The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Summary and Analysis of Book 4


Chapter 1

The narrator defines his writing by the truth it represents, which is in stark contrast to the embellished fiction fit only to line pastry tins. He suggests that all books should be read in the spirit in which they were written, and admits that while representing the truth in this work, he also uses literary devices for the sake of enjoyment. For instance, he notes that the introduction of the heroine requires serious and respectful treatment.

Chapter 2

The heroine, Sophia, is introduced. She is compared to to mythical figures, artists’ models, poets’ muses and sculptors' inspirations. She is revered both for her looks and her intellect.

Chapter 3

Master Bifil’s cruelty is documented in the story of a bird given to Sophia by Tom. When they let Blifil hold the bird, he throws it into the air. Blifil explains his actions as compassion for the caged creature. Tom tries to recover the bird from a tree limb, but in the attempt falls from the tree into a canal. Squire Western tells Sophia not to cry so much, but he is upset over Blifil’s mean act, and would have beaten the boy if he were the boy's father.

Chapter 4

Thwackum and Square debate the captivity of Sophia’s bird and Blifil's actions. Square thinks it was wrong to confine it, whereas Thwackum thinks it was cruel to deprive Sophia of it. Allworthy chooses to believe that Blifil was acting out of goodness. Squire Western, however, is most impressed with Tom's gallantry in trying to recover the bird. The narrator reflects that his early affinity for Tom will affect later events and relationships.

Chapter 5

After the bird incident, Sophia clearly prefers Tom to Blifil. Tom is kind to her, but is not yet captivated by her charms.

Tom asks Sophia to support him in his appeal to Squire Western regarding Black George. In return, she asks that he avoid dangerous hunting grounds when hunting with her father, so that she can worry less. He agrees. Squire Western loves Sophia very deeply, and particularly enjoys hearing her play the harpsichord as he gets drunk in the evenings. That night, she plays her father's favorite popular music, and he says he will consider taking on Black George.

As time passes, Thwackum and Square become more jealous of Tom, as Bridget continues to favor him into his adulthood, and they see him as a threat to any potential suits they may engage in for her hand.

Chapter 6

The narrator explains that some readers will already criticize Tom's lack of interest in Sophia. However, he ascribes this seeming disinterest to Tom's manner, whereby he always wants to do the right thing, though this may not necessarily come to fruition. Tom has a strong moral conscience despite his impetuous nature.

Tom was already enamored of Molly Seagrim, Black George’s daughter. Molly is rather over-passionate, and her virtue is more protected by the amorous Tom than by her own modesty. Jones gives into her advances and sleeps with her, after which he feels fiercely protective for having taken the virtue she had very freely offered. Affection for Sophia was therefore very far from his mind, as he had Molly to consider.

Chapter 7

Molly’s mother, Mrs. Seagrim, is the first to notice the girl's change in shape. Wanting to hide Molly's pregnancy, Mrs. Seagrim gives her a fine dress that had been donated by Sophia to the family, believing it will hide the burgeoning belly. When Molly wears it to church, its fine silk draws envious and cruel attentions from the other women there.

Chapter 8

Squire Western and Sophia are at church too. Sophia is impressed to see an attractive girl like Molly making the best of her donation, and asks for Molly to be recruited as her maid. Black George considers how to manage this request, as Molly is clearly unable to take on the job while pregnant.

As the gentry leave the church, the other girls set about Molly, attacking her from their envy. Blifil sees the mob and asks what is happening. On hearing Molly’s name, Tom alights from his horse and aggressively whips the assailants away. He then sends a servant to collect a sidesaddle for Molly so she can be taken home.

Chapter 9

Molly’s sisters and mother berate her for her illegitimate pregnancy. She responds by reminding her mother that she gave birth one week after marrying. Molly has no plans to work as a maid, as she expects to be looked after by Tom. The family decides that Mrs. Seagrim will take the job at the Western’s. The narrator indicates, however, that Fortune will intervene again upon these plans.

Chapter 10

Mr. Supple, the local curate, joins Squire Western, Tom and Sophia for dinner. They discuss the disturbance at the church the day before. Tom asks to leave when the subject of the girl's pregnancy is raised, and he then returns to Allworthy’s. The squire decides that Tom's behavior must indicate that he is the child's father. However, he is far from outraged - he's proud of the boy's virility - and asserts that Allworthy will feel the same, since Allworthy was also a ladies man in his youth. The squire mistakenly believes that Sophia will find the issue as amusing as he does. She is actually very upset, and absents herself from both dinner as a result.

