The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Summary and Analysis of Book 17


Chapter 1

The narrator notes that his work would be nearly finished were it a tragedy, but that it is harder to deliver characters to happiness than to distress. In earlier ages, writers used deities and supernatural forces to facilitate their desired end, but in his form of historical fiction, he is unwilling to use such devices.

Chapter 2

Allworthy and Mrs. Miller are at breakfast when Blifil arrives. Mrs. Miller speaks highly of Tom, but Blifil imparts the news that Tom has killed a man.

Chapter 3

Squire Western arrives at Mrs. Miller's, with the news that another man has proposed to his daughter. Allworthy has realized Sophia's disinterest in Blifilt, so he suggests they cancel the marriage plans. Both Squire Western and Blifil protest, the former from anger and the latter from a belief that she is merely fixated on Tom. Allworthy suggests that marrying when one party is disinclined is to marry against nature.

Chapter 4

The narrator compares a young woman with both wealth and beauty to a hunted deer, because she is so desirable. He notes that this describes Sophia's situation.

Sophia is frustrated because, although she is no longer being forced towards Blifil, she is now being forced towards Lord Fellamar. Mrs. Western insists she will return Sophia to her father if she does not consent to the newly proposed match. Sophia reveals the details of the attempted rape, and Mrs. Western promises never to leave them alone again.

Chapter 5

Partridge tells Tom that Mr. Fitzpatrick is not, in fact, dead. Mrs. Miller agrees to visit Sophia on Tom’s behalf. Nightingale also agrees to investigate the details of the duel to help Tom's defense.

Chapter 6

Mrs. Miller visit Sophia, who does not want to receive Tom’s letter. However, Mrs. Miller's persistence convinces her to accept it. In the letter, he claims he can explain the events of his proposal to Lady Bellaston, but does not offer any specifics to alleviate her anger. Sophia then agrees to socialize with Lady Bellaston and Lord Fellmar at the opera, and then at a card game.

Chapter 7

Mrs. Miller talks to Allworthy about his estrangement from Tom. Through her stories, Allworthy begins to realize the extent of Tom’s virtues. Blifil arrives with Mr. Dowling, their attorney, who is now working with Blifil.

Chapter 8

Mrs. Western continues to support Lord Fellamar's suit. However, Sophia rebukes him for his attempted rape, and flatly denies him. When Mrs. Western hears this (from eavesdropping), she is angry. Betty, the servant, tells Mrs. Western about the letter Sophia received from Tom. When Mrs. Miller next visits the house, she is directed to Mrs. Western, to whom she inadvertently tells the entire story of their courtship.

Mrs. Western scolds Sophia for communication with Tom, and insists she will return the girl to Squire Western the next day.

Chapter 9

Nightingale visits Tom in prison, and tells him that the witnesses do not support his version of events. This is terrible news. Mrs. Waters also visits Tom, and tells him that Mr. Fitzpatrick's wound is not fatal.


The theme of loyalty begins to manifest in Tom's situation. At the beginning of the this Book, the narrator dramatically outlines Tom’s desperate position: “ so destitute is he now of friends, and so persecuted by enemies, that we almost despair of bringing him to any good” (777). However, his selflessness is now beginning to pay dividends. Mrs. Miller represents his cause with both Sophia and Allworthy. She is particularly valuable in the latter case, where her entreaties plant the seeds of doubt in the man's mind. Similarly, Nightingale exhaustively investigates the circumstances of Tom’s arrest. Partridge also remains his loyal supporter and is able to gain information from the lower orders of society. Even Mrs. Waters, to whom he was once so kind, arrives and hopes to prove useful to him. Though the narrator believes that virtue does not ensure happiness, he is interested in crafting a happy end (as he notes in this Book's prologue), but quite cleverly orchestrates this by having the good come from the hero's previous kindnesses.

Fielding's plot becomes more complicated as he nears the end. Several characters are now in London, setting the stage for the final resolution. Almost every character is confused about the motive of others, and there are several who continue to play ruses. Despite all this confusion, Tom makes a passionate appeal that his life will take a positive turn as he has tried to do the right thing - “I hope the Divine Goodness will one day suffer my honour to be cleared” (808).

There is yet more criticism of the medical profession in this Book. In Chapter 9, Mrs. Waters reveals that Mr. Fitzpatrick’s wound is not fatal. She attributes the misdiagnosis to a young and enthusiastic surgeon who was hoping that Mr. Fitzpatrick’s wondrous recovery from his deathbed would be heralded as a miracle of his making. However, the patient was then seen by the king’s surgeon, who gave a more balanced prognosis. We see yet again that Fielding does not think much of professional doctors.