaston supports Tom financially while he is living in London.
Finally, in the last chapter of Book 13, Sophia and Tom see each other. Tom apologizes to Sophia on his knees about Mrs. Waters. Shopia forgives him. When Lady Bellaston knows about the two. She stays quiet but is too jealous and decides to separate these two love birds. She pokes Lord Fellamar, who is interested in Sophia. She asks her to rape Sophia first, then she would have to marry him. To execute this horrible plan, Lady Bellaston makes sure that Lord Fellamar and Sophia are in a room alone. When Lord Fellamar tries to assault Sophia, Sophia’s father unexpectedly arrives and saves her daughter.
Now, Squire Western, Mrs. Western, Squire Allworthy, and Bilfil all are in London. The father again forces Sophia to marry Bilfil. Mrs.Western in influence with Lady Bellaston comes with a new idea of marrying her niece with Lord Fellamar. Meanwhile, Lady Bellaston and Lord Fellamar plans to throw Tom out of London and hires some gang to execute this work.
Unfortunately, Tom bumps into Mr. Fitzpatrick, who assumes Tom and his wife are having affair. His wife is coincidently Sophia’s cousin Harriet. He attacks Tom and accidentally stabs Mr. Fitzpatrick. Gang hired by Lord Fellamar testifies against Tom and the judge announces prison to Tom for the murder. In prison, Mrs. Waters visits Tom. She tells Tom that Mr. Fitzpatrick is alive. On the other side. Mr. Fitzpatrick also tells everyone that he was the one who attacked Tom. So now Tom would not be in imprisonment.
Partridge also visited Tom in prison and sees Mrs. Waters there. He quickly recognizes Mrs. Waters and reveals it to Tom. That Mrs. Waters is only Jenny Jones, the alleged mother of Tom Jones. This time Tom genuinely feels disgusted that his womanizing behavior has brought him to commit this incest and wonders how he would face Sophia after committing this sinful deed.
Partridge meets Squire Allworthy and tells him about Tom. He explains that Tom is not a murderer, but he slept with his mother Jenny Jones. Fortunately, Mrs. Waters arrives on time and tells the truth to Allworthy. She reveals that she is not the mother of Tom and the real mother is his late sister Bridget. She also unwinds the truth about Bilfil that he is trying to bribe people against Tom to testify the murder. Bilfil knows all these times that Tom is his step-brother from the letter from her mother, which was supposed for his brother Squire Allworthy. Since then, he is trying to plot a game against Tom so that Allworthy throws Tom out of his will.
Allworthy disinherits Bilfil and adopts Tom as his legal heir. So now when it is revealed that Tom is a blood-relative of Allworthy and has the inherited money. Squire Western now approves the marriage. Tom is released from jail. He apologizes to Sophia (this time honestly) for being a womanizer. She forgives him. They both get married and have two children. They live happily ever after in Western’s estate showing kindness and generosity to everyone around them.
Henry Fielding’s “Tom Jones” throws massive light on the 18th-century society of England. This novel contains a strong infusion of autobiographical elements. For example, The Character Sophia was based on Fielding’s wife Charlotte, who was his one great love. The novel manifests many themes such as hypocrisy, social scenario, patriotism, relations, religion, love, sex, life in London, the concept of virtue, and politics. Instead, Henry breaks many rules of novel writing; he could not clarify the type or category of Tom Jones. The novel is full of love, suspense, and drama. The story is narrated in such an interesting manner that it increases the thrust in the reader to complete the series of eighteen books.