Chapter 11

Tom arrives back at Allworthy’s to find Molly accompanied by a constable. Tom tells Allworthy that he is the father of Molly’s child. Allworthy gives Tom a fierce lecture, and the narrator reveals that Squire Western’s assumption about Allworthy's libertine ways is patently untrue.

Square reminds Allworthy of Tom’s fondness for Black George, and deduces that Tom engineered the friendship to ensnare Molly. Allworthy contemplates this idea, and his first negative thoughts against Tom are formed.

Chapter 12

Sophia sleeps little after learning that Tom is to be a father. Her maid, Mrs. Honour, adds to her grief with talk of Tom's handsomeness. Sophia realizes her weakness for Tom, and decides to ignore her emotion. However, her passion is rekindled when she sees Tom again, and Fortune dictates she will not avoid him for long.

Chapter 13

The squire loves his daughter almost as much as his hunting dogs, and takes her hunting with him and Tom. She is thrown from her horse, and Tom catches her, breaking his arm in the process. He makes little fuss over the pain. Sophia is impressed with his bravery, and he starts to find her charms harder to resist.

Chapter 14

Tom has his arm set by a surgeon at Squire Western’s house. Mrs. Honour expresses her admiration for Tom, but adds that his base background and relations with Molly make him a less than suitable match. Her words sting Sophia. Mrs. Honour further reveals how Tom had placed his hand affectionately into Sophia’s muff, while referring to her as an angel. Sophia blushes at the news, since it reveals his affection for her.


The narrator’s direct address to the reader breaks the suspension of disbelief in the narrative. He refers to the construction of his text as a story with “sundry similes, descriptions and other kind of poetical embellishments,” reminding the reader that the novel is an artificial construct. By calling attention to the novel's form, Fielding is able to both explicitly extrapolate its ideas and have fun with its conventions.

For instance, Chapter 2 uses a mock epic style of oratory to introduce Sophia. However, by the end, he praises far more than her beauty (which is normal for epic), also praising her intelligence. This offers an interesting contrast to Richardson’s simple Pamela, a model Fielding had earlier parodied in his career.

The contrast between Blifil and Tom grows more pronounced. The former's cruel streak is seen in his actions with Sophia’s bird. He turns off any character not defined by hypocrisy (like his teachers) or those unable to see human failing for what they are (Squire Allworthy). Tom, on the other hand, impresses everyone willing to see his good nature and virility. Squire Western promises to love Tom until “the longest day I have to live.” He later forgets this, however, when Sophia reveals her love for Tom. Squire Western is a man of complicated affections - consider how much he loves his daughter, and yet still places her below his hunting dogs in his preferences.

Fielding continues to treat Tom as a complicated, round character. Tom’s nature is impulsive, but genuine. He shows great honor in the way he respects Molly, but he does give into her lust. This behavior would be shocking for Fielding's audience, and yet he continues to treat Tom with due deference, noting both his faults and virtues. When Tom sends a servant for a side saddle for the disheveled Molly, it reveals his respect for people of all classes and positions. Further, in protecting Molly from her attackers, Tom reveals another element of his character: an intense passion. His uncontrolled anger foreshadows a later incident where he loses the money given to him by Allworthy.

The distinction between appearance (Tom seems a libertine here) and inward character (he is a boy defined by respect and virtue) is most important in understanding the book's hero. Consider how Molly wears the dress of a lady to hide her pregnancy - it suggests that what we see is not what we get. Ironically, she is attacked not for her immoral pregnancy, but for attempting to dress as a lady. Fielding's cynicism is time and again tempered only by his humor and delight in broadly comic and dramatic scenes. The fight outside the church is described in detail, with the individuals named to create realism in the scene, almost as a piece of drama.

Other characters show dubious morality despite their social standing. Notice how Squire Western likes Tom even more for fathering a child. On the other hand, Allworthy and Sophia find it inexcusable. Pregnancy for Molly only means that Tom will provide for her. Tom himself was fortunate to find a happy life when born a bastard child, which we see through Fielding's depiction of these various reactions. A baby is more important to society in terms of what it says about the parents. Allworthy is rather easily manipulated by Square here - were Allworthy more willing to excuse the failings of people, he would see how good-natured Tom is. However, his morality is so strict that he is led to start doubting Tom's goodwill because of the boy's indiscretion.

Finally, Fielding shows his wit in the story of the muff. It fits a conventional place in a narrative - a scene symbolizing the affection between hero and heroine, which will be referred to constantly to remind us. And yet there is some wonderfully bawdy humor in Honor telling Sophia how Tom placed his hand in her muff. The moment can be both genuine and silly.