The narrator compares the world to the theatre. He considers the way that different parts of an audience (and hence, different social classes) would judge Black George's robbery of Tom's money. The poor would view the action quite differently from the way they rich would. He concludes that life also mirrors the stage in that the actor who plays the hero one day, could be the villain the next.
Tom receives his property from Allworthy, along with a letter from Blifil. The letter states that Allworthy would like Tom to leave the country. Tom decides to go to sea, and sets off for Bristol for that purpose.
Mrs. Western again lectures Sophia on matrimony, referring to marriage as a deposit account. She argues with her brother, claiming his poor example has led her to have such unnatural affections as she has for Tom. Both are frustrated that Sophia still refuses to marry Blifil. They refer to political and philosophical standpoints until the squire finally lowers the tone by breaking wind.
Squire Western ruminates on his own marriage experience. His had been an arranged marriage, and he regarded his wife more as a servant than as a partner. He had been jealous that Sophia loved her mother more than she loved him.
The squire continues to criticize his wife’s memory in front of Sophia, which upsets her. He then moves on to condemn his sister. Sophia reminds him of Mrs. Western's promise to leave him a legacy upon her death, suggesting his ire is unwarranted. Squire Western then turns on Sophia, blaming her for jeopardizing his relationship with his sister.
Squire Western and his sister make amends. They both pressure Sophia, and she agrees to see Blifil. Their meeting is extremely awkward and unpleasant, but Blifil is satisfied enough, since he has beaten Tom and also because he has a lingering desire to sleep with a woman, and Sophia is attractive. The squire says they need not stand on formality, and so Sophia will marry Blifil on the following day.
Sophia is desperate to get out of the marriage. She threatens that she would rather stab herself in the heart than go through with the plan. Sophia decides she will leave the house that night, and she asks Mrs. Honour to accompany her. Honour agrees, claiming she would gladly get herself dismissed in order to support her mistress.
Mrs. Honour considers informing Squire Western of Sophia’s plan, as she would be handsomely rewarded for such information. However, she decides to remain loyal to Sophia.
Honour tells Mrs. Western’s maid, who is haughty and insulting, that her mistress is ugly. When Mrs. Western finds her maid in tears, she demands that Mrs. Honour be dismissed. Honour then insults Mrs. Western directly, and the two maids fight while Mrs. Western seeks out her brother.
Squire Western threatens to send Honour to Bridewell prison for her conduct. However, he is told that she has not committed any crime, other than being ill-bred. After making a plan to meet the dismissed Honour that night, Sophia lies to her father that she will now agree to the marriage to Blifil, and Squire Western gives her money as reward. He is so tender to her that she considers giving up her escape plan, but upon seeing the muff again, her love for Tom is rekindled and she recommits to the plan.
An incompetent guide leads Tom far off the path to Bristol, and he decides to stay at a public house for the night. He meets a Quaker, who mourns his daughter's recent marriage to a poor man. Tom is disturbed by the Quaker’s protestations, and pushes him out of the room.
When the landlord overhears that Tom is a bastard, he refuses him a room as he is not a gentleman. Tom is made to sleep in a chair in the bar, and the landlord watches him all night.
A group of soldiers arrive at the inn. Tom offers to pay their bill and to travel with them. He is invited to dine with the lieutenant and his officers.
The lieutenant is an old man of sixty. He has not advanced in the military, as he does not have friends in high places, and because his wife has refused to sleep with the colonel. There is also a French lieutenant who can barely communicate. Tom is questioned by Northerton, a bombastic and ill-educated ensign. Northerton teases Tom about his love for Sophia, saying that the French lieutenant had slept with both her and her aunt. They argue, and Northerton hits Tom over the head with a bottle. Northerton is restrained, and the rest of the party rush to tend to Tom’s wound.
Tom is carried to bed. He is tended by a surgeon who uses technical language to bewilder and impress his listeners. The surgeon cannot say if the wound is fatal, only that all men are mortal. Tom wakes up, and the lieutenant agrees to support him in order to restore his honor.
Tom recovers slightly and asks a sergeant to sell him a sword. He is almost conned in the process. Tom takes the sword, and with his bloodied and bandaged head, walks down to the cellar where Northerton is being held. The sentinel on guard passes out at the sight of Tom, thinking him a ghost. Tom then sees that Northerton has escaped.
The lieutenant thinks that the sentinel has been bribed to let Northerton escape, but Tom explains how he went to the cellar to exact revenge. Northerton had used fifty pounds entrusted to him by the other soldiers to bribe the landlady.
In this Book, the narrative makes a strong shift into an adventure story. Tom is on the road, and will confront many obstacles that will require more overt heroism to conquer. The pastoral hues of the opening Books has been traded for public houses and soldiers, and this shift will continue for most of the novel. It is a much bigger world Tom confronts, and so does Fielding have even more opportunity to explore the various levels of human nature.
The comparison between life and the theatre is clearly illustrated in the Book's opening chapter. The narrator explores the reaction of an imagined theatre audience, observing that the upper galleries would be strident in their condemnation of George, the pit would be divided in its reaction, and those in the boxes would be paying attention to something else. A quotation from Shakespeare’s Macbeth illustrates how life is but drama. Fielding apologizes for this clichéd quotation, but supports it with a contemporary text: an extract from a poem called “The Deity” by Samuel Boyse, written in 1739. Fielding thus illustrates that the connection between life and the theatre is an historic but enduring one, yet he takes the metaphor further in exploring the role of the audience.
Further, the argument that an individual is the sum of his actions (as opposed to the product of just one action) is well expressed. It not only helps to understand Fielding's response to Black George, but also his overall intent in this work, which hopes to represent all levels of human experience.
Squire and Mrs. Western still see marriage as a contract primarily for monetary gain, rather than emotional happiness. Their argument over competing standpoints is reduced to bathos as the squire brings the discussion to bodily noises. He deems his marriage was fine, though he saw little of his wife. After all, they did not irritate each other, and he was then blessed with Sophia. He is, however, quick to pass his beloved daughter on to the greedy Blifil. In a sense, this corrupted depiction of marriage is most upsetting because of how it corrupts even the noblest feelings. Squire Western is led to feel betrayed because of of these opinions, rather than to feel conflicted over his daughter's unhappiness.
Fielding uses several Shakespeare references in this Book. Sophia’s threat to stab herself in the heart in preference to marrying Blifil, and the squire’s slap of her face is reminiscent of the Capulet drama in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Tom Jones appears like Banquo from Macbeth when he heads down to avenge the attack by Northerton. Fielding incorporates the drama of the stage in to the novel form by detailed and bloody description. Of course, the ghoulish scene is turned to comedy as the grenadier shoots, then faints.
Finally, the corrupting influence of money is apparent in these pages. Northerton's escape was facilitated by the landlady who was supposed to protect the company's money. Blifil is willing to enter this unholy union with Sophia even though it will clearly make an unhappy marriage, mostly from greed. Tom will confront many opportunities to be corrupted on the adventure to come, and we are meant to judge and sympathize with him based on his ability to manage such influences